New Universal movie to VoD while still in cinema

Universal Pictures has unveiled plans to make its upcoming Eddie Murphy action comedy film “Tower Heist” available through video-on-demand in the US just three weeks after it debuts in cinemas on November 4th – but with a hefty $59.99 asking price.

The proposed test, which will be offered in Atlanta and Portland, Oregan, to approximately 500,000 digital cable subscribers of Universal’s corporate parent, Comcast, marks the first time a major studio movie will be available to watch in-home while still playing in thousands of cinemas.

Studios are looking to such experiments as a way to shift their age-old business models and generate additional revenue that can help compensate for plunging DVD sales that have been undermining movie economics over the last several years.

Universal’s move is likely to infuriate cinema owners, some of whom were informed of the plan this week after more than a year of discussions on the topic. The cinema industry has reacted angrily to any attempt by studios to shrink the traditional “window” of 90 days between the time a movie debuts in cinemas and when it’s available for home view.

Universal is betting the test will appeal to certain families and groups of friends who are eager to see “Tower Heist” but don’t want to drive to a cinema and pay for multiple tickets along with popcorn and drinks.

Universal is assuring exhibitors that they will be compensated if “Tower Heist” ticket sales are lower than expected during the premium VoD test.

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