Some of Hollywood’s biggest names have gathered to protest studios’ agreement with DirecTV to release films as soon as eight weeks after a their theatrical releases. (The current release window stands at four months.) On Wednesday, the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) released an open letter criticizing studios for agreeing to offer video-on-demand while movies are still in theaters, a move they feel could hurt “the financial model of our film industry,” according to the letter. Some of the famous names who have signed the letter? Michael Bay, Kathryn Bigelow, James Cameron, Guillermo del Toro, Peter Jackson, Todd Phillips, Brett Ratner, Robert Rodriguez, and more. “Major studios are struggling to replace the revenue lost by the declining value of DVD transactions,” the letter reads. “ Low‐cost rentals and subscriptions are undermining higher priced DVD sales and rentals. But the problem of declining revenue in home video will not be solved by importing into the theatrical window a distribution model that cannibalizes theatrical ticket sales. ” (The studios who have agreed to the VOD policy: Sony, Universal, Fox Searchlight, and Universal.)
The letter also threatens that the move — which could offer the films VOD for just $30 — could lead to the loss of “hundreds of millions of dollars” in revenue, and the closing of several theaters. “The competition for those screens that remain will become that much more intense, foreclosing all but the most commercial movies from theatrical release,” says the letter. “ Specialty films whose success depends on platform releases that slowly build in awareness would be severely threatened under this new model. Careers that are built on the risks that can be taken with lower budget films may never have the chance to blossom under this cut‐throat new model. ” As a result, NATO is asking to be included in these talks, to weigh in on how VOD could change the industry.
DirecTV issued the following statement to EW in response to the letter: “We believe Home Premiere, through its new, early window will give more people a chance to enjoy the movies, and an additional promotional bump (in between windows) that will benefit theaters. Overall, it’s a positive for the entire industry and movie fans.” Sony and Fox Searchlight have not immediately responded to EW’s request for comment. Universal and Warner Bros. are not commenting on the letter.