Now that we’re in the final stretches of 2018, the new year could come with some changes that make it tougher than ever to decide between heading to the theater to check out the next sci-fi blockbuster, or just waiting until the same thing arrives conveniently on your TV.
Variety reports that at least two studios — Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures — are pushing for industry changes that aim to shorten the wait between the time big-ticket movies like Jurassic World and Glass (Universal), and Shazam! and Joker (Warner Bros.) appear in theaters, and the time they arrive on Blu-ray and streaming platforms.
Regardless of the studios behind the movies, the cineplex has long afforded all films a comfortable window of exclusivity on access to blockbusters before they finally hit home video. But as Disney expands its grip on the movie market both at the theater and, with the debut of Disney+ next year, in millions of homes, competitors are vying for ways to level the playing field.
“Publicly, Disney CEO Bob Iger has been a vociferous ally of the [theater] exhibition business,” the report states. “…However, rival studios feel that Disney is being somewhat disingenuous. As the company prepares to launch its streaming service, Disney+, it is lining up several movies with healthy budgets that will forgo a theatrical release…the kinds of movies that other studios would welcome on their slate, even though they lack the heft of an Avengers or Star Wars sequel.”
Add to that Warner Bros.’ planned launch of its own streaming service, and Disney’s competitors would benefit even further from rolling their biggest movies over to home video while all that theater buzz is still popcorn-fresh.
If the home release window does tighten next year, it’ll likely happen thanks to a fresh round of talks between theater owners (who are, of course, against it) and non-Disney studios. “…AT&T-owned Warner Bros. remains intent on releasing movies in homes earlier and is expected to re-engage theater owners in discussions at some point in 2019,” Variety notes, adding that Comcast-owned Universal is expected to follow suit.
Regardless of how those talks play out in the near future, it may be just a matter of time before the biggest difference between the blockbuster epics at the theater and those in your home won’t be how soon you can watch them — only the size of the screen you end up watching them on.