Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Coming Soon to Your Living Room: The $60 Movie Rental

From the people who brought you $30 movie rentals, here’s the sequel: the $60 movie rental.

That’s what Universal will try charging in a test this fall, three weeks after it opens “Tower Heist.”

[UPDATE: No, it won’t: The studio has killed the plan after protests from theater owners.]

If you live in Atlanta, Georgia, or Portland, Oregon, you’ll be able to watch the new Eddie Murphy/Ben Stiller movie in your house for $59.99 — while the movie is still in theaters and months before it would normally be available for video-on-demand rentals.

It’s one in a series of experiments Hollywood has embarked on as it tries to play with the traditional “windows” that govern when a distribution outlet gets a movie and how much consumers need to pay to see it.

The idea, theoretically, is that consumers will pay a big premium to see a big movie — or at least one with big expectations — in their house instead of going to a theater. The earlier version of this test involved “meh” movies that had already left the theaters, but wouldn’t normally be available on VOD for a while.

That one cost $30, but at least there was some logic to it — it could end up being cheaper than a traditional movie night for two after you factor in parking, gas, etc.

But painting a $60 movie as a bargain is going to be awfully tough, no matter what math you use. And the fact that it represents a premium for a “collapsed” window won’t mean much for regular people. Even regular people with really nice home theaters and/or expensive babysitters.

Instead it seems as though Universal — and parent company Comcast, which is handling the cable delivery for the movie — is really trying to ensure that almost no one will pay up, and thus not ruffle movie exhibitors’ feathers. Except if that’s the case, then why bother doing it at all?

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