Where does the business bottom line change? Maybe the TV side of the business.
Responding to stellar results -- $100 million in VOD rentals in three weeks, somewhat on par with movie-theater revenue gains for a mid-size wide-screen release -- Jeff Shell, CEO of NBCUniversal, said he expects to see movies in both windows -- theaters and via at-home on-demand services.
That angered AMC Theaters, which made a massive industry-changing statement: It will no longer play Universal Pictures in its theaters. A day later, Cinemark, the second-biggest U.S. theater chain, said the same thing. And then Cineworld chimed in with the same decision.
Now, you might wonder if this is a real game changer -- or, as other industry analysts are saying, just “saber rattling.”
True, movie theaters are up against the wall -- with nothing to lose. They have been virtually closed worldwide for the last six weeks or so without revenue. Analysts have assumed some bankruptcies could be in the works.
Movies studios have been tempted to do what NBCUniversal did for years. But they were loath to risk a $10 billion- to $12 billion-a-year movie theatrical business.
That is, until that business was completely shut down.
Movie studios hoped all this would be temporary. And many agreed to shift movie releases to later in the year -- including future Universal Pictures films.
Looking out from here, all this will probably mean changes in the movie studio/movie theater business relationship.
First, some history.
Think back to what movies/TV studios did when their corporate owners originally pushed to enter the streaming world -- they stepped carefully around a long-time relationship with TV stations' affiliates.
What did big media owners do? They gave TV stations a piece of the pie -- an ad-revenue sharing arrangement, for the most part. That's because those TV stations locally promote national TV network affiliations and programming.
Ask yourself how this applies to the movie studio/movie theater chain relationship.
Do movie content producers really want to change their long-time relationship with movie theaters -- which gives theater owners an initial three months exclusivity period for movies? What would those studios get in return?
For many, there is a different kind of revenue-sharing agreement model to help promote the VOD business. Maybe there is some other business advantage theaters can offer. Perhaps studios then get their highly desired same-day and date release of films on home VOD services as in theaters.
Maybe that’s not enough. What else can theatrical circuits offer -- with the hope and expectation that a live big entertainment event with crowds will always be popular?
Perhaps movie studios can get more mobile social-media tools from theaters while moviegoers are in attendance -- including future movie trailers. In addition, that content could be included in pre-screen marketing reels theaters run before a movie’s start time.
All to say popular live entertainment events will continue to have social high value. So use it. It's a different kind of herd immunity.