Warner Bros.' upcoming science fiction film "Pacific Rim&"… (Kerry Hayes / Warner Bros. )
Get ready for a "SuperTicket" to the movies.
After years of bickering over how soon after theatrical release a movie can be piped into the home, major studios and theater owners are experimenting with a new way to promote home entertainment sales — by selling ticket packages that enable patrons to order early digital downloads of movies that they see in the theater.
In the first multi-studio deal of its kind, Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures Canada, Sony Pictures and Universal Pictures are partnering with Canadian theater chain Cineplex to offer a SuperTicket package that combines an admission ticket with a pre-order of a digital copy of the film.
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Under the deal, the digital version of the movie will be available before the DVD and Blu-ray release and will include added features, such as bonus scenes, special footage from the movie, cast interviews and discounts on related films. Customers will access the movie via Ultraviolet, through which consumers can watch the film on any device they wish.
"We feel at the end of the day this really changes the whole business from the perspective of movie evolution and how people watch movies," said Ellis Jacob, president and chief executive of Toronto-based Cineplex, which has 136 theaters with 1,454 screens."This will be the future of owning movies after seeing movies."
If successful, the experiment could portend a new business model for movie distribution in Hollywood and encourage U.S. theater chains to follow suit.
For theaters, the model provides a new source of revenue at a time when theatrical attendance has flattened in North America. Studios would benefit by tapping into the exhibitors' large customer base to spur home entertainment sales at a time when DVD sales have declined.
"This is a very big step forward in bringing exhibition into an ancillary business where they've never been before," said Dan Fellman, Warner Bros.' president of domestic distribution. "This is an innovative and interesting way to expand the DVD business. You're reaching a consumer that you know is a moviegoer. It's like one-stop shopping for the same consumer."
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Although SuperTicket is only available to Canadian moviegoers, other theaters in North America are launching similar experiments.
Last week Paramount Pictures and Regal Cinemas said they would offer a $50 "Mega Ticket" that included a ticket to see an advance screening of the Brad Pitt movie "World War Z" on Wednesday, two days before its worldwide release. The package included one HD digital copy of the movie when it becomes available, a pair of custom RealD 3-D glasses, a limited-edition full-size movie poster — and a small popcorn.
"The interest and anticipation for Brad Pitt's latest thriller is at a fever pitch and this 'World War Z Mega Ticket' offers a unique experience for our patrons," Ken Thewes, chief marketing officer for Regal Entertainment Group, said last week.
Unlike the Cineplex deal, however, Regal's package was limited to five theaters in Houston, Philadelphia, San Diego, Atlanta and at the Edwards Irvine Spectrum 21. It was not tied to a single movie or studio.
Cineplex will roll out its SuperTicket package this summer for several upcoming movies. Among the titles that are expected to be included is Warner Bros.' upcoming science-fiction film "Pacific Rim."
When customers purchase a ticket they will receive two vouchers — one for their theater admission and another containing a unique access code, which they can redeem for the digital version.
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When the movie is available in the home, they log into a website where a copy of the movie has already been stored in their Ultraviolet locker and can be accessed on their computer, mobile device or Internet-connected TV.
How much will SuperTicket cost? Cineplex said prices will vary depending on the movie and features included in the package. Sources not authorized to speak on the record said the download packages would cost $20 more than the movie ticket price.
"This is really a convenience for the guests," Jacob said. "It's saying, 'When you watch a movie in the theater, now you have the ability to store it in your [digital] locker and watch it on multiple devices.'"
The budding alliances between studios and theater owners are surprising given the level of tension that existed only two years ago, when the sides clashed publicly over when movies should be available in the home.
Theater owners were incensed over plans by some studios to offer the early release of movies into the home, which they said would hurt their business by encouraging consumers to wait for the movie to come out on home video instead of seeing it in theaters.
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