Christopher Nolan Comes Out Against Screening Room (EXCLUSIVE)

Interstellar BTS Christopher Nolan
Courtesy of Paramount

“Inception” and “The Dark Knight” director Christopher Nolan has come out against Screening Room, the controversial start-up trying to release movies in the home on the same day they hit theaters.

A divide appears to be forming within the filmmaking community, as Nolan aligns himself with James Cameron and his producing partner Jon Landau in opposition to the proposal.

On the other side, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, J.J. Abrams and Peter Jackson support the technology and have become stakeholders in the company. They maintain that Screening Room could grow overall revenues for the business by targeting movie watchers who do not regularly see films in a theater.

AMC is believed to be close to a deal with Screening Room, and several studios are actively studying the proposal.


Peter Jackson Says Screening Room Grows the Movie Business (EXCLUSIVE)

In stating his opposition, Nolan cited Landau and Cameron’s own explanation.

“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.”

Variety first reported last week that Sean Parker, of Facebook and Napster fame, and his partner Prem Akkaraju, formerly of the electronic music company SFX Entertainment, had developed a plan to offer new releases for $50 per 48-hour view. Customers would also pay $150 for access to the technology, which is said to be piracy-proof.

The National Association of Theatre Owners, an exhibition industry lobbying group, released a statement Wednesday suggesting that any efforts to shrink the theatrical release window should be done in coordination between studios and theaters, and without a third party. That was a clear reference to Screening Room.

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 46

Leave a Reply


Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. In all fairness, however, movie theaters need to step up their game.

    They are loud, smelly, often dirty, people use their phones and eat… I’ve had many movies ruined by these circumstances while in a theater. The latest being The Witch.

    While I agree with Nolan in keeping the integrity of movies for movie theaters, I believe there is much modernization to be done in that industry.

    I would have gladly paid to see The Witch in my own 60 in HDTV wil surround sound…

    Just sayin’


  2. Je Vizzusi says:

    Finally,a Director with common sense! Think about who is supporting this. A-List Directors and Producers whom have huge theaters in their homes in place of TV’s. So for 50bucks, a first run film delivered digitally to your giant screen is just like the Cinema. Plus you make more bucks because folks that hate the Cinemaplex will now have a better option. I say horsefeathers! You are killing the Cinematic Experience. You are killing Exhibitors livelihoods and worse than anything, screening a major epic or a small art house indie without a audience is criminal. This is about greed and potential more revenue for Producers and Distribution. And 50bucks is a week’s of groceries for most normal people. @JEV1A

  3. Tell It says:

    Nolan and others should be concenred about making the theatrical experience more pleasant by lowering ticket prices, eliminating those terribly annoying TV commercials, and reducing the number of ear-piercingly loud trailers.

  4. John says:

    No movie is piracy proof against a video camera recording the TV monitor

  5. I am up for this service. Sometimes you dont want to go to the theater, but you want to watch the movie. I love going to the theater, but the experience is not as good as used to be. Mainly in super heroe movie, people love to talk about the story arc of comicbook, that inspired the movie.
    So, always in favor of options. And that service would be a big hit in the pirating scenario of cam capture/whatever they call it.

  6. Bill B. says:

    Good for him. Must be a smarter man than Spielberg. AMC should be ashamed for participating in helping damage the theatrical film industry.

  7. FJK1138 says:

    $50 is steep – I could see 2x the current $5.99 HD rental fee on Comcast being reasonable. Most movies are digitally edited these days, so converting that to an HD master should take little extra time (they’re doing it for the Blu Ray releases anyway) and they should be able to be broadcast over existing cable boxes like a standard PPV movie.

    Paying extra for the service upfront and all the markup per movie is just yet another way to get money out of viewers, like how we all went from VHS to DVD to Blu Ray and now they are pushing 4K Blu Rays. Enough already.

    • Matt says:

      FJK, people will be having movie night parties. Just like a regular PPV event. You invite some friends and you all split the cost. You would end up watching the movie for like $5 per person.

  8. Evangeline says:

    In theatre experience?

    My last in theatre experience was paying $16 for a reserved seat and finding myself seated next to a woman who used her iPad throughout the movie.

    • Je Vizzusi says:

      I had a similar experience and I filed a on line compliant with the Theater Corporation that ran the Cinema. A week later a envelope with a dozen free tickets to any event arrived and then a letter from the Theater Manager with more free tickets. As patrons even in these huge Cineplexes, we do have options. @JEV1A

    • Alex says:

      So why didn’t you ask the woman to please put her iPad away as the screen light was distracting to you? Did you even try that? I’ve only had few annoying experiences at a theater, and almost every time the problem was solved by me asking the person to stop what they were doing.

