ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish On Theatrical Movie Windows: 45-Day Exclusive Is “Overall Direction” For Paramount, But “Fluid” Covid Situation Will Keep Streaming In Mix

Paw Patrol Movie

ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish acknowledged the Covid operating environment for Paramount Pictures is “a bit fluid” but said the studio is keen to preserve a theatrical window.

Speaking to Wall Street analysts during the company’s second-quarter earnings call, Bakish said the plan is to evaluate movies “case by case.” But he reaffirmed the company’s preference for a 45-day exclusive theatrical window, with a “fast follow” to the pay-1 window, which now means streaming on Paramount+. A Quiet Place, Part II is the marquee (and only) release to try out the model. The sequel hit theaters in May and became the first title to pass $100 million domestically during the pandemic. It has made almost $300 million worldwide and recently landed on Paramount+.

“The situation is a bit fluid,” Bakish said of Covid. “As a general principle we do like the 45-day fast follow theatrical to pay-1. That is the overall direction we’d like to go over time. But we’ve got to look at each title in this pandemic and figure out what is the right strategy.”

Rivals Disney and Warner Bros have more aggressively favored day-and-date releasing. Warner’s entire 2021 slate is streaming on HBO Max at the same time films hit theaters, while Disney has made several films available as $30 Premier Access upcharges for Disney+ subscribers. Paramount+ is smaller than many rival services but has grown significantly since its rebrand and launch in March. It forms the core of the 42 million global streaming subscribers reported today by Viacom CBS.

Family movies have been a challenge for all distributors, especially given the absence of an approved vaccine for children under 12 years old. Paramount will release this month’s Paw Patrol movie day-and-date in theaters and on Paramount+. It has pulled the live action/CGI film Clifford the Big Red Dog from a planned September release, withdrawing it also from a gala slot at the Toronto Film Festival.

“For families with young children right now in the middle of Covid, we wanted to provide both choices,” Bakish said of Paw Patrol. “It’s not only good for that movie but also for the consumer products business that wraps around it.” Heavy promotion in Walmart and Target, he noted, plugs Paramount+ along with theatrical play.

A 30- to 45-day exclusive theatrical window is “the sweet spot of the model,” Bakish said. “We only have one title we’ve done it with,” but judging by the results from Quiet Place II, “we like what we’re seeing.”

At the same time, he noted, “movies work well on multiple platforms, including, of course, streaming. … One of the things that we have today is more optionality.”

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