I remember a similar proposal was made about 5 years ago, and some of the studios were actually interested in the idea at the time, but it apparently never went anywhere (at least, nothing that was made public). It’s now back in consideration, except this time a famous disrupter is spearheading the movement.
Specifically, Napster co-founded and Facebook’s first president, Sean Parker, has launched a new company called The Screening Room, which will make movies available for home viewing at the same time that they are in theaters, for a $50 rental fee, after some one-time set up costs.
Parker and Screeng Room co-founder Prem Akkaraju (who is also CEO) have been shopping the possibility to Hollywood studios, and, apparently, they are listening.
In short, the service would use the company’s secure anti-piracy set-top boxes which the consumer will pay $150 for, which would allow them to then rent any movie currently in theaters for a $50 fee (available for 48 hours), violating the standard 90-day theatrical window for movies before they move to the home video market (including streaming).
According to Variety, who broke the story last week, The Screening Room has found serious interest from Universal, Fox, and Sony thus far.
The company is also hoping to work with theater chains, who would be most hurt by this shift were it to become mainstream, by offering customers two tickets to see the movie they rent at home, in theaters, should they choose to do so. The Screening Room is also proposing giving theater chains a piece of the $50 rental fee – as much as 20%
But the basic idea isn’t exactly a new one. Indie distributors like Magnolia, and we can even add Netflix and Amazon to the growing list, have released new films in theaters and at home (via streaming) simultaneously. Also, you might recall when, in 2011, “Tower Heist” was offered as an on-demand rental option to Comcast customers at a cost of $59.99. Universal, the studio behind the movie, called it a “test,” but it didn’t win customers over, as most ended up seeing it in the theaters.
What’s different this time I suppose is that The Screening Room wants to make the idea more permanent, via the $150 proprietary set-top box, and open up the platform to all studio releases, including the mega blockbusters, and not just *smaller* indie films..
Five years later, it’s still uncertain whether the idea is one that will be embraced by a large enough audience to make it worth the effort. But I suppose it’s worth a try, especially as a lot more of us are streamers today than there were in 2011.
I would also assume that the $150 set-top box being proposed by The Screening Room will be more than just for the service of streaming movie releases. It may be an initial entry into your home that would then evolve to become much more than that – maybe gaming will be added, and The Screening Room may also produce its own original content.
Will you invest in one of these boxes, whenever it becomes a reality, and then pay $50 to see the next Marvel or “Star Wars” movie at home, instead of going to the theater for a significantly lower price?