EXCLUSIVE: NATO president/CEO John Fithian struck back at Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, who today gave the keynote speech at the Film Independent Forum and charged theater owners with potentially killing the movie business by being inflexible with shrinking theatrical windows. Fithian said that if anybody is imperiling the time-tested movie going experience, it is upstarts like Netflix.
“Subscription movie services and cheap rentals killed the DVD business, and now Sarandos wants to kill the cinema as well,” Fithian said. As for Sarandos’ assertion that studios should offer their films on Netflix day and date with theatrical openings, Fithian said that “The only business that would be helped by day-and-day release to Netflix is Netflix. If Hollywood did what Sarandos suggests, there wouldn’t be many movies left for Netflix’s customers or for anyone else. It makes absolutely no business sense to accelerate the release of the lowest value in the chain.”
Netflix is just the latest party to join the ongoing argument over how movie distribution models should evolve, if at all. TV has grown nimble, with cable systems and networks making it easier than ever for audiences to catch shows so that initial air times are almost irrelevant. In the independent film space, multi-platform releasing continues to grow as a viable alternative to a theatrical model which requires a significant P&A spend. The major chains have largely refused to play ball, and often force multi platform distributors to “four wall” screens, instead of the revenue split formula that is usually the way distributors and theaters do business. Many have argued that it is inefficient for studios to spend huge P&A sums to open films in theaters, and then be forced to wait half a year or more, and spend more money to rebuild awareness for the DVD, VOD and pay windows for films that consumers have long since forgotten about. But the last time a studio tried to buck the system, as Universal did on the Brett Ratner-directed Tower Heist, the major film chains banded together and arm-twisted Universal to shut down a limited test that would have offered day and date VOD viewing at a premium price. The theaters are protecting their own business, after having gone to the expense of building and upgrading theaters all over the country.
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The analysis comes from NATO‘s John Fithian after he was asked at a press meeting why Hollywood produces so many R-rated films — despite … Read More »
The film industry’s two chief lobbyists stayed on message at a brief press conference this afternoon that mostly dealt with the movie ratings initiative introduced this morning. The effort to clarify the reasons why … Read More »
“PG-13 represents the sweet spot” for theaters, National Association of Theater Owners CEO John Fithian told a CinemaCon audience this morning. Last year there were only about a third as many PG films as R-rated ones, … Read More »
Attendance takes off when there’s a diversity of films and it was “just not there” in the beginning of 2013, National Association of Theater Owners chief John Fithian said in a conference call to discuss the MPAA’s … Read More »
The former senator made the comment as he defended the trade group’s ratings efforts. They came under fire when the MPAA initially gave Bully, a Weinstein Co documentary about teenage bullying, an R due to characters’ use of profanity. The rating would have made the film off-limits for the very teens the movie was designed to help. (The producers ultimately cut a few of the words, and won a PG-13 rating.) Although Dodd says that the public should have a clearer sense of what goes into the decision making, he told reporters in a meeting that the people who make the judgments have “a thankless job” in a system that basically “works well.” National Association of Theatre Owners CEO John Fithian concurred. If the MPAA didn’t take on the assignment then it could result in government censorship or local ratings. That would result in havoc because “what people care about in LA is vastly different than what they care about in Omaha.” Although the ratings process results in lost ticket sales, “the alternative is far worse.”
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The CEOs of the MPAA and the National Association of Theatre Owners used their opening addresses to the exhibition industry’s CinemaCon convention today to advocate a new spirit of cooperation between the embattled and often warring businesses. Last year’s convention “ended on a sour note,” NATO CEO John Fithian said, when word spread that three studios planned to launch a premium VOD experiment — they let DirecTV offer some movies two months after their theatrical release for $30 a viewing. That threatened to give audiences an incentive to stay at home, theater owners feared. But Fithian says that the experiment “was not a resounding success.” Now, he says, theaters and studios are “talking about how to grow the business together.” MPAA chief Chris Dodd also talked up the need to persuade audiences that “the movie-going experience remains something special, something to be savored and enjoyed, something so innovative and creative that it cannot be duplicated at home no matter how many boxes they have.” He also thanked theater owners for supporting a big issue on his agenda: legislation to combat movie piracy. The MPAA ended up with a black eye this year when it failed to persuade Congress to pass the controversial bills that would have empowered the government to block sites run by overseas pirates. “I urge you to continue to be a part of a thoughtful and rational solution to protecting intellectual property,” Dodd told theater owners. He added that he remains “committed to doing all I can to achieve a satisfactory resolution to the protection of intellectual property” and is trying to build bridges to the tech industry which opposed the bills.
