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Abu Dhabi Media Summit: Collapsing windows still not working, studios say

The vexed issue of theatrical windows was again raised in today’s Abu Dhabi Media Summit roundtable, Tablets Rising.

What’s clear is that, for now, the Hollywood studios are not for turning. There is little sign of compromise or concession when it comes to the theatrical holdback for major studio movies.

“We want people to experience our content anywhere, anytime,” Jim Wuthrich, President, International, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, stated but also conceded that the releasing model for big films is going to stay the same for some time yet.

“Essentially, this content is very expensive,” Wuthrich said. “The best model that we found to monetize is that it (the movie) moves from these different screens. It starts in theatres, goes into home entertainment, goes into pay and ultimately into free.”

This model may seem anachronistic in an internet age but (as Wuthrich revealed) experiments in “collapsing windows” simply haven’t yet worked.

There is generally a four-month gap between theatrical release and when a film becomes available in the home. This means that there will be up to three months when that film is no longer in theatres but isn’t available on any other platform - and is essentially just sitting on the shelf. Studios tested shortening the gap but the experiment wasn’t successful – so the traditional window has stayed in place.

“Ultimately, the window system will have to change because now everybody is aware of content all around the world at the same time because of the internet but the business model is going to take a little while to work out,” he added.

Wuthrich has been working on the digital expansion of Warner Bros Home Entertainment for nearly six years and describes “the holy grail” as “the connection to the television set.”

“Yes, people like the ability to download to their tablets, to their mobile devices, to their PCs and such but until you connect to that big screen, you’re not there yet.”

On another level altogether, weather guru David Kenny, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Weather Channel Companies, (TWCC), was able to point to the role that social networking plays in coping with weather disasters.

“In tornados, Twitter saves lives,” Kenny told the audience. Through its apps and info, The Weather Channel Companies is credited with reducing the number of deaths from freak weather conditions.

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