- The National Association of Theatre Owners wants Hollywood studios to commit to theatrical windows.
- The group’s CEO, John Fithian, said there are still big questions regarding some studios’ plans.
- Disney provoked the harshest response from NATO after it released “Black Widow” to theaters and Disney+.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Movie studios have embraced plenty of alternatives to theaters during the pandemic. But with the majority of North American theaters currently open and cinemas looking to recover from a devastating 2020, theater owners have questions about Hollywood release strategies – and they want answers.
During CinemaCon on Tuesday, John Fithian, the head of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), said that releasing movies simultaneously in theaters and on streaming “does not work for anyone.”
Some studios have articulated a plan or desire to move away from “day-and-date” releases, though, and instead shorten the theatrical window, which was typically 75 to 90 days before the pandemic.
When asked about this during an interview with Insider this week, Fithian said:
“The key word is some. There are several big remaining questions about major distributors’ thoughts coming out of the pandemic, and we would like to see where that’s going. We don’t have all those answers yet and that’s why we’re making the case. Without drilling in on specific companies, I’ll leave it there.”
Here’s how the major film studios are approaching release plans:
- Universal has struck deals with the major theater chains to shorten the theatrical window to as little as 17 days, at which point it can release its movies to digital-rental platforms. It released its latest “Boss Baby” movie simultaneously to the streamer Peacock, but has largely remained committed to theaters.
- Warner Bros., after releasing all of its movies this year simultaneously to theaters and on the streaming service HBO Max, will have a 45-day exclusive theatrical window for its movies starting next year (it still plans to make some movies exclusively for HBO Max).
- Sony is the only major studio without its own streaming component. Save for selling some movies to streamers during the pandemic, such as “Greyhound” to Apple, it has largely moved its biggest releases to this fall and winter for theatrical release, including “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” and “Ghostbusters: Afterlife.” It struck a deal with Netflix this year in which the streaming giant will get domestic rights to Sony’s movies after their theatrical and home-entertainment windows starting with the studio’s 2022 slate, and Netflix gets first look at any movies Sony intends to make directly for streaming.
- Paramount will release some of its tentpoles, starting with the already-released “A Quiet Place Part II,” to Paramount+ after a 45-day window. Bob Bakish, the CEO of parent company ViacomCBS, said during a recent earnings call that the 45-day window is the “overall direction we’d like to go over time,” but that the “situation is a bit fluid” and that Paramount intends to keep evaluating movies on a “case-by-case” basis. The latest examples of that was its “Paw Patrol” movie, which it recently released to theaters and Paramount+ on the same day.
And then there’s Disney, which has provoked the most ire from NATO following its simultaneous release of “Black Widow” to theaters and Disney+ for an additional fee to subscribers.
After the movie dipped 68% from its debut weekend to its second weekend at the domestic box office, NATO released a strong statement calling simultaneous release “a pandemic-era artifact that should be left to history with the pandemic itself” (“Black Widow” is still the biggest movie in the US this year with $US180 ($AU249) million).
Disney’s upcoming Marvel movie, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” will be exclusive to theaters with a 45-day window, which CEO Bob Chapek called an “interesting experiment” during a recent earnings call. Chapek said that the company “values flexibility” in making release decisions, suggesting the situation is fluid after “Shang-Chi.”
When asked for comment by Insider about future windowing plans, a Disney representative reiterated that the company had not announced or confirmed any plans beyond “Shang-Chi.”
Read Insider’s full interview with the National Association of Theatre Owners CEO, John Fithian.