Movie Studios Approve $30 Rental Plan, Theater Owners Mightily Upset

It must be an absolute nightmare being a Hollywood executive in 2011. Four big studios (20th Century Fox, Sony, Universal, and Warner Bros.) have announced plans to introduce a premium video-on-demand service, to debut on DirecTV next month as “Home Premiere,” that will screen movies a mere 60 days after their theatrical debut. Renting such a movie will set you back $30. And if you think you’re angry about that, just imagine how theater owners must feel.

AllThingsD already has a scenario where the $30 price tag probably isn’t as high as you might initially think, particularly if you’re trying to have a “moment and daddy need to go to the movies alone for once” night. Once you pay for a baby-sitter, parking, movie tickets, a little popcorn and maybe a soda you’re well past the $30 barrier.

The studios made the announcement at an industry convention in Las Vegas. Oh: they never bothered to tell movie theater owners about this ahead of the big announcement.

The National Association of Theater Owners, or NATO (wow…), called the premium video-on-demand model a “misguided adventure,” and that “[i]n the end, the entire motion picture community will have a say in how the industry moves forward.”

Sounds to me like the movie theater owners feel like they’re being pushed out. Keep reducing the window between theatrical release and home consumption (Blu-ray releases are sometimes available only three months after hitting the theaters) and sooner or later people will stop going to the movies altogether. “That Adam Sandler movie looks funny. We’ll catch it next month when it hits premium VOD.”

That’s the fear, at least.