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European Movie Exhibitors: Screening Room Presents ‘Significant Risks’

LONDON — The European exhibitors’ trade body, the International Union of Cinemas (UNIC), expressed its opposition to the proposed Screening Room initiative Friday.

“The vast majority of UNIC members will view the Screening Room proposal with great concern. The model as outlined seems to offer little benefit to cinema operators and their distribution partners, while representing significant potential risks,” the organization said in a statement.

The exhibitors pointed to the contribution a theatrical release makes to ancillary revenues, and warned against the removal of the theatrical window’s exclusivity. “UNIC maintains that the exclusive theatrical release of a new film helps create unparalleled levels of audience awareness and ultimately benefits its performance across all platforms, including video on demand,” UNIC said.

The organization suggested that Screening Room could increase the risk of online piracy, which has “a destructive impact on every stage of the film value chain.”

“We are therefore very concerned about a model that might result in a proliferation of high-quality copyright-infringing films online during the theatrical release and beyond. The risk here is not just to cinema operators but to everyone contributing to the wider film ecology,” it said.

UNIC’s intervention follows similar moves by exhibitors’ organizations in the U.K. and the U.S. this week.

Screening Room, the brainchild of entrepreneurs Sean Parker and Prem Akkaraju, offers movies for $50 at the same time as they open in theaters. It plans to charge $150 for access to the anti-piracy equipped set-top box that transmits the films and will give customers 48 hours to watch the movies.

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