Sony Classics Bosses Say Exhibition “Wants To Hold Strong” Against Majors’ Push For Short Windows & PVOD – Tribeca Studio

Mark Mann

Most major studios outside of Disney would like to advance the narrative that a shortened theatrical window with the emergence of premium VOD is a given future reality.

But Sony Pictures Classics co-presidents and founders Tom Bernard and Michael Barker have heard otherwise from exhibition.

“I’ve talked to a lot of the major theater chains and they feel that they really want to hold strong,” Bernard told Deadline at our Tribeca Studio regarding the majors’ pitch for a shortened theatrical window. “They (exhibition) are improving the (moviegoing) experience: There are better seats, you can reserve a seat, the concessions are better and they’re remodeling a lot of the theaters.”

Bernard said that if a pay-per-view scenario arises for major studio films similar to PPV boxing events, a film “that would have made $500 at the box office, is now $200 and the exhibitor has a small piece.” Even if the majors decide to lower their prices on PVOD, once they let the toothpaste out of the tube, it will be hard to put it back in.

“I’m all for exhibition right now,” Bernard said, “and the DVD and streaming area is very strong because we’ve established movies over a period of time.”

Barker further praised the virtues of the current window system especially for independent movies: “We’ve learned when it comes to specialized films, these are the movies that have the long tails…If they’re going to become profitable, they need the long tail.”

A “tortoise vs. the hare” scenario has always worked in the long run for indie movies, which need the word of mouth to build up and play out. “Slow and steady has always won the race for independent film,” according to Barker.

Adds the SPC chief, “A VOD day-and-date scenario could work for certain films, but it’s also a scenario where it really short shrifts the opportunity for certain films to become successful. There’s actually value in all these companies, whether it’s Netflix or Sony Classics or the big studios, but it’s become a world in which we really have to study the individual piece of film and come up with the scenario that’s best for that specific film.”


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