By Anthony D'Alessandro, Jill Goldsmith
Theatrical windows are back as the pandemic wanes, and National Association of Theatre Owners President and CEO John Fithian was unabashed to underscore that.
While it may sound like the same old tune, realize the major studios due to cinemas being closed during Covid, were bold in upsetting the industry model, with some continuing to experiment with day-and-date occasionally either on smaller movies or when they’re attempting to spike subscribers on their streaming services.
“I am pleased to announce that simultaneous release is dead as a serious business model, and piracy is what killed it,” emphasized Fithian this morning from Caesars Palace Colosseum in Las Vegas to enormous applause.
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“At the same time exhibitors and distributors are continuing to work together to create evolving periods of theatrical exclusivity that maximize movies’ theatrical revenue and increase the perceived value to consumers when they go to exclusive home streaming,” said Fithian, “Even as they evolve, it remains the case that theatrical windows grow our entire industry.”
Fithian’s observations weren’t one-sided for moments before his speech, Warner Discovery Boss David Zaslav on Discovery’s Q1 earnings call, also underscored his commitment to theatrical windows, realizing the financial upside; this after WarnerMedia practiced a theatrical day-and-date strategy with HBO Max last year during Covid.
“When you open a movie in theaters, it has a whole stream of monetization. More importantly, it’s marketed. It builds a brand so when it does go to a streaming service there’s a view that (the title) has a higher quality that benefits the streaming service,” said Zaslav.
“Robust theatrical windows protect against piracy” said Fithian.
“If a major title that people are clamoring to see in theaters is released too quickly to the home and then pirated, the temptation to stay home and watch pirated films becomes greater for many potential moviegoers,” he added. Fithian’s remarks on piracy were made following MPA Boss Charles Rivkin detailed extensively the trade org’s crusade on piracy, tell confab attendees about their success in closing down piracy sites, some of which were based in Texas, and operated by mobsters and Russian hackers.
Citing piracy authority MUSO, Fithian also pointed out that piracy spikes when movies become first available in the home.
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The domestic box office remains in rebuild, and with $1.8 billion through last weekend for Jan.-April 24, is up close to four-hold over the same frame in 2021 per Comscore as we head into summer. However, while the weekend box office in a non-tentpole weekend can feasibly generate over $100M on average, the middle remains missing, i.e. this past weekend despite Universal/DreamWorks Animation’s The Bad Guys opening to $24M, total ticket sales for all movies stood at $92.8M per Comscore. Compared to the same weekend in April 2019 which grossed $109.1M, this past weekend’s box office for all films was off 15%.
While celebrating blockbusters as “the keystone of this industry,” the NATO chief also said that “mid-range titles and films aimed specifically at families are crucial as well.”
Said Fithian, “It’s not rocket science, more movies results in more box office.”
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