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MPAA head Chris Dodd and John Fithian, president/CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners, brought their lobbying on behalf of content creators to a packed house at the Sundance Film Festival today. Both admitted to the panel they were blindsided by the … Read More »
Some of Washington’s most powerful lobby groups ramped up their fight today over the Stop Online Piracy Act, which was just introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Independent Film & Television Alliance echoed points that MPAA chief Chris Dodd made in a speech today — that the bill empowering the government to block overseas websites that traffic in copyrighted content would protect jobs. It’s needed to stop “drastic damage to the legitimate marketplace … measured both in films that cannot be produced and in lost returns on investment in films that have been,” IFTA CEO Jean Prewitt said. National Association of Theatre Owners CEO John Fithian adds that the legislation “is an important step to protect the jobs of 160,000 movie theater employees and sustain one of the vital engines of the nation’s economic growth.” The plan also was supported by a collection of unions including the American Federation of Musicians, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Directors Guild of America, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and Screen Actors Guild. If the bill doesn’t become law, they said in a joint statement, then “rogue sites will continue to siphon away wages and benefits from members of the creative community, greatly compromising our industry’s ability to foster creativity, provide opportunities, and ensure good jobs.”
But Consumer Electronics Association CEO Gary Shapiro warned that if Congress passes the bill — also known as the Protect IP Act — then “the notoriously litigious content industry could simply accuse a site that it is selling a product that could ‘enable or facilitate’ a copyright infringement, thereby allowing accusations to shut down sites vital to the Internet economy.” He says that “could lead to mass shutdowns of websites and Internet-enabled services.” The group plans to bring several Internet venture capitalists to Washington tomorrow to make that case. Read More »
Sony Responds To NATO’s Claim That New 3D Glasses Plan Is Myopic
The battle lines are starting to harden around who’ll pay for those lame-looking 3D glasses. I’ve learned that other studios might line up behind Sony’s decision to stop paying the average 50-cents a pair fee beginning in May. Rival studios tell me Fox is on board. “We’re studying our options, but haven’t made any decisions yet,” denied Fox Filmed Entertainment spokesman Chris Petrikin. Remember, Fox was first in line to try to stop paying for glasses back in 2009 when it released Ice Age. But then had to abandon that effort after theaters rebelled. Sony was technically correct today when it said in a statement that “there never has been” a formal agreement stipulating that studios would shoulder the cost of 3D glasses. But it’s easy to understand why exhibitors are stunned by Sony’s stoppage. Because it changes an understanding that’s been in place since 2005 when Disney’s Chicken Little kicked off the 3D movie phenom.
“It is a radical departure from what the practice has been,” National Association of Theater Owners President John Fithian tells me. Now Regal CEO Amy Miles warns that if studios end the practice then it could “result in fewer screens exhibiting 3D films”. That’s bad news for Hollywood, which plans to release 39 films in 3D next year, vs. 36 in 2011. Exhibitors might encourage consumers to bring their own 3D glasses. That may be the future anyway. But BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield says if theaters require payment for 3D specs on top of the typical 3D surcharge ($3.25 to $4 a ticket), then “the U.S. moviegoer will reject this as another way for exhibitors to milk them and further decrease their interest in 3D (and perhaps going to the movies in general)”.
The fight is over glasses manufactured for RealD which it, in turn, supplies them to theaters. RealD’s stock price was down -14.7% today on the Sony news. The 3D tech company won’t disclose Read More »
The National Association of Theatre Owners today asked the Hollywood studios involved in DirecTV’s Premium VOD trial to release sales figures for the movies that have appeared since the service’s launch April 21. The films offered to DirecTV customers so far — at a price of $29.99 and a windows-shortening … Read More »