So, did you have November 25th marked down on your calendar with plans to gather family and friends, and order up "Tower Heist" in your home all for the price of $59.99? Looks like you'll have to send out an Evite letting people know those plans have been canceled.
After ruffling the feathers of exhibitors by announcing that they would be testing a premium VOD rollout of "Tower Heist" three weeks after it hit theaters in Atlanta and Portland, Universal has backed down. With Cinemark leading the charge by stating they would not carry "Tower Heist" on their screens if the VOD plan moved forward, their protest was recently joined a handful of of independent theater chains including Galaxy Theatres in Sherman Oaks, Regency Theatres in Calabasas and Emagine Theatres of Detroit. Perhaps sensing a rising tide and PR nightmare (it's not a good thing when people start discussing how much it's worth to see your movie), Universal has wisely packed up their plans and will stow them away for another day. In fact, their statement promises they'll be back as they say, the move is just a "delay (to) its planned premium home video on demand ... experiment."
So, while the major studios continue to try and tinker with the window between theatrical and home video/VOD release, their attempts thus far have been somewhat half-hearted and not really thought out. In fact, Dave Poland in a recent blog post put forward some real ideas that would actually test the validity and promise of premium VOD, but it would require a set of brass ones from studio execs (one of his suggestions is to remove "New Year's Eve" from theaters on December 30th and make it available on December 31st for a reasonable price of $20 on demand). Granted, that will never happen, but you can see how the marketing is an easy no-brainer on something like that. But for now, randomly assigning a number of days after a theatrical release and putting an ever changing price tag seems to be the equivalent of throwing darts with a blindfold on, hoping to hit a bullseye.
We'll always back the theatrical experience and its our first choice for seeing a movie, and the studios will have to remember that people love going to the movies. But it's up to both studios and exhibitors to continue making that experience worth our dollar. Trying to make us pay for 3D glasses? Not a great move. Nor is the rampant poor projection (bad cropping, underlit projectors etc) in theaters nationwide. This issue won't go away anytime soon, but for now, the only place you can see "Tower Heist" when it opens on November 4th is at a theater near you. [Variety/Company Town]