Pros & Cons of $50 Home Movie Service
Last week, a news story broke that Sean Parker, the inventor of Napster, was pitching a concept to Hollywood studios called "The Screening Room." The Screening Room is a $150 device which would allow you to watch brand new movies at home, in theater quality. For $50 per movie.
What you would be doing is renting the film for a 48 hour window, similar to renting it digitally via Amazon, iTunes or Google Play. The hefty price-tag for the device is due to the proprietary nature of it, which would include anti-piracy software, and I would assume a closed system, similar to Apple products. So there's the device, yet another thing to occupy space on your TV stand.
Which brings us to the ticket price: $50 per film. This is not a subscription based service. It is $50 per film. Which to me seems ridiculous. But as an avid film goer, who generally goes by himself, I'm not spending more than $15 on average, ticket plus concessions. I can see how that could be normal for a family, or parents on date night when you also add in a babysitter. So it seems like a win for them.
But that's still quite expensive for people who don't go to the movies a lot. That's literal insanity for people who do go to the movies a lot, like me. I don't see that family of four dropping any additional money per year to see more movies if it balances out. I've seen some families drop the kids off at the animated flick, while the parents catch the Coen Brothers film the next screen over that starts at about the same time. Can't do that, or you're forking over $100. On a slow year, I saw 40 films in theatres. That was a slow year, and that would be $2150 on this business model, instead of $200-$400.
It's even dividing Hollywood filmmakers. Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, Martin Scorsese and a few others have either bought shares or vocally supported the concept. While James Cameron and Christopher Nolan have voiced their opposition. Though he has yet to comment on the Screening Room (yet), Quentin Tarantino isn't even on-board with Netflix yet, so I can imagine he won't have many kind words for this new service.
It almost goes without saying that the National Association of Theater Owners is not happy with the service, as it would drastically eat into their profits.
I'm an advocate for the theatre going experience. Say what you will about the $10 ticket prices, $5 soda and $8 popcorn... but I love going to the theatre to watch a movie. The lights go down. The screen comes up. You're engulfed in the film for 90+ minutes. No distractions. No internet. No phone (seriously, turn off your phone). There's the communal glee of 200 strangers collectively gasping in joy when Han Solo stepped onto the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The awe-struck "WHOA!" when you hear a theatre full of kids see the beautiful animation in How to Train Your Dragon. The audible "holy s***s" at the end of Gone Girl. You can't get that at home.
All that said, it's not a terrible idea, it's just a terrible idea right now. It needs more ironing out. I would be more than happy to do a $50/month subscription if it was all the movies that only go into limited release. The ones that don't make it to a small Midwest town, like the Quincy/Hannibal area, because they've gotta make money, and they'll do that with Batman, Captain America, and Disney. More than they would with the independent and foreign releases that I and about a handful of other people want to see. I'm sure there's a way they'd be able to black films out in markets where the film is showing in theatres. MLB-TV does (well... did) blackouts, they can model it off of that. It doesn't eat into theatrical run profits, and they make money off the subscription. There are plenty of cine-philes who don't live in New York City, Chicago or Los Angeles.
>I think it's a viable option, eventually.