Midday Report: Comcast Wants to Show First-Run Films On Demand

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First-run movies at home
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You may be able to watch newly released movies from the comfort of your home while they're still in the theaters.

Traditionally, there's a three-month waiting period between when movies leave the theater and when they appear on-demand. But Comcast (CMCSA) wants to experiment with a new model that would allow movie buffs to catch first-run films from the living room couch, rather than the local cinema.

Comcast could benefit on both ends. It owns the Universal movie studio, as well as one of the nation's largest cable systems.

Company executives floated the idea this week at the annual CinemaCon convention in Las Vegas. And The Wall Street Journal reports that some movie theater operators were open to discussing the idea.

Movie attendance is down 12 percent compared to a year ago, and DVD sales have declined, so everyone in the industry is scrambling for new ways to generate revenue. The heads of AMC and Carmike -- two of the nation's largest theater chains – said they are open to discussions about video-on-demand experiments, if they get a more generous split on box-office revenue. That's something the studios have been unwilling to do in the past.

The Journal says participants at the CinemaCon meetings talked about a summit meeting between Hollywood studios and theater operators.

For movie fans, the prospects are alluring, but there's always a catch. The cost of watching a first-run movie from home is likely to be high, and not all movies will be available. It's unlikely that blockbuster films will be put on-demand while they are still in the theaters.

That's not the only controversy at CinemaCon this year.

Walt Disney (DIS) has already secured better terms from some theater chains, but AMC is pushing back. It has halted advance ticket sales for Disney's upcoming film, "Iron Man 3," which is set to debut on May 3rd. The movie is expected to have one of the biggest opening weekends of the year.

In general, studios take as much as 75 percent of the revenue from a movie's opening weekend. But there's a complex formula that gives theater operators a bigger take the longer a movie shows.

–Produced by Drew Trachtenberg


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