Theaters threaten to kill trailers for movies going to Premium VOD

Despite new MPAA boss Christopher Dodd’s assurance that he has the best interests of the movie industry in mind and recent findings from a research firm that suggest the overall impact of Premium VOD on box office numbers will be negligible, owners remain leery of the fledgling service. But with ticket sales for 2011 already down, even a minor threat seems voluminous for affected theater chains.

AMC has pledged new programs to drive folks back to the multiplex as others threaten to block trailers of upcoming films chosen for the still-nascent Premium VOD program. Is this much ado about nothing, or are theater owners rightfully worried?

Regal Entertainment boldly declared that if participating studios don’t rethink their Premium VOD strategy, the company will take drastic measures when it comes to their future releases. The chain promises to pull trailers for upcoming movies tapped for Premium VOD release, as well as limit the trailers it shows of non-Premium VOD titles from those same studios.

AMC issued a statement that was less forthcoming with how the company would retaliate if its requests weren’t honored, but admitted they would act accordingly.

“We have notified studios of our expectations regarding economic arrangements on movies that go p-VoD,” said AMC. “It is not wise to discuss details in the press, and company policy precludes it, but as these windows shrink and threaten our industry’s future, it is only logical to expect AMC to adapt its economic model.”

One key difference between the theater companies is that AMC seems solution-oriented. Instead of petulantly pointing the finger of blame at Premium VOD, it’s promising new programs to renew the theater-going experience’s appeal.

“We are in the midst of a multi-year, multi-million dollar rollout of digital projection and 3D, IMAX and our own proprietary ETX format,” reads the statement. “We are also introducing a new guest rewards program, better-for-you items, enhanced food and beverage offerings, dine-in theater options and alternative, engaging programming for our guests to enjoy in our comfortable, state-of-the-art auditoriums.”

High hopes in spite of foundering ticket sales, but Premium VOD still faces a significant price hurdle despite its promise of convenience. Titles selected for the quicker-than-usual 60-day scheduling will cost consumers $30 each.

Are theater owners worried over nothing and looking to blame their troubled takes on a new scapegoat? Or do you believe Premium VOD will eventually become mainstream? Share your thoughts in the comment section.