It’s looking like Cinemark’s refusal to book the upcoming comedy Tower Heist in response to Universal Studios’ plan to make the film available via Video On Demand services just three weeks after its theatrical opening might just be the opening salvo in a new battle between theater owners and Hollywood studios.
Yesterday, a group of independent theaters joined with Cinemark in boycotting the comedy which stars Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy. The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Galaxy Theatres, Regency Theatres, Emagine Theatres and a small number of cinema’s representing another 50 screens have all vowed to not screen the film.
“We just feel it’s a time to draw a line in the sand,’’ said Rafe Cohen, president of Galaxy Theatres, which operates 106 screens in California, Washington, Nevada and Texas. “This is virtually a simultaneous release that we don’t think will be helpful to anyone. We’re standing on principle that it’s best to preserve the theatrical window.”
For its part, Universal is only making Tower Heist available on a total of 500,000 homes in two markets – Atlanta and Portland,– at the price of $59.99 as part of what studio execs are calling “a test.”
But theater owners are seeing the move as just the first crack in a dam that, if burst, would entice audiences to stay at home and not head to theaters to see the latest releases. Theater owners have already expressed anger of a deal that four studios struck earlier this year with DirectTV to make certain titles available 60 days after their theatrical premier for $29.99.
I anticipate that there will be more theaters announcing their own boycotting of the film in the coming days.