In what is being called one of the most dramatic shifts in home entertainment distribution patterns ever, Fox revealed today that they will be offering their movies digitally three weeks prior to the Blu-Ray/DVD street date. This is absolutely huge and it is designed to boost the industry’s struggling after-theater market which has been marred by the success of cheap rental services like Redbox.
The price tag will be cheaper for the digital rights as well as the studio is requesting a mere $15 a film. Initially, the studio plans to unleash 600 library titles onto the market on September 18th–all of which in HD. Prometheus will be the first major release to take advantage of this new set of rules on that date. Taking part in the program will be Amazon, CinemaNow, iTunes, Playstation, Vudu, and Xbox. None of these participants are a surprise.
In terms of fallout, the damage done to theaters is presumed to be minimal. Big screens already have a 90-day advantage so nobody is crying about this one just yet (unlike what we saw last year when Sony attempted 60-day video-on-demand releases.) Theoretically, this should be a huge win for Fox as they are not stepping on anyone’s toes, and they are avoiding that awkward month or so where the HD version of the film is already available by less than legal means online. Most notably, 1080p perfect copies of The Avengers (including extras) hit torrents in mid-August, over a month prior to its physical media release.