CinemaCon: Universal Exec Says Film Ceding Too Much Ground to TV

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UPDATED: International president David Kosse calls on foreign theater owners to invest in VOD and the digital space as a way to grow their bottom line.

LAS VEGAS -- Universal International president David Kosse told foreign exhibitors on Monday that one way to stem the flight to the new "golden age" of television is to make movies more easily available on a variety of platforms in the home.

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Kosse, delivering the keynote speech at CinemaCon's international day, said theater owners should invest in VOD and digital services so that they have a financial stake in this growing ancillary revenue. He said exhibitors know better than anybody the viewing habits of moviegoers, and that if it becomes apparent a certain demo is no longer showing up, one way to reach those people is in their living rooms.

"The DVD business is declining, and the home-viewing experience is being replaced by long-form serialized drama. It's a concern for all of us," Kosse said, whose studio is owned by cable giant Comcast.

Kosse said TV shows can be viewed on numerous platforms, as well as be recorded to watch at a more convenient date.

"We are ceding too much ground," Kosse said. "We are seeing a golden age of television. It unnerves me to say the least, particularly because there is some great serialized drama out there. I love Game of Thrones and House of Cards."

Kosse told reporters afterwards that he wasn't advocating the collapse of windows, one of the most controversial issues dividing Hollywood studios and theater owners. When Kosse's own studio proposed making Tower Heist available early on premium VOD, there was a loud outcry among exhibitors and the plan was scrapped.

However, making exhibitors a part of the VOD and digital food chain is widely viewed as the first step in ultimately shortening windows, at least to some extent.

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Generally speaking, there's a three-month window between a film's theatrical release and its release on DVD. Overseas, it's even stricter, or four months. Theaters, led by Fox, are now experimenting with making a title available digitally first.

Kosse said there were 7 billion movie tickets sold globally in 2013, while there were 350 million movie VOD and digital transactions.

"It's a huge opportunity to be in the VOD and digital business," Kosse said. "Don't look at it as a threat."

CinemaCon, the annual gathering of theater owners from across the globe, runs through Thursday at Caesars Palace.