07 Jun Universal Says On-Demand Film Strategy Has Increased Audience [New York Times]
Jun 7, 2023 | In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, Universal Pictures and its art-house sibling, Focus Features, set off alarm bells in Hollywood by ending the long-held practice of giving theaters an exclusive window of about 90 days to play new movies. Instead, their movies, which have since included “Jurassic World: Dominion,” “Belfast,” “Cocaine Bear” and “M3gan,” would become available for digital rental or purchase — at a higher price — after as little as 17 days.
For a change-phobic industry that still views the 1981 arrival of armrest cup holders as a major innovation, the introduction of the service, known as premium video on demand, prompted extensive hand-wringing. Filmmakers and theater owners worried that ticket buyers would be more reluctant to leave their sofas if they could see the same films on their TV sets or iPads just a couple of weeks later.
Universal’s competitors mostly stuck with the status quo.
But the willingness by Universal to experiment — to challenge the “this is how we’ve always done it” thinking — seems to have paid off. Universal has generated more than $1 billion in premium V.O.D. revenue in less than three years, while showing little-to-no decrease in ticket sales. In some cases, box-office sales even increased when films became available in homes, which Universal has decided is a side effect of premium V.O.D. advertising and word of mouth.