Christopher Nolan And Steven Spielberg Are Taking Sides In The Debate Over ‘Screening Room’

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When Sean Parker’s new film streaming platform, Screening Room, hit the headlines, response from filmgoers was mixed. Obviously watching new release films in your home is a model of the future, it is inevitable. But how we do that and who makes it happen is up in the air. Parker aims to bring new release films into your home using tech you would receive by paying a fee to the Screening Room service according to Variety:

Individuals briefed on the plan said Screening Room would charge about $150 for access to the set-top box that transmits the movies and charge $50 per view. Consumers have a 48-hour window to view the film.

To get exhibitors on board, the company proposes cutting them in on a significant percentage of the revenue, as much as $20 of the fee. As an added incentive to theater owners, Screening Room is also offering customers who pay the $50 two free tickets to see the movie at a cinema of their choice. That way, exhibitors would get the added benefit of profiting from concession sales to those moviegoers.

Participating distributors would also get a cut of the $50-per-view proceeds, also believed to be 20 percent, before Screening Room took its own fee of 10 percent.

But the idea is not one that seems to be sitting well with everybody. Theater chains, represented by The National Association of Theater Owners, released a statement that dismissed the idea and expressed the importance of the current model:

“The exclusive theatrical release window makes new movies events,” NATO’s statement reads. “Success there establishes brand value and bolsters revenue in downstream markets.”

But not just theater chains are against the idea of Screening Room. Some high-profile directors, including Christopher Nolan and James Cameron, are against the idea. Nolan should be no surprise considering his support of film in recent years, but Cameron partnered with Jon Landau to explain why the movie going experience shouldn’t be skipped:

“It would be hard to express the great importance of exclusive theatrical presentation to our industry more compellingly than Jon Landau and James Cameron did,” he wrote in an email.

In an earlier statement, Landau, speaking for the pair, said, “Both Jim and I remain committed to the sanctity of the in-theater experience. For us, from both a creative and financial standpoint, it is essential for movies to be offered exclusively in theaters for their initial release. We don’t understand why the industry would want to provide audiences an incentive to skip the best form to experience the art that we work so hard to create.”

Supporters of Parker’s early proposal include Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, and Peter Jackson, noting that this venture is different than past forays into home exhibition for new release films.

“I had concerns about ‘DirecTV’ in 2011, because it was a concept that I believe would have led to the cannibalisation of theatrical revenues, to the ultimate detriment of the movie business,” said Jackson. “Screening Room, however, is very carefully designed to capture an audience that does not currently go to the cinema.

“That is a critical point of difference with the DirecTV approach – and along with Screening Room’s robust anti-piracy strategy, is exactly why Screening Room has my support. Screening Room will expand the audience for a movie – not shift it from cinema to living room. It does not play off studio against theatre owner. Instead it respects both and is structured to support the long-term health of both exhibitors and distributors – resulting in greater sustainability for the wider film industry itself.”

As we edge closer to a more in-demand model for movie watching, it’s hard to see the old guard of the film industry holding on. Even Martin Scorsese is a reported shareholder for Screening Room. The theater experience won’t go away, but it certainly won’t be in its current form. $50 per film is pretty steep, though. Access is obviously going to cost more, but people complain about the price of movie tickets as it is.

Would you pay $50 to watch a movie in your home?

(Via Variety / The Guardian)