What is Sean Parker’s Screening Room?
Sean Parker, Napster co-founder and former Facebook president, has pitched Screening Room – a new way to disrupt the movie industry. He envisions selling digital streaming of premier movies on opening day. His service would allow people the opportunity to pay $50 to view a new release movie at home instead of going to the movie theater. This idea could create a serious disruption in the movie business as blockbuster films like The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Jurassic World, DeadPool, and Batman vs. Superman brought in billions at the box office. Would the idea of paying $50 to see a brand new release stop people from going to the movie theaters? Many critics think so.
Who is against Sean Parker’s Screening Room?
John Fithian, chief executive of the National Assn. of Theatre Owners, is calling the yet-to-be-launched service a “big distraction.” he says “Exclusive theatrical windows make new movies into events,” he said. “Success there establishes brand value and bolsters revenue in downstream markets.”
James Cameron who presented at Fox’s CinemaCon announced four more sequels to his massive hit movie Avatar. During his presentation, he took a moment to fire a broadside at the Screening Room idea. The Los Angeles Times reported, “As long as I’ve been a filmmaker, there’s always been some kind of threat to moviegoing experience — VHS, DVD, streaming — the list goes on. But we’ve always answered that threat in the same way: By being great at showmanship and creating something in a movie theater that you can’t get anywhere else,” Cameron said. “Regardless of what the folks associated with Screening Room say, I think it’s absolutely essential for films to be offered in theaters on their initial release. So: Boom!”
While screening room has numerous critics, there are a few well known film makers that support the idea. Star Wars and Star Trek filmmaker J.J. Abrams supports the Screening Room idea. He told the Hollywood Reporter the following in defense of the innovative movie service:
“I love nothing more than going to the movies. That’s the way it has to be. I also know I’m the father of three kids and I haven’t been at a theater on opening night [with them] in probably 12 years,” Abrams told The Hollywood Reporter before taking part in Paramount’s presentation. (Two of his children are teenagers; the third is younger.)
“That’s not to say that this is why it [the Screening Room] speaks to me. But I see what’s happening, whether people like it or not, and the way things are evolving with piracy and digital technology. And in this moment, I think it’s important to be open to all avenues that allow everyone, including and especially exhibitors, to be at the table and a part of that discussion. That’s, to me, the thing that makes Screening Room exciting,”
How Screening Room could change the Movie Industry
Movie tickets prices have increased over the years. It is not uncommon to pay $13.69 at an AMC theater or $17.69 for a 3D movie. If a family of four attends the theater, they may pay over $50 for movie tickets and an additional $25-$30 for popcorn and drinks. This does not take into account the price of gas to drive to the cinema. Streaming a movie via a set top box for less may be appealing for people who have invested in a nice home theater that includes a HD projector and surround sound system. Families could pop their own popcorn and enjoy home cooked snacks while watching the new Marvel Universe movie. Some proponents of the idea are talking about how this service will help fight video piracy.
The problem with Parker’s Screening Room is the technology. He wants people to purchase a dedicated set top box for $150 and then charge for each movie they stream for a 24hr period. Amazon and Netflix already have streaming technology in place and could offer a similar service for less without having to purchase yet another streaming device. Parker’s idea is good, it might be better if he partnered with an existing streaming giant.
Would you pay $50 to watch a new release movie at home? Share your thoughts in the comments below.