Universal Pictures abandons ‘Tower Heist’ early VOD release

Following staunch opposition from theater owners, Universal Pictures has abandoned its controversial plan to make the movie “Tower Heist” available to consumers via video on demand just three weeks after it opens in theaters.

"Universal Pictures today announced that in response to a request from theater owners, it has decided to delay its planned premium home video on demand (PVOD) experiment,'' the studio said in a statement Wednesday. "Universal continues to believe that the theater experience and a PVOD window are business models that can coincide and thrive and we look forward to working with our partners in exhibition to find a way to experiment in this area in the future."

Universal did not say when it would attempt to launch another similar VOD release.

Universal recently said it would make “Tower Heist,“ which opens in theaters Nov. 4, available to about 500,000 cable subscribers of Universal's corporate  parent, Comcast Corp., in two markets, Atlanta and Portland, Ore., for $59.99 via video-on-demand.

READ MORE AT LA TIMES

‘Tower Heist’ to be offered on VOD three weeks after theatrical release

Universal Pictures is taking on huge gamble with Brett Ratner’s Tower Heist by releasing it on Video-on-Demand three weeks after its release for $60 dollars. The battle between studios & theaters and the release of movies on VOD has taken a new turn. Recently Warner Brothers, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, and 20th Century Fox launched Home Premium, a VOD service that offers studio movies two months after their release at a price of $30 per movie. The drop in DVD sales played a major factor into VODs and now with the rising cost of theater ticket prices and concessions, studios believe that consumers will turn to VOD.

Obviously, theater owners are furious over this plan since it not only reduces the window between theatrical release and home viewing, but because Tower Heist, which has proven to be a success at some test screenings, could be a huge hit. The experiment “will be offered in Atlanta and Portland, Ore., to approximately 500,000 digital cable subscribers of Universal’s corporate parent, Comcast Corp., marks the first time a major studio movie will be available to watch in-home while still playing in thousands of theaters,” reports the LA Times.

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Netflix Secures Streaming Deal With DreamWorks

DreamWorks Animation, the company behind successful movie franchises like “Madagascar” and “Shrek,” said it had completed a deal to pump its films and television specials through Netflix, replacing a less lucrative pact with HBO.

The Netflix accord, which analysts estimate is worth $30 million per picture to DreamWorks over an unspecified period of years, is billed by the companies as the first time a major Hollywood supplier has chosen Web streaming over pay television.

READ MORE AT NY TIMES

BrevityTV Introduces LeanIn’s Social Video Features in ‘Lesbian Alien Sexbot’

Los Angeles, CA - BrevityTV (www.brevitytv.com) is proud to announce a new partnership with Leanin.com that will feature Brevity's sketch comedy webisodes loaded with social features, enabling viewers to share the comedy episodes with extra social and interactive features.

Now in its fourth season of sketch comedy, Leanin's online video player will provide custom branding for brevityTV's online videos along with a seamless social experience. The technology will be introduced on the September 5th episode, "Lesbian Alien Sexbot", and subsequently rolled out into the previous seasons this fall. Among its most touted features is the ability to create 'notches' where viewers can 'like' a moment or scene within a sketch video. Viewers can also comment on the scene and share it via email, Twitter and Facebook.

"I'm personally really excited about the brevityTV.com and LeanIn partnership.  I know I'm looking forward to being able to share all the hilarious and immature scenes that brevityTV produces with all of my Friends on Twitter and Facebook.  It will also be a lot of fun to see how my friends react at various segments of the shows.  LeanIn works best on content that is engaging and content that inspires conversation, so we're expecting great results on brevityTV.com", says Luke Davies, President of Leanin.

BrevityTV's collection of comedy sketches seems to be a perfect fit for its growing popularity among online viewers. Executive Producer Deron Sedy says, ""The thing we care most about at brevityTV.com is getting our quirky wit in front of gajillions of people, so as to cause more laughter, and thereby bring about world peace.  We're glad to team up with LeanIn.com because their social sharing features should bring that world peace one step closer."

As brevityTV heads into its new season of comedy sketches this fall, the social experience of promoting and interacting with the new episodes is propelling its growth in the internet universe.

About BrevityTV

BrevityTV (www.brevitytv.com) is a production company offering comedic commercials, industrials, and viral campaigns.  They also publish sketch comedy at brevityTV.com, and keep Martians from invading Earth.  BrevityTV is proud to have kept the Earth Martian-free since 2007.

‘Star Wars’ Tweaked Darth Vader Scene Sparks Outcry

George Lucas continues to make tweaks to Star Wars, and fans continue to be upset about it.

