Apple talking with Hollywood about early movie access on iTunes

Apple is “pressing” Hollywood studios for earlier access to movies, reports Bloomberg, quoting unnamed “people with knowledge of the matter.” If such a deal reaches fruition, first run movies might be available for rental on iTunes for $30.

21st Century Fox Inc., Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. and Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures all confirmed over the past week that they are looking to offer high-priced, home-video rentals of new movies shortly after they open in theaters. Some studio execs have been pushing to allow home rentals as early as two weeks after theatrical debuts and are considering a deal with iTunes as one option, according to Bloomberg. Of course, there’s always the possibility they instead choose another platform.

Hollywood studios typically give theaters exclusive rights to new movies for 90 days or more before issuing them on DVD or making them available for online purchase. With cinema attendance mostly stagnant and home-video revenue flat in recent years, film companies are looking for new areas of growth.

They also feel that their advertising can be more effective and cost efficient if a film’s home entertainment release is closer to its theatrical debut. By grouping those two things closer together, studios wouldn’t have have to launch a massive promotional campaign to reintroduce consumers to a movie months after it was in theaters, according to Variety.

One catch: because of anti-trust laws, the studios can’t work together to sign deals. They have to reach agreements with each participating chain on an individual basis. 

Another catch: theaters are worried that if movies make their way home too early and too cheaply that people will abandon hitting the theater in general. Some, such as Fox, want a 30-45 day gap between theatrical release and rental on platforms such as iTunes.