Movie fans that prefer the home theater experience will soon have access to the biggest hits while they’re still running in theaters. Satellite and cable companies have been bringing movies to their customers through on-demand services before they’re released on DVD, but no service has ever offered movies that were currently showing in theaters.
The Comcast internet plans are to develop a new on-demand offering that allows users to watch newly-released films while they are still in theaters. It will begin in select cities with the Eddy Murphy and Ben Stiller comedy “Tower Heist”. The movie won’t be available the same night as it releases in theaters, but the three week waiting period is shorter than any current on-demand movie service offering new releases.
Only about half a million people in the Atlanta and Portland metro areas will have initial access to the test run of this Video On Demand program that starts Thanksgiving weekend. If it works successfully, Comcast will try to roll it out to the rest of the country. Customers will need to pay $60 for each movie, which will be available for 48 hours after ordering and will allow for multiple viewings by multiple people. Only current Comcast internet plans and cable subscribers with HDTV-equipped set top boxes and television equipment will be able to order these new movies. You can sign up now, but there’s no guarantee that the program will be rolled out to your area.
DirecTV already has a Video On Demand service that allows users to watch movies within 60 days of their release. This service comes with a flat monthly fee instead of payment per movie, but the 2 month waiting period doesn’t compare with Comcast’s idea. The fee may seem high for an individual movie. However, it is close to the average price for a prize fight or a specialty sports event. It is also less expensive than going to a movie theater if at least six people watch the movie. Getting together with friends and family members and splitting the cost makes it inexpensive and a great way to throw a party.
Only time and testing will tell if this service works. It’s unclear if it will become popular enough to make a dent in attendance at theaters on new release nights, but it will open up new options for in-home entertainment. Movie theaters have already tried to shut down DirecTV’s program, and the Comcast offering will probably cause even more controversy. The production companies are also spending a lot of time and money to develop copy protection to prevent pirating of new releases. If these hurdles are overcome and the high price doesn’t scare customers away, Comcast may have a new hit on their hands.