Hugh Howey
Hugh Howey

Bestselling author of Wool and other books. Currently sailing around the world.

I Propose a New Christmas Tradition

There are certain movies you just have to see around the holidays. Like: A Christmas Story“You’re gonna shoot your eye out!” Or: A Miracle on 34th Street.

I propose one more. A new Christmas tradition:

This relates to publishing, in a way. Today marks the first time that a major Hollywood release has had a simultaneous theater and digital launch. There have been some digital-only works that skipped the theaters, but nothing like this. The reluctance these days is more on the part of the theater owners than the studios.

I don’t see this changing anytime soon, but I wish it would. Theater owners know that by helping provide choice, they’ll lose some market share to home viewing and digital, hence the windowing. Publishers did the same with ebooks — withholding them while releasing hardbacks — and some of this pressure came from bookstores.

When publishers are trained to be in the bookstore business, rather than the selling-stories business, it leaves room for disruption. Because someone else will see what the market really wants and supply it. With Hollywood, there’s been a similar reluctance to see that they are in the video business, not the theater business. A remnant of this bias is that we still look at opening weekend or box office sales, when many films go on to make more money in the streaming/disc market.

With the price of large high-def TVs so low, there’s room for Hollywood to make home releases incredibly appealing. I would gladly pay $20 for a home screening of a brand new film, even if that means not owning the digital file. That’s far less than ticket prices, no gas, and cheap popcorn. You could probably get away with $30 and still make these releases an event.

If that sounds nuts, look at sports. NFL is an ad-supported, home-watching event. Those TV contracts are in the billions. Stadium tickets are a bonus. And just as fans look forward to Saturday (for college football) or Sunday (for pro football), I think you could make Friday nights the order-a-pizza-and-watch-a-new-film night. Especially in the age of social media, where watching a day late means missing out on a communal experience.

8 replies to “I Propose a New Christmas Tradition”

Nnnno, I don’t think so. True, there are all sorts of “Christmas” movies that vary all over the map with themes and subject matter, but a “Christmas tradition” of watching a movie about an attempted assassination? No.

I don’t care if it’s supposed to be a “comedy.” It was a lousy idea for a comedy in the first place, though it’s not the first time that Hollywood has gone stupid (think of “Deal of the Century” with Chevy Chase). Though I don’t agree with their methods, I think that the North Koreans tried to do the world a favor by sabotaging “The Interview.” Too bad that they failed.

I, also, thought this movie was in poor taste the first time I saw a commercial for it…satire is fine to a degree, but how would the U.S. feel if a movie came out depicting an assassination of our President as a comedy? Even if it’s a president I don’t like, I wouldn’t want to see him killed…

Kim Jong-Un is not like Bush or Obama. He is like Stalin. North Koreans would be blessed to be rid of him.

I think some of this is related to the Paramount Decree, way back in 1948, that forced the big studios to give up their theaters.

I believe the only way that day and date VOD (other than after North Korea attacks) would work is if the studios also owned their own theaters, so they could afford to take a hit in ticket sales at the box office for ticket sales online. Right now, the theater owners have too much clout to demand windowing. While the studios know they can make more money on video, they need the prestige of a theatrical release to stand out from everything else (on Netflix and Amazon). The theaters demand an exclusive window if the studios want them to promote their films.

I think legally studios can now buy up theaters if they want to, but they are hesitant to jump into a brick and mortar situation. Generally, they make pretty good money current arrangement, so there’s not a lot of reason to change it.

In the name of all that is sacred. I am going to pirate this movie and watch it with a beer a slice of apple pie and start a new tradition for my family. I will most likely hide my identity just in case N Korea does have a terrorist cell, and maybe pay for the download later out of guilt. :)

“Today marks the first time that a major Hollywood release has had a simultaneous theater and digital launch.” Yes, it is the first time a major Hollywood release has been launched this way, but it’s not unprecedented. Steven Soderberg experimented with this almost a decade ago with Bubble. Digital streaming was not popular then, but he released it to theaters, DVD and cable TV on the same day.

However, I digress. I agree with your analogy, Hugh.

Perhaps the movie studios can use this as leverage against the theaters. “How much will you pay me NOT to release it to VOD and DVD simultaneously?” Or are the reports of the opening weekend box office receipts that much of an advertising advantage?

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