Cinemark Theaters to Boycott Universal's 'Tower Heist' Over Latest Early VOD Plan

Even Priced at $59.99, Third-Largest Chain Sees Threat in Test by Comcast's Universal

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Cinemark fears getting robbed at the box office.
Cinemark fears getting robbed at the box office.
Cinemark, the third-largest U.S. movie chain, said it won't screen Universal Pictures' "Tower Heist" if the studio proceeds with a plan to offer the film to cable-TV viewers while it is still in theaters.

Cinemark has asked Universal, which is controlled by Comcast, to reconsider the video-on-demand test planned to begin just three weeks after the film's Nov. 4 debut in theaters, the theater chain said yesterday.

Comcast plans to offer the movie, starring Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller, for home viewing for $59.99 starting three weeks after its Nov. 4 debut, the studio said Oct. 5. The offering will only be available to Comcast cable subscribers in Atlanta and Portland, Ore.

Studios are testing earlier VOD release dates to replace declining DVD sales. But movies really need longer exclusive runs in theaters to build awareness among consumers, said Cinemark, which operates 3,825 movie screens in 293 locations. The window between the theatrical opening and home-video release is usually about four months, Cinemark said.

"Over the past year Cinemark has continually voiced its concern to Universal and other studios regarding any early-to-the-home premium video-on-demand," Cinemark said in a statement. "Movies are designed to be exhibited in today's state-of -the-art digital theaters."

Universal, Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros., News Corp.'s Fox and Sony Corp. previously tried offering films including "Just Go With It" for $29.99 two months after the theatrical release through DirecTV.

Lionsgate is planning test offering the Taylor Lautner movie "Abduction" on pay TV three months after its theatrical release, and before it comes out on DVD, for as little as $6.99, people familiar with the plan said in August.

-- Bloomberg News --

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