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As Hollywood’s box office recovery takes hold, Imax CEO Richard Gelfond sees the premium video-on-demand (PVOD) window for tentpole releases going out of fashion post-pandemic.
“For movies that Imax does, blockbuster movies, PVOD is a thing of the past. For smaller movies, more niche movies, it’s possible that PVOD remains,” Gelfond told the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference during a session that was webcast.
He argued blockbuster movies don’t generate sufficient revenues from PVOD to cancel out a theatrical window. “There’s a reason that a window existed for decades and decades. You created events around the property and made it more valuable,” Gelfond said, adding that every Hollywood studio has built the theatrical window into release plans for blockbuster movies into 2022, even as they experimented with day-and-date releases through the pandemic.
Gelfond pointed to Disney releasing Free Guy and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings as theatrical exclusives, rather than making them available day-and-date on Disney Premier Access, as the company had done with Black Widow, Cruella and Jungle Cruise. “Disney looked at the data, they said it was an experiment, and they would analyze the results. They saw what the results were around Black Widow, ... around Jungle Cruise, and their next few movies, Free Guy and Shang-Chi, and they decided to go with a theatrical window,” he said.
“What the results showed was that the day and date release, whether it was PVOD or whether it was straight to a streaming service, significantly cannibalized the theatrical window,” Gelfond added of the major studios now committing to theatrical exclusives before any streaming debut in the home.
The COVID-19 crisis and the rise of streaming has many questioning how committed to theatrical the major studios will be post-pandemic. Gelfond said the return to moviegoing had taken hold, even as the recovery of the global box office has been slowed by the COVID-19 delta variant: “It’s been a long pandemic, with a lot of ups and downs. But I finally can say we’re there, and the business looks good going forward.”
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