Such was the case Thursday when it was revealed that Lucas has added audio to Darth Vader in a scene in Return of the Jedi where he commits his final redemptive act by throwing the evil Emperor Palpatine down a shaft. In the original version, Vader was silent, but now he cries out "No!" reflecting the end of Revenge of the Sith. (Watch the altered scene below.) Sith is the third film in the overall chronology but the last one to be released.

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Startups blend social media, movies

Streaming movies might not yet have the equivalent of a theater experience, with roaring crowds crunching on popcorn, but they are getting more social.

Hollywood studios have increasingly looked to social media and Facebook, in particular, as a distribution platform. The early inroads have been experimental, but turning social media users into audiences is a bright new hope for a Hollywood looking to counter sagging DVDsales.

On Tuesday, the social streaming startup flickme will launch a library of more than 1,000 movies for rent or purchase with Facebook and Twitter integration. It already has some notable backers: Sony Pictures and Warner Bros. are participating and noted venture capital firm Sequoia Capital has provided funding.

READ MORE AT USA TODAY

Apple abandons 99-cent TV show rentals for Apple TV

Apple has removed the ability to rent TV shows from both iTunes and its Apple TV, taking away what was just last year one of the major advertised selling points of the $99 streaming-centric set-top box.

The option to rent episodes of TV shows is no longer available on either the Apple TV, or when browsing content via Apple's iTunes application. Previously, participating networks offered users the ability to rent a TV episode for 99 cents, with 30 days to begin watching and 48 hours to complete it.

As further evidence that the ability to rent TV shows has been removed completely, an Apple support document entitled "iTunes Store: How to rent TV shows," has been removed from the Web. A Google cache of the page is still available.

READ MORE AT APPLE INSIDER

Full ‘Godfather’ movie accidentally uploaded to Sony’s YouTube channel

Was it a loss leader? A case of, if you can’t beat the pirates, join ‘em? Or just a mistake? As it turned out, it was apparently the likeliest of Internet phenomena: a prank.

We’ve grown more and more accustomed to finding feature-length movies available for online streaming at little or no cost, but it was still a little surprising to find “The Godfather” on YouTube — the full movie, with no commercials (if you don’t count pop-ups), in one piece. It had been uploaded within the last 24 hours on what appeared to be the YouTube channel of Sony Pictures UK, which was otherwise home of an assortment of trailers for pictures like “Colombiana” and the “Straw Dogs” remake. But sometime in the hour after this post was first published, and after about 310 views of the video (you have to wonder how many of those viewers stayed for the full 2-hour-57-minute running time), the movie was taken down and the YouTube channel disabled.

READ MORE AT NY TIMES

Miramax Launches Facebook App For Streaming Movies

Following the lead of Warner Bros, Paramount, and Universal, Miramax has jumped on the Facebook app bandwagon offering movie rentals in exchange for Facebook credits. Along with watching movie clips and playing games, users will get access to full-length feature films from the Miramax library, including Clerks, Kill Bill, Good Will Hunting, and No Country For Old Men.

As of right now, the app is still in beta. It was built in “just eight short weeks,” so you should expect a few bugs and hiccups in the beginning. US Facebook users will have a choice between 20 movies, each of which cost 30 Facebook credits to rent — that’s the equivalent of $3. The service was also made available in the UK and Turkey this morning, with France and Germany on deck, according to the Miramax Blog.

READ MORE AT WASHINGTON POST

Streaming Video’s Emerging Bounty

AT this point in its evolution streaming video can still feel like your neighborhood VHS rental shop, circa 1985.

Mikhail Romm’s “Nine Days One Year” (1962).

The shelves of the two leading services, Netflix Instant and Hulu Plus, seem to be full of films you’ve never heard of, arranged in no particular order. The latest hits haven’t arrived yet, and there’s no one around to help you out except for the digital equivalent of the surly, underpaid clerk: those “recommended for you” algorithms that pretend to know your taste but come up with the oddest suggestions imaginable. Why does Netflix keep insisting that I need to see “Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew”? Is it trying to tell me something?

But where there is chaos, there is also opportunity. Both Netflix and Hulu are full of hidden gems, but often it’s not easy to dig them out. Somewhere on Netflix, between Ashley Tisdale in “Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure” and Christopher Walken and Jennifer Beals in “The Prophecy II,” there’s a very good copy of Edgar G. Ulmer’s 1948 film noir “Ruthless” in its full 105-minute version, rather than the 88-minute public domain cut that’s been the only edition available for years. To find it, though, you have to know it’s there.

READ MORE AT NY TIMES


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