Theaters Beat Back VOD Threat – For Now

It took about a week for the suits at Universal to change their minds on including ‘Tower Heist’ on select Video on Demand services.

On Oct. 5, The LA Times’ blog Company Town announced the film studio would be making ‘Heist,’ an ensemble comedy starring Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy and Alan Alda, available via VOD three weeks after its Nov.3 debut in theaters.

The catch? The only markets involved were Atlanta and Portland, and the price to see the film would be $59.99. And that doesn’t include one kernel of popcorn.

Theater chains quickly lined up to protest the move, leading to today’s news that the plan is no more.

So the battle is over, and VOD users lost. But how long before another studio offers up a similar scheme?

Can theaters keep resisting the VOD threat in an age when consumers are getting mighty used to seeing what they want, when they want and how they want?

VOD does represent a threat to the theatrical experience. But every time a new technological wrinkle enters the market, like the emergence of affordable flat-screen TVs, the theaters somehow survive.

VOD may be ideal for older families who prefer the comfort of their own home to a bustling movie house. But what about teens who can’t wait to leave Ma and Pa behind for a few hours? Or new couples seeking a little innocent time in the dark to snuggle, laugh and possibly scream at the latest horror movie?

It’s just not the same at home.

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