Midday Report: Comcast Wants to Show First-Run Films On Demand

First-run movies at home
You may be able to watch newly released movies from the comfort of your home while they're still in the theaters.

Traditionally, there's a three-month waiting period between when movies leave the theater and when they appear on-demand. But Comcast (CMCSA) wants to experiment with a new model that would allow movie buffs to catch first-run films from the living room couch, rather than the local cinema.

Comcast could benefit on both ends. It owns the Universal movie studio, as well as one of the nation's largest cable systems.

Company executives floated the idea this week at the annual CinemaCon convention in Las Vegas. And The Wall Street Journal reports that some movie theater operators were open to discussing the idea.

Movie attendance is down 12 percent compared to a year ago, and DVD sales have declined, so everyone in the industry is scrambling for new ways to generate revenue. The heads of AMC and Carmike -- two of the nation's largest theater chains – said they are open to discussions about video-on-demand experiments, if they get a more generous split on box-office revenue. That's something the studios have been unwilling to do in the past.

The Journal says participants at the CinemaCon meetings talked about a summit meeting between Hollywood studios and theater operators.

For movie fans, the prospects are alluring, but there's always a catch. The cost of watching a first-run movie from home is likely to be high, and not all movies will be available. It's unlikely that blockbuster films will be put on-demand while they are still in the theaters.

That's not the only controversy at CinemaCon this year.

Walt Disney (DIS) has already secured better terms from some theater chains, but AMC is pushing back. It has halted advance ticket sales for Disney's upcoming film, "Iron Man 3," which is set to debut on May 3rd. The movie is expected to have one of the biggest opening weekends of the year.

In general, studios take as much as 75 percent of the revenue from a movie's opening weekend. But there's a complex formula that gives theater operators a bigger take the longer a movie shows.

–Produced by Drew Trachtenberg

Old-School Money Tricks That Still Work
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Midday Report: Comcast Wants to Show First-Run Films On Demand

With the various incentives to use credit and debit cards, cash can often seem like an afterthought. After all, obtaining, tracking, and toting it can seem more hassle than it's worth. But if credit-card swiping is turning into mindless spending with month-end statement shock, it might be time to switch from plastic back to paper.

A once-weekly withdrawal from a no-fee ATM can help keep spending on everything from incidentals to luxury items in check. Want to take it up a notch? Try budgeting and paying cash for purchases larger than the daily latte: groceries, gas, mass transit tickets, or an evening out.

Bank of America offers its customers the chance to Keep the Change. The premise is simple. For every purchase a customer makes with his or her debit card, Bank of America will round up to the nearest dollar, and deposit the difference into your savings account. The bank will even match the difference for the first three months, up to $250. The catch? B of A charges a $12 monthly maintenance fee for customers who don't use direct deposit or maintain a $1,500 minimum balance.

The old-school alternative? A mason jar and a daily ritual of emptying pockets and purses of any loose change left over after paying for items with cash.

There's something inherently charming about the old Holiday Club and Vacation Club accounts. They call to mind days when every $5 received in a birthday card was squirreled away; when banks still gave out toasters, and lined their counters with jars of lollipops.

It might sound quaint, but the discipline works. Socking away a few dollars a week over the course of several months to help fund a vacation or holiday shopping adds up. The cash out at the end of the term is like winning the lottery -- one lump sum comprised of tiny, barely noticeable amounts throughout the year.

Previous generations knew their banker by name, knew his or her children's names; they swapped stories, were part of the same community. While it's temping and convenient to complete most banking transactions online or rush in and out of a branch when needed, what's lost is a personal connection that email alerts and social-media posts simply can't replace.

There are tangible benefits to getting to know local branch staff. Having a face-to-face connection with bank staff can be helpful in resolving charge disputes, being kept abreast of rate changes, and getting information on specially tailored products.

Before the days of the large international bank, most people had their financial needs met at the corner savings and loan. If big banking has lost its appeal, seek out smaller, local banks, many of which aren't publicly traded, or credit unions, which are not-for-profit. The difference between these two types of banks and large, publicly traded ones is that banks that don't have to appease shareholders can focus on its customers first.

According to the Independent Community Bankers of America, local banks focus on "personal service, local credit decisions and ownership, and reinvestment in the community." And according to the Credit Union National Association, credit unions exist to provide financial literacy for their members, serve the needs of their members regardless of means, and offer lower rates than traditional large banking models.

While no one would recommend stashing savings under a mattress or issuing I.O.U.s for groceries, adopting some old-fashioned tactics for financial management might be just the ticket to thriving in the modern world.
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