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April 1, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

Like yelling fire in a crowded theater, four movie studios set off panic among exhibitors attending the convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners with word, first reported by Daily Variety, that they plan to launch a premium video-on-demand program called Home Premiere that will allow subscribers to the DirecTV satellite service to watch their movies while they’re still in theaters. (Cable giant Comcast also reportedly plans to test Home Premiere in a limited number of markets.) NATO quickly issued a statement saying that it had been taken by surprise by the studios, noting that it had “repeatedly, publicly and privately, raised concerns and questions about the wisdom” of premium video-on-demand schemes. “These plans fundamentally alter the economic relationship between exhibitors, filmmakers and producers, and the studios taking part in this misguided venture,” the statement said. According to reports, Warner Bros., Fox, Sony and Universal all plan to make their films available 60 days after their release in theaters for $29.99. In what appeared to be a veiled threat, NATO chief John Fithian said, “These studios have made their decision in what they no doubt perceive to be their best interests. Theater owners will do the same.” Owners have previously threatened to boycott films that are released on VOD platforms earlier than 90 days after their theatrical premieres. Fithian also intimated that they may refuse to run trailers and post lobby advertisements “promoting movies that will appear shortly in the home market to the detriment of theater admissions.”