The luxury of being able to stream films on the same day that they premiere at theaters is officially over, according to National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) president and CEO John Fithian, who gave an address at last week’s CinemaCon event and took the opportunity to poke fun at Warner Bros., Disney, and other major Hollywood studios for trying to experiment with day-and-date releases and failing to get them to grow their streaming services. Exact numbers were not presented during his speech, but Fithian was confident enough to state in front of a crowd that simultaneous releases are “dead as a serious business mode,” noting that piracy is what killed it. The chairman found that people are less likely to pay for a movie when there’s a pristine copy of the movie floating around, something that should surprise no one.
Robust theatrical windows protect against piracy. 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. With the help of the global authority on digital piracy, MUSO, we closely track piracy levels. When analyzing title after title it becomes very clear that spikes in piracy are most drastic when a movie is first availableto watch in the home: it doesn’t matter if its available via premium video on demand or subscription video on demand.
I am pleased to announce that simultaneous release is dead as a serious business model, and piracy is what killed it. 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. Even as they evolve, it remains the case that theatrical windows grow our entire industry.