Premium Video on Demand: $30 Movie Rentals On the Way

    April 1, 2011
    Josh Wolford

This is not an April Fool’s joke.  I repeat, this is not an April Fool’s joke.  Much to the chagrin of theater owners, four major Hollywood studios have decided to unveil their own premium on-demand service, charging $30 a pop.

Warner Bros, Universal, Fox and Sony will launch the service under the collective brand “Home Premiere.”  Viewers will be charged $29.99 for a 2-3 rental, depending on the distributor.  The movies offered will be films that are two months out of the theaters.  This means that they will be films not yet released onto DVD and Blu-Ray.

According to Variety, DirecTV will be the first to launch “Home Premiere” to its 20 million customers, to be followed by Comcast and other cable providers at an unknown time.

Will people pay this incredibly high price tag for a film that they don’t get to keep?  People that missed the initial theater run of some buzzed about movies might value the experience.  Some folks might think the price is worth it to avoid waiting for the films on HBO or Redbox.  But with many DVDs releasing three months after closing in theaters, is a month of waiting really worth $30?

The price is hard to justify for a single viewer or even a couple, but maybe not for larger families.  The cost of a night out at the megaplex could easily eclipse $30, and that is a fact that the studios are banking on.  Families could avoid the hassle of leaving their homes and pay an equivalent or possibly even cheaper price for the same entertainment.

The National Association of Theater Owners is not too thrilled about the service, saying in a statement:

“These plans fundamentally alter the economic relationship between exhibitors, filmmakers and producers, and the studios taking part in this misguided venture.  Studios risk accelerating the already intense need to maximize revenues on every screen opening weekend and driving out films that need time to develop — like many of the recent Academy Award-nominated pictures. They risk exacerbating the scourge of movie theft by delivering a pristine, high definition, digital copy to pirates months earlier than they had previously been available.”

Ah yes, then there is the piracy issue.

Sources told Variety that the service should debut sometime in April.  The Adam Sandler comedy “Just Go With It” and the Liam Neeson thriller “Unknown” are said to be two of the early offerings.

Netflix’s popularity is at an all time high, and since studios like Warner Bros and Fox have been hesitant to jump on the wagon, the must feel the need to offer something new to compete.  Does “Home Premiere” have the chance to succeed?  Tell us what you think.