Filmmakers Protest DirecTV’s VOD Plans

An open letter criticizes shortening the window between theatrical and home release

A group of Hollywood filmmakers is protesting DirecTV's plan to allow subscribers to watch movies at home 60 days after they are released in theaters. The plan would effectively halve the time that consumers previously had to wait—which was about 130 days—before being able to view films on DVD or via video on demand.

A group of 23 directors and producers, organized by James Cameron and his producing partner Jon Landau, issued an open letter on Wednesday criticizing DirecTV's proposal. "As a crucial part of a business that last year grossed close to $32 billion in worldwide theatrical ticket sales," the letter states, "we in the creative community feel that now is the time for studios and cable companies to acknowledge that a release pattern for premium video-on-demand that invades the current theatrical window could irrevocably harm the financial model of our film industry."

The letter, written in conjunction with the National Association of Theater Owners, warns of the toll that DirecTV's plan will take on movie theaters—film's "optimum, and most profitable, exhibition arena"—forcing some to close. Plus, competition in surviving theaters could become so intense that only the most commercial films would be able to afford theatrical release, threatening the future of lower-budget offerings.

DirecTV's plan also won’t provide an remedy for the industry's DVD woes, the filmmakers said. "The problem of declining revenue in home video will not be solved by importing into the theatrical window a distribution model that cannibalizes theatrical ticket sales," they wrote.

The letter was released the day before DirecTV makes its first offering, the Adam Sandler film Just Go With It, which will run a steep $30 for a two-day pass. It was released in theaters 69 days ago.