Hollywood studios are reportedly showing "greater flexibility" in negotiations with theater chains about the prospect of early movie rentals — something that could affect Apple, which is also allegedly pursuing early streaming via the iTunes Store.
Warner Bros. kicked off talks a while ago by proposing $50 rentals just 17 days after a premiere, while a movie might still be in theaters, according to Variety. In exchange, the theaters would've got a cut of digital revenues.
Other studios such as Fox and Universal suggested that $50 was too much to ask however, and are now pitching exhibitors on cheaper pricetags with a slightly longer delay, several Variety sources claim.
At the moment both Fox and Warner Bros. are allegedly proposing $30 rentals some 30 to 45 days after a film's opening. Universal is sticking to a narrower window though, up to 20 days, while Sony is thought to be toying with the idea of later releases that might also be more expensive. Typically rentals don't become available until 90 days, at prices well below the $10 mark.
Other studios in negotiations are said to include Lionsgate, Paramount, and Sony, talking with exhibitors like AMC, Regal, and Cineplex. Disney is claimed to be uninterested, likely because many of its movies have long theatrical runs.
Exhibitors have been concerned about offering streaming too early, since it could eat into ticket and concession sales. For some studios though early streaming could be a way of compensating for declining DVD sales, while simultaneously maximizing the efficiency of marketing and catering to younger people used to being able to stream on-demand.
Even if early access does become a reality, not all titles may be treated equal. Universal is aiming to have all its movies available early, but Fox and Warner Bros. may be willing to hold some titles back, such as big franchise sequels.
In December a report indicated that Apple is also pushing for shorter rental windows on iTunes. That might make the service more appealing, though it would only be a competitive edge if it could obtain exclusives not available on competitors like Google Play or Vudu.
On Tuesday Apple released iTunes 12.6, which — once iOS 10.3 and tvOS 10.2 become available — will finally let people watch a rented movie on any device rather than one at a time.