LOS ANGELES — Cinemark USA Inc., the nation's third-largest movie theater chain, is threatening not to play the upcoming Eddie Murphy-Ben Stiller comedy "Tower Heist" in any of its 300 locations if Universal Pictures goes ahead with its plan to offer the film on premium video on demand just three weeks after it premieres in theaters.
The bold move would deprive Cinemark of a substantial share of what's sure to be tens of millions of dollars, and potentially more than $100 million, in box-office receipts. It also calls into question whether the studio will go ahead with the plan and also risk losing millions.
On Wednesday, news broke that Universal would make "Tower Heist," which opens in theaters Nov. 4, available to about 500,000 homes in two markets, Atlanta and Portland, Ore., for $59.99 via video on demand.
People close to Universal said that top executives informed Cinemark and other theater circuits of its VOD strategy this week after more than a year of discussions. It appears that Universal Chairman Adam Fogelson and his team had hoped that exhibitors would feel included in the process and decide that their business was not threatened because of the limited nature of the "Tower Heist" test.
But Cinemark, which operates about 3,800 screens in the U.S., is sticking with its fierce opposition to the premium VOD business.
It and other theater chains believe that making movies available to watch at home sooner than 90 days after premiering encourages consumers to stay at home instead of buying tickets.
A Universal spokeswoman declined to comment. Other major theater chains have yet to disclose their reactions to the "Tower Heist" VOD plan.