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James Cameron, Peter Jackson protest VOD plans

By
James Cameron

© Rex Features

Hollywood directors including James Cameron, Peter Jackson and Kathryn Bigelow have signed a protest letter against the video on-demand plans of the major Hollywood studios.

Earlier in the month, 21 leading filmmakers backed the letter objecting to plans to make movies available to download into people's homes while they are still being shown in cinemas.

The directors expressed their dismay at the decision by Sony Pictures Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, Universal Studios and Warner Bros to support the move, arguing that it will hit box office revenues and filmmaking budgets.

Under the plans, some films would be made available via premium video on-demand (VOD) just 60 days after their theatrical release, compared to the current 120-day exclusive window.

The filmmakers, including Guillermo del Toro, Michael Mann and Roland Emmerich, are concerned that changing the release pattern for new films "could irrevocably harm the financial model of our film industry".

Their letter said: "Careers that are built on the risks that can be taken with lower-budget films may never have the chance to blossom under this cut-throat new model."

Cinema owners are also concerned that reducing their exclusive release window could lead to dwindling theatre audiences due to the ease of access to top digital copies.

Avatar director Cameron said: "The cinema experience is the wellspring. If the exhibitors are worried, I'm worried. Why on earth would you give audiences an incentive to skip the highest and best form of your film?"

However, not everyone in the film industry is against the plans, with some people arguing that the approach is about keeping track with how consumers want to enjoy movies.

Stephen Margolis, a film producer and head of Future Films, released Flawless, starring Demi Moore and Michael Caine, via video on-demand three weeks before it went into theatres. Margolis believes that the approach can generate a groundswell of support for films via word of mouth.

"The film industry has an opportunity to avoid some mistakes that the music industry made. It has to grasp reality and understand what the consumer needs are," he told The Guardian.

"With VOD, you can watch it when you want, you don't have to book a babysitter, and it's no longer a £100 evening, but maybe £15 or £25 for VOD."

According to the British Video Association, the UK market for legal movie downloads grew from £35m to £78m last year, demonstrating the moneymaking potential for sanctioned digital services.

This month, Tesco acquired a majority stake in British video on-demand provider Blinkbox, as part of the supermarket giant's drive into digital home entertainment.

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