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Box Office Tizzy

It didn't take long for a couple of major theater chains to sound off on Steve Burke's comments at last week's The Cable Show that cable customers could be willing to spend as much as $50 to watch movies at home in the theater release window. (See Show Stuff .)

Suffice it to say that theaters do not share the enthusiasm expressed by Burke, the COO of Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and president of Comcast Cable.

In fact, they'd flat out refuse to run any titles offered in such a window, officials for Regal Entertainment Group and National Amusements told The Los Angeles Times.

So, instead of taking their toys and going home, they'll just refuse to take out their toys in the first place, arguing that a home-theater release would harm the "moviegoing experience" -- assuming that means experiencing the big screen and big sound of the theater… and not paying top dollar for stale popcorn covered in a yellow, greasy substance passed off as buttery topping.

"It might be good for Comcast, but I don't believe it's good for anybody else," National Amusements President Shari Redstone told the paper.

Comcast, of course, has already had a taste of those theater windows, so it follows that it might want to bite off on a bit more and see how it goes down.

Comcast, along with Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), already use VOD to offer some Independent Film Channel (IFC) titles in the theater window. They won't keep people away from seeing Spider-Man 3, but some titles being offered today by IFC simultaneously in theaters and via VOD include Exterminating Angels and Snowcake.

IFC, of course, has significant cable ties, so one can imagine those negotiations are a bit easier to lock down. In addition to offering linear and VOD fare on cable systems, IFC is also part of Cablevision's Rainbow Media Holdings division.

And it could be a while still before a true blockbuster busts through that window. In January 2006, Steven Soderbergh's small budget indie flick Bubble was released in theaters and on HDNet simultaneously, and sold in DVD form a few days later. But the novelty of the release window, rather than the film itself, was the big buzz factor.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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