Cineplex CEO Doesn't See Premium VOD Window Collapsing

Ellis Jacob - Warner Bros. Pictures Private Cocktail Reception for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. - Getty - H 2017
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Ellis Jacob tells THR that Hollywood negotiations to get movies into homes sooner stalled as Disney unveiled its $52.4 billion deal to buy most of 21st Century Fox.

Ellis Jacob, head of Canadian exhibition giant Cineplex, doesn't see Hollywood's premium VOD talks producing a deal to shorten the theatrical release-to-streaming window anytime soon.

"I don't think your statement about windows falling off a cliff is going to happen," the CEO on Thursday told an analyst call about a collapsed window threat for movie theater chains after his company posted improved fourth-quarter earnings and revenues. 

Jacob told The Hollywood Reporter that Cineplex was collaborating with studios to make any premium VOD window rollout "a win-win" for both parties. But Jacob added 21st Century Fox having moved "to the sidelines" since the Walt Disney Company unveiled its $52.4 billion deal to acquire most of the studio had effectively stalled talks on earlier in-home movie rentals.

He also argued any successful premium VOD rollout will require participation from across the exhibition industry and the major studios to ensure a steady and reliable flow of movie product for consumers.

"The challenge is a number of studios don't want to do it, or in the case of Fox, it's difficult in middle of discussions," Jacob said of launching a premium VOD window. "I wouldn't say it's dead, but I wouldn't say it's going to happen in the short term," he added about the talks.

Jacob's comments came as Cineplex unveiled fourth-quarter earnings of CAN$28.8 million (US$22.6 million), up nearly 24 percent from CAN$23.3 million a year earlier, boosted by record quarterly concessions and box-office per-patron revenues.

Overall revenues at Cineplex jumped 10.6 percent to $335.2 million, despite a 2.1 percent fall in attendance to 17.6 million patrons during the latest quarter. Box-office revenue rose by nearly 1 percent to $145.5 million as Cineplex secured price increases in select markets, and had Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Thor: Ragnarok on its screens as its best box-office performers.

That compares with the year-earlier fourth quarter, in which Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Doctor Strange were the biggest crowd-pullers for Cineplex.