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Apple and Hollywood studios could be heading for a big game of chicken against theater chains

For years, Hollywood studios have wanted to offer earlier access to new movies at home, only to get shot down by theater chains. Now, at least a couple of studios are reportedly looking to play hardball. Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures are among several studios talking with Apple and Comcast about selling early movie rentals for $30 to $50 a pop, Bloomberg reports. And this time, they may go ahead with the plan even if theater chains don’t approve. (Comcast owns Universal parent NBCUniversal, but operates somewhat independently.)

Effectively, this would result in a game of chicken. Theaters could respond by boycotting early release movies, as they have with Netflix’s original films, but doing so would risk a lot of money if the studios, Apple, and Comcast formed a united front. That’s still a big “if,” though. Bloomberg reports that some studios don’t want to fight with theaters, and Disney apparently isn’t interested in the plan at all. Given how many times we’ve heard about potential early rental schemes in the past, there’s a chance this latest one could fizzle.JN