More US cinemas are signing up to Paramount’s landmark early VOD deal, although some big players still dismiss the proposal as nonsense.
Paramount announced its plans to disrupt the current distribution system last month. The agreement with AMC Theatres and Cineplex (in Canada) will see the usual theatrical window of three months shortened to just seven or even six weeks for two titles this October: Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension and Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. They will both be released early on digital platforms – 17 days after they are screening on fewer than 300 screens, to be exact – with exhibitors to get a cut of the VOD profits earned during the 90-day theatrical window.
How much is undisclosed, but the deal marks a big step to both embrace the accessibility and affordability of streaming and attempt to reduce the potential window for piracy, without cannibalising the revenues for cinemas.
The argument is that certain types of films, e.g. genre releases, have a shorter theatrical shelf life than the multiplex-hogging blockbusters of the summer, which means that the traditional theatrical window is less relevant.
“This is all about changing the definition of theatrical windows. Instead of starting the countdown from when a movie opens, we are starting from when it ends,” Paramount vice chair Rob Moore told The Hollywood Reporter.
At the time, we speculated whether this could be the future for the film industry, a balance between supporting cinemas and adopting VOD. Now, the movement is gaining traction, with five new US chains signing up: National Amusements, New Orleans-based Southern Theatres, the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, Canada’s Landmark Cinemas and iPic.
Others are less keen: Cinemark Entertainment and Regal Entertainment, America’s two biggest chains after AMC, are still on the sidelines, with Regal’s head dismissing the idea as something that “[does] not make sense”.
“We appreciate Paramount’s willingness to seek exhibitor input and provide for exhibitor participation in certain ancillary revenues as they evaluate alternative distribution models. However the parameters of the current proposal, both economic and structural, simply do not make sense for us given the potential risks to the long term health of our business. As has been the case historically, we will utilize our screens to exhibit films distributed using a traditional distribution model that respects the existing theatrical window,” she said.
Nonetheless, Paramount’s proposal marks a significant step in the industry’s moves toward a digital future: the deal for these two titles now extends to seven cinema chains, which make up more than 30 per cent of the market in the US and Canada, with over 670 locations and 8,000 screens.