The L.A. Times has a story about how Tower Heist, the Brett Ratner-directed, Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy comedy will be hitting VOD in two markets for $60 a pop three weeks after it hits theaters. We recently wrote about how 8 Ways Television has changed, and this may be a part of that evolution. But what does this mean for theatrical distribution?
Likely little. Tower Heist just hit tracking, and is not tracking as well as the same weekend’s A Very Harold and Kumar 3-D Christmas. This VOD release is an experiment to see if the higher price point might get people, but only after the film has made the majority of its theatrical revenue (the first three weeks are where the majority of films make their money these days). This also puts Universal in a position where exhibitors may make an effort to not help the film. If you have a ten screen theater, and you’re playing the film, there’s no guarantee that the film will be playing on the biggest or best screen simply because it’s a new release, and if there is a concerted effort to damage the film, it may under-perform because of this stunt.
Currently this is being tested in two markets. Perhaps it’s being done to fail. That said, The Human Centipede showed that a film can hit VOD and theatrical and perform exceptionally well in both, with VOD more profitable. That was a smaller release, where the budget of Tower Heist must be at least $100 Million, and with a sixty dollar price point, that would take families or large groups to make it somewhat cheaper than going to the multi-plex. It seems unlikely that two million such groups will rent this on VOD, but the door is now open.
Do you think VOD windows will get smaller?