Universal Caves, Cancels $60 VOD Plans

After theater chains complained, the studio decided to ditch plans to release "Tower Heist" early to on-demand audiences.

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Universal will release "Tower Heist" into theaters on November 4, 2011.

Last week, Universal announced plans to release the upcoming action comedy Tower Heist to on-demand customers via its parent company Comcast. While just about every movie gets the same courtesy, the big hook here was that the movie would be available to at-home audiences just three weeks after the film’s theatrical debut.

Of course, theater chains were not happy. Cinemark was one of the first and largest operations to threaten to boycott the film’s release. Now comes word that the studio is backtracking, and has killed its early on-demand plans.

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The original idea was to make Tower Heist available just three weeks after its November 4 theatrical release. The offering would have attracted a limited audience, at best. Comcast was only extending the offer to digital subscribers in Portland and Atlanta — ones that wanted to pay $59.99 to view the movie.

Regarding the studio’s decision, National Association of Theatre Owners president and CEO John Fithian released the following statement: “NATO would like to thank Universal for responding to various theater owners’ concerns and cancelling the PVOD test it was contemplating. They have been engaged with individual exhibitors on this test, and while it was something that many theater owners could not ultimately support, the open and collaborative nature of the dialogue is appreciated. NATO recognizes that studios need to find new models and opportunities in the home market, and looks forward to distributors and exhibitors working together for their mutual benefit.”

Directed by Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, X-Men: The Last Stand), Tower Heist stars Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick, Alan Alda, Michael Pena, Tea Leoni and Gabourey Sidibe.

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