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Netflix Wants to Stream Movies 30 Days After They Hit Theaters

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Over the years, Netflix has put a massive dent in DVD sales, and, if they have their way, they could be doing the same to theatrical movie ticket sales. The movie streaming/DVD rental service wants more than their library of available titles and original content: they want movies just a few weeks after they hit theaters. But, will it ever happen?

Variety is reporting that Netflix wants to start getting new Hollywood movies 45 days or even 30 days after their theatrical release, a much shorter timespan than the current four-month average theatrical release window. Were Netflix to be successful, that means that you could stream be streaming ‘Gravity’ at home, via Netflix, right now. Sounds great, right? Well, don’t get too excited.

For years, many Hollywood players have been talking about shrinking the theatrical release window – the fancy term for the amount of time in between when a movie gets released in theaters and when it becomes available on DVD or Blu-ray – with very little success. In 2011, Universal Pictures announced they would use that technology to allow DirecTV subscribers to download ‘Tower Heist’ just three weeks after it hit theaters for $60. After facing strong opposition from theater owners (many of whom planned to boycott the film) and the general common sense realization that no one in their right mind would ever pay $60 to see ‘Tower Heist,’ Universal scrapped the plans.

Though multiple attempts at “premium VOD” showing first-run movies have failed, it’s not for a lack of trying. Movie studios are trying to boost sagging DVD sales while also helping to eliminate piracy. But, when people realize that they can just wait 30 days to see ‘Gravity’ at home, will they be less inclined to go to the theaters? That’s certainly what theater owners fear and have been extremely reluctant to agree to any plan that would compromise their ticket sales (and, really, the amount of money you pay at the concession stand).

Whether Netflix can partner with movie studios to successfully convince theater owners of a successful partnership remains to be seen. Most agree that eventually the theatrical release window will continue to shrink (it has been reduced from 5.5 months in 2000 to the current 4 months) and theater owners will simply have to find a way to catch up. That likely means “eventizing” going to the movies – adding bars, restaurants, higher-end food, etc. – to their venues to entice potential viewers to come watch a movie out of the house. It also would very likely mean higher ticket prices; perhaps even a tiered system where premium showtimes like Friday and Saturday nights, carry a premium rate.

Currently the agreement between movie studios and theater owners calls for a 90-day exclusive window, but with the right push, that could certainly change. The question is, will the market still be there when that happens?

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