Chances are you haven't been paying much attention to Tower Heist, the upcoming comedy film starring Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller. But this movie could be the turning point in the transformation of movies. As we wrote back in February, Hollywood is moving towards getting more of its revenue from video on demand (VOD) instead of theaters — which could eventually erase more of the distinction between first-run movies and premium cable TV.
So Tower Heist could be a bellwether. Universal Studios — perhaps sensing that nobody really wanted to leave their homes to watch Eddie Murphy act in a Brett Ratner movie — decided it wanted to try releasing Tower Heist through Comcast's premium VOD service in two cities, just three weeks after it opened in theaters. (We wrote back in February that studios were considering releasing movies on VOD 60 days after theatrical release, which was considered an outrageous idea.)
Several theater chains are saying they'll boycott Tower Heist if the studio goes through with this plan. So it remains to be seen if this actually flies — but if it does, it could set a huge new precedent. It's entirely possible that a decade from now, VOD will be one of the main ways that you see new movies, and cinemas could start to fade away as a result. It'll be all Eddie Murphy's fault.