How much would you pay to see Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller in their latest film from the comfort of your home?  Recently, Universal implemented a plan to offer their latest action comedy flick, Tower Heist, to Comcast subscribers in Portland, Ore., and the ATL (Atlanta).

The movie was offered as a $59.99 premium video on-demand three weeks after the November 4th theatrical premiere.  Considering the average cost for family movie night can reach $100 for a family of four (tickets, snacks, and parking for some cities), theater owners were not happy with the plan.

Many theater chains announced a potential boycott of the movie if Universal did not change their plans.  Ultimately, Universal buckled under the pressure.  Studio insiders revealed to Infotainmentnews, “This movie was a test.  It was a result of two years of planning and strategizing with exhibitors.”  The National Association of Theater Owners admitted in a statement that Universal was “engaged with individual exhibitors.”

The fact that Tower Heist has blockbuster potential motivated theater owners to push for a boycott.  Smaller films are often available on demand before their theater release and no boycotts are threatened.

Studios reps say they are not out to weaken theatrical commerce.  Box Office is still the bread and butter for the Hollywood machine (according to the Motion Picture Association of America, $31.8 billion globally in 2010).

However, it cannot be denied with the advancement of software and hardware devices, viewers are becoming more accustomed to engage with entertainment when and how they want.

Although this experiment did not produce the intended results, this plan may be the model for theatrical releases in the near future.

Do you agree with Universal and think releasing movies in this way is a good idea?