LOS ANGELES -- Theater operators are mounting a challenge to plans by Hollywood studios to release movies in the home when they are still in theaters.
The nation's largest theater chains have been reaching out to investors and analysts on Wall Street, as well as directors, producers and agents, in an effort to build support for preserving so-called theatrical windows -- the period of time between when a movie opens in cinemas and when it comes out on DVD or other media.
The outreach is in response to statements by media executives touting plans to offer movies in the home via video on demand at a price of $30 to $60, one to two months after they are released in theaters.
Premium-priced VOD is foreseen as a new revenue source for studios looking to offset declining DVD sales, as well as a boon for cable companies that have been stymied in their efforts to deliver movies into the home earlier in part because of concerns it could cannibalize home video sales.
But theater companies contend that the VOD plans will undercut movie ticket sales, giving consumers less incentive to trek to the theater if they can wait a few extra weeks to watch the movie at home.
"A 30-day window makes absolutely no sense to us whatsoever," said Gerry Lopez, chief executive of AMC Entertainment, the nation's second-largest theater operator. "We're concerned about the grave consequences this could bring."
Currently movies are available on VOD
The pushback is led by the National Association of Theater Owners, the trade group that represents most of the country's major theater circuits.
Theater owners are taking their case directly to Wall Street. In recent weeks, Fithian and top theater executives have held meetings with analysts from such firms as Deutsche Bank and Barclays to outline their concerns on early premium VOD releases and make the argument that the studios' strategy won't pay off for either side.
They've also been enlisting the support of filmmakers, hoping that their voices can help sway opinion.
"We don't make movies for the small screen, we make movies for the big screen," Jon Landau, producer of James Cameron's blockbuster "Avatar." "Television is a great art form, but it's an oxymoron to say we're giving you a premium experience on TV."
But theater operators could be fighting against the inevitable. As broadband technology becomes faster and consumers increasingly turn to their high-definition, big-screen televisions to watch movies, the demand for content will also grow, potentially tipping the economics away from theaters.