The Death of Day-and-Date Theatrical and Streaming Releases

National Association of Theatre Owners president and CEO John Fithian proclaimed the end of day-and-date streaming and theatrical releases in an address at CinemaCon 2022, which wraps today in Las Vegas. “I am pleased to announce that simultaneous release is dead as a serious business model, and piracy is what killed it,” Fithian declared Tuesday during his state-of-the-industry address. “When a pristine copy of a movie makes its way online and spreads, it has a very damaging impact.” Motion Picture Association chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin said that pre-release piracy reduces box office revenue by as much as 20 percent.

Rivkin on Tuesday stressed for the CinemaCon crowd of motion picture exhibitors that digital piracy is a threat the MPA continues to battle on the dual fronts of illegal uploads and downloads.

“With the right efforts to build awareness with consumers, lawmakers, and the media, we can continue to build a culture that recognizes piracy for what it is — theft, pure and simple, and a direct threat to creators, the creative workforce, and the creative community everywhere,” Rivkin said, as reported by CNBC.

While day-and-date releases “became a necessary part of the box office recovery process” during the COVID-19 pandemic, “as more consumers have returned to movie theaters, the need for this practice has waned,” CNBC writes.

At the event, theater owners seemed optimistic that audiences will continue patronizing movie theaters for the singular experience offered, particularly for spectacles such as “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and “The Batman” or family fare like “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” all of which had lucrative theatrical runs that preceded streaming availability.

“Studios and industry executives are keenly aware how powerful a dedicated box office window can be for a film and how devastating piracy can be to potential earnings. That’s why Disney moved to schedule the 2019 release of ‘Avengers: Endgame’ to coincide in China and North America on the same date,” CNBC reports.

While some studios may continue to implement day-and-date releases for lower-budget films or those with a narrower demographic appeal, “most studios have committed to showing their films for at least 45 days before releasing them to the home market,” says CNBC.

Since the onset of COVID-19, the release windows between the box office release of mass appeal films has generally “been cut in half with the majority of studios waiting 45 days to debut films in the home, compared to the 90 days that were the standard before COVID hit,” writes Variety, noting that Fithian — the motion picture industry’s top lobbyist — didn’t press a case for existing release windows to lengthen.

Rather, Variety reports, “the NATO chief tried to argue that the new window was more of a compromise, one that preserved the kind of exclusivity that cinemas need to remain viable, while also allowing studios to more quickly capitalize on rental revenues.”