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Universal Backs Off 'Tower Heist' Premium VOD Test

Tower Heist
David Lee/Universal Studios
"Tower Heist"

Facing the threat of boycotts, the studio delays the experiment, which would have made Brett Ratner's Ben Stiller-Eddie Murphy action comedy available in homes for $59.99 three weeks after the movie opens.

Universal has scrubbed plans to make Brett Ratner's action-comedy Tower Heist available in homes only three weeks after it debuts in theaters on Nov. 4, following threats by theater owners to boycott the film altogether.

But the studio stessed it will continue to pursue premium VOD.

"Universal Pictures today announced that in response to a request from theater owners, it has decided to delay its planned premium home video on demand (PVOD) experiment in which Comcast digital subscribers in Portland and Atlanta would have had the opportunity to rent Tower Heist on demand just three weeks after its theatrical release on November 4, 2011.

"Universal continues to believe that the theater experience and a PVOD window are business models that can coincide and thrive and we look forward to working with our partners in exhibition to find a way to experiment in this area in the future," the studio said in a statement."

The announcement sparked an immediate response from National Association of Theater Owners president CEO John Fithian.

“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," Fithian said.