More Theaters Sign Up for Paramount's Daring VOD Plan (Exclusive)

Paranomal Activity: The Marked Ones Still, New - H 2015
Paramount Pictures

Paranomal Activity: The Marked Ones Still, New - H 2015

Mega-exhibitors Cinemark and Regal remain on the sidelines, however.

Five additional theater chains are signing up for Paramount's daring new plan to change the way theatrical windows are defined and make certain movies available in the home far earlier than is the norm, according to insiders.

They include National Amusements, the cinema chain owned by Sumner Redstone and his daughter, Shari. (Redstone controls Paramount corporate parent Viacom and CBS Corp.). The others circuits are New Orleans-based Southern Theatres, which is among the 10 largest circuits in the U.S., Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, Canada's Landmark Cinemas and upscale exhibitor iPic.

Word of the new deals comes nearly a month after Paramount announced that mega-exhibitors AMC Theatres and Canada's Cineplex have agreed to let Paramount make two low-budget fall titles — Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (Oct. 23) and Scout's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (Oct. 30) — available digitally just 17 days after they are all but done with their theatrical run (the cutoff is 300 screens or fewer).

That means customers could watch them in the comfort of their own homes as early as six weeks to seven weeks — instead of three months — after they first open in theaters. Film companies argue that some types of films, such as genre titles like Paranormal Activity or Scout's Guide, have a short theatrical shelf life, yet are still bound by the 90-day window.

In return, Paramount will share proceeds of the VOD revenues through the 90-day window.

Not everyone is on board, while others are adopting a wait-and-see stance. Key players Regal Entertainment and Cinemark Entertainment, the country's second-and third-largest chains after AMC, remain on the sidelines, although they did take meetings with Paramount worldwide president of marketing and distribution Megan Colligan, as did the majority of cinema owners.

Still, Paramount has made headway in a campaign that's being closely watched by other studios. The seven theaters have a combined marketshare of more than 30 percent across the U.S. and Canada, with more than 670 locations and over 8,000 screens.

"This is all about changing the definition of theatrical windows. Instead of starting the countdown from when a movie opens, we are starting from when it ends," Paramount vice chair Rob Moore told The Hollywood Reporter when the deal with AMC and Cineplex was struck.

The experiment doesn't apply to Paramount's next release, Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation, which hits theaters July 31, nor would it make sense for other big movies that have longer theatrical runs.