Theater owners rejoice as Universal Pictures axes aggressive ‘Tower Heist’ VOD project

A heated tiff between the National Association of Theatre Owners and Universal Pictures has fizzled out. The movie studio quashed plans this week to bring its upcoming movie “Tower Heist” to the home video on-demand space less than a month after its big screen debut.

Universal reconsidered its pricey ploy (the VOD rental would have cost consumers $59) following boycott threats from Cinemark and strong criticism from NATO. Had the plan went through, “Tower Heist” would have been available to home viewers by the end of November. The crime caper, starring Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy, is slated for release on November 4.

Following the announcement, NATO applauded the studio’s decision:

In response to Universal’s decision to cancel its planned release of Tower Heist to the home on Video on Demand just three weeks after its theatrical debut, National Association of Theatre Owners president and CEO John Fithian stated, “NATO would like to thank Universal for responding to various theater owners’ concerns and cancelling the PVOD test it was contemplating. They have been engaged with individual exhibitors on this test, and while it was something that many theater owners could not ultimately support, the open and collaborative nature of the dialogue is appreciated. NATO recognizes that studios need to find new models and opportunities in the home market, and looks forward to distributors and exhibitors working together for their mutual benefit.”

Universal hasn’t abandoned the experimental new medium altogether. The studio said that it “continues to believe that the theater experience and a PVOD window are business models that can coincide and thrive.” It declined to elaborate on future plans.

NATO has a history of fighting with movie companies over shortening on-demand windows. In April, members of the group even threatened to pull trailers for films tagged for premium VOD treatment. For now, the organization can chalk up Universal’s retreat as a small victory in an ongoing war over controlling how and when people watch new movies. (via TechDirt)

Is Universal’s decision a blessing in disguise? Would you even pay $60 to see a new film three weeks after its theatrical release? Share your thoughts in the comment section.