Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures are going to fight to have their movies debut for home release earlier. This has become a big topic of conversation amongst studios and movie theater chains over the last few years. The theaters are obviously against the idea because it could take away from their profits if movies are shown at home only weeks after premiering on the big screen. The studios argue that they need to give viewers the early option to combat piracy and make up for lost promotional revenue.
Hollywood studios entered negotiations with theater chains over theatrical windowing, which is the length of time a movie appears exclusively in theaters, back in 2017. A deal was reportedly close to being made, but then news of Disney's acquisition of Fox became public, weakening the studio leverage. Losing Fox was a huge blow, but it looks like Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. are getting ready to reignite that battle next year. Generally, movies come out digitally and on Blu-ray about 90 days after the theatrical premiere.
Disney was never included in the negotiations over theatrical windowing, mainly because they believe that the current model is working out just fine for them. Obviously, this is Disney that we're talking about who have Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm tearing up the box office and they're about to get Fox as well, which will account for 40 percent of the domestic market share when all is said and done. However, some believe that Disney might be pulling off some double dipping, which is causing concern in the industry.
Disney is about to launch their streaming service next year and they already have some pretty big titles that are exclusive to the streaming platform. Lady and the Tramp, the Anna Kendrick comedy Noelle, and The Sword in the Stone are all titles that could be box office gold if they were released theatrically. The move allows Disney to have a strong upper hand when it comes to negotiating a theatrical window with theater chains. While Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. aren't happy with the Disney and Fox merger, they're going to start talks up again for a shorter theatrical window with other tricks up their sleeves as well.
Warner Bros. and AT&T are looking to start their own streaming service in 2019, while Universal Pictures and Comcast are looking to get more into the world of digital video. As movie theaters continue to struggle, this will not be an easy battle, which could potentially get messy. Or, we could see some kind of compromise, like including theaters in some of the profits for video-on-demand as well as other revenues. Whatever the case may be, things are starting to get pretty interesting for the studios and theater chains. This news was first reported by Variety, who note that Universal Pictures, Warner Bros., and Disney all declined to comment on the story.