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Is Sean Parker’s Screening Room the End of Movie Theaters?

27 March 2016

From The Daily Beast:

A war is raging in Hollywood—and no, I’m not referring to this weekend’s titanic throwdown between the Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel. Rather, it’s a battle being waged over the future of movie distribution, and it’s been instigated by Sean Parker, the entrepreneur who rose to Silicon Valley fame as the cofounder of Napster and, later, as the initial president of Facebook. Along with partner Prem Akkaraju, Parker has forwarded an idea dubbed “the Screening Room” which will allow people to watch new movies at home on the same day they make their big-screen debuts. That proposal has led many of cinema’s biggest names, as well as the theaters themselves, to square off in a debate that, at heart, is about the delivery model that has long guided the industry.

The thing is, triumph or disaster, the Screening Room is merely another sign that the cineplex’s demise (at least as the movies’ foremost venue) is not-so-slowly approaching.

This isn’t to argue that AMC, Regal, and Cinemark—the country’s three biggest chains—should turn off the lights, lock the doors, and board up the windows just yet. Rather, it’s to suggest that regardless of the Screening Room’s ultimate destiny, the fact that such a plan has been floated by a name as big as Parker, and supported by a raft of cinematic luminaries like Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard, reconfirms the notion that in the long term, technology is apt to make the traditional movie-distribution template outdated—or, at least, a far more marginal, niche business.

. . . .

The particulars of Parker’s plan are simple: purchase a $150 proprietary set-top box that connects to your TV, and then use it to rent premiere movies for $50 per title (watchable over a 48-hour period). According to Parker, this idea supposedly won’t steal business away from theaters, since it’ll only appeal to those customers—primarily older adults with kids and jobs—who don’t have the time or patience to head out to the multiplex. Plus, to placate distributors, they’ll get a cut of the set-top box fee, as well as 20 percent of each $50 rental.

Who’s on board for that? Well, apparently lots of filmmakers, including Spielberg, Howard, Peter Jackson, and J.J. Abrams, all of whom are reportedly shareholders in the venture.

. . . .

While watching movies outside a movie theater may not be preferable, the convenience of doing so is a powerful draw—and as younger generations grow up consuming videos of all sorts (not just feature films, but also TV shows and YouTube clips) on their handheld devices, and via Apple TVs and Rokus, that entitled desire for everything-at-your-fingertips expediency will grow.

Link to the rest at The Daily Beast and thanks to Dave for the tip.

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11 Comments to “Is Sean Parker’s Screening Room the End of Movie Theaters?”

  1. Amazingly enough, a search of Amazon for “entitled desire” does not turn up any books.

  2. Let’s see: $150 for the box, $50 per movie. Get 10 people in the neighborhood over to watch a new release for $7 each with free popcorn and I begin recover my costs and recreate the intimate feeling of a real movie theatre. Sweet!

    • Do you have the broken chairs and sticky floor?

    • Projector. Sheets taped to side of house. Millions await. 🙂

    • If it weren’t for the proprietary box I could buy a couple flicks a year even at $50.

      Like this week: BvS is something I’ll watch at least three times. (Yes, it is *that* good. If you know the context. Hint: GLADIATOR by Philip Wylie. It is PD and at Gutenberg.)

      Invite a couple of friends, have a dinner and movie dissection party, skip the lines, popcorn and cellphone searchlights.

      Not a bad idea.
      But the mandatory stb kills it.

      Mark Cuban’s MAGNOLIA FILMS did it right, doing day and time releases on XBOX LIVE. And he didn’t even charge a premium.
      I rented a couple that way. UNDINE being the best of the bunch.

  3. Unless they send someone over to kick the back of my seat, it’s just not the same. I can recreate the endless search for a parking spot and the terrible choice of hot beverages, but when I’m paying a premium, I expect the full experience.

  4. Al the Great and Powerful

    Another expensive solution in search of a problem… I’m gonna have to decline.

    • I liked the bit where some of the $50 per movie was going to the place you didn’t have to go to to watch it. Next they’ll think Amazon should pay B&N some for each book they sell.

      Buy the DVD/BlueRay and own the dang thing or stream Amazon/Netflics when it gets there.

      Oh, it’s not ‘in search of a problem’, the movie makers have a major problem brewing — their bombs. They need you to ‘buy now’ the moment it comes out — before you hear from your friends or online that the movie stinks. This is a way to catch some of those that don’t intend to bother going to a theater, but they need to make it a ‘better’ experience, not an even more overpriced one …

  5. By the time my husband and I purchase tickets online (paying an extra fee to do so, but making sure we’re reserving our seats) and buy a popcorn and a drink, we’re very close to having spent $50. (If our entire family is going to the movies, it’s closer to $100.) So I don’t see this as being that much more.

    And I would do this in a heartbeat. I am sick to death of going to movies and having my the back of my chair kicked the entire time (my solution to that now is to sit in the very back row, which my husband dislikes). There are always people with their cell phones out throughout the entire movie, people who talk throughout the entire movie, the people who insist on bringing their small children to a 10:00 show (and then said children whine throughout the entire thing), those who bring their crying infants, the people who take over the arm rest, etc., etc.

    I love movies. Love ’em. I’m a go opening weekend kind of girl. The idea that I can be comfortable in my own home, with my own reasonably priced snacks and sitting on my very comfortable furniture is really appealing to me. I would get this device and pay for those movies.

    In another article I read, the reason for this push is actually not for people like me (people who go to the movies even if they’re annoyed by everyone around them); it’s for the people who don’t go at all because they hate the inconvenience. This is a way for the theaters to make money from those people.

  6. Not sure I’d go for this, but I have “aged” out of the theater experience. Last movie I went to I dropped $25 just for the ticket, popcorn and drink. We were packed in with assigned seats, had to watch ads before the movie and then there was the endless string of trailers for movies so mind numbing that I actually forgot what movie I’d come to see. After all of that, the movie was a disappointment. Walking out of the theater with my friends we all decided from now on we’ll just spend the money on dinner and enjoy ourselves. If we want to see a movie, we have big HD TVs at home and we can rent/stream something.

    So there is a market segment they are losing.

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