      • Evangeline says:

        Btw, it wasn’t just the screen light, she was interacting w the screen as well, so there was an almost continual clicking noise.

        Odd, that somehow you think it’s my duty to take care of the problem rather than the duty of the woman to be considerate and/or the duty of the theatre to ensure a positive experience.

      • Evangeline says:

        Yes, I did twice, and both times she nodded and smiled.

        I could have gone out to get a staff member would have meant missing at least five minutes of the movie. It’s not my job to police a theatre. Staff should walk the auditorium several times during each show for a variety of reasons. A person who has been asked once to stop talking and/or using a mobile device should be asked to leave. If you want to talk, use a phone or an iPad during a movie, watch the movie at home. Pretty sure the filmmakers who talk about the in theatre experience would agree with me.

  9. TheBigBangof20thCenturyPopCulture says:

    Digital cloud distribution for new releases is an inevitable economic certainty of streamlined technology because the baby boom strong, mature homebody entertainment consumer demographic has too much disposable income to be ignored by the ageist dream factory any longer. But having said that, older families are smaller and more picky with kids having left the nest. So Hollywood dreck business as usual won’t merit the high price tag. If they keep casting kids in high concept content meant for adults, then the home movie plan is still up in the air. Beware the bean count truther posts. I expect one any time now…

    • Je Vizzusi says:

      You sound perfect! SImilar comments from a Harvard econ major probably running a film distribution wing. No heart, no soul and no knowledge of the Cinematic experience. You need to be tied to a chair at The Seattle Cinerama Theater and forced to screen a 70mm print of 2001, A Space Oddesey. You will never want to watch a movie at home again! Agist, I dare you.. @JEV1A

  10. Nero says:

    The only ones who will truly benefit from this service(financially only) are families with multiple children. $50 is a good deal for say, 2 adults and 3 kids including treats and drinks. I have 2 kids. I can tell you my kids would have no issue with watching at home. It’s just not a make or break deal to go to a theater or stay home. For every other demographic, it’s senseless. Why would a single adult want to pay $50 to see a film, when they could simply pay $12-15?(depending on where you live)

    • Cath says:

      Exactly. Right now, pending a change in ticket prices, I can see a matinee movie in our theaters for $3.50 and a 3D movie for $6. Crazy, I know. I saw “Force Awakens” 5 times for a total of $30! Why would I want to pay $50 to watch it on my 32 inch non-3D TV at home? Sometimes I just like to get out of the house. I wouldn’t even want to see a movie on opening day on a HUGE TV at home for $50. Some movies are much more fun to watch with an audience.

      • Je Vizzusi says:

        Me too.. I screened a film in Kansas City at a retro age old downtown theater, I had clams and pasta, white wine and seats that folded back like in a airplane in a wraparound screen, surround sound format for a grand total of 30bucks. So tell me I will get that same experience at home with my 42incher? @JEV1A

  11. IT--2--IT says:

    RED CHINA handover TREASON rounding off.

    OPEN globalist mafia USURPATION now UNDENIABLE.

    AMERICA and the WEST are being PULLED.

    ORGANIZED GENOCIDE is unfolding.

    And NOLAN? – – –‘stepped over’? – – —the 65th Anniversary of the KOREAN WAR?
    ———- – – –to bring us Batman movies? – —-and yet another WWII rehash?

    Guess Hollywood really is 100% globalist mafia INTEL RUN.

    – — – ——BULLLLLEH—– – —-

    • Matt says:

      You have to think of it like a PPV event. I go to PPV fight nights and each guy chips in for the event, which is usually $60. So, in my summation, you would have a watch party and everyone would throw into the pot. You could easily end up paying $5 to watch a new movie.

  12. jack says:

    Sounds like a new spin on DIVX

  13. Bottom line. Nolan and Cameron are on the wrong side of history. you cant stop technology, and whether they like it or not. this will eventually happen… The best they can hope to do it is delay the inevitable, but whether its 5yrs or 15yrs this is eventually the way its going to go

    • Tom says:

      Wrong side of history? This is not gay rights. We all need to fight for the preservation of the movie experience — can you imagine watching Star Wars at home instead of having the communal and great sound and picture that a theater provides?

  14. Jay says:

    Family of 5 here…. $50 is a lot less than what we spend on an average trip to the local AMC theater. No more $9 cups of colas and $15 popcorn.

    • Je Vizzusi says:

      Dude, you need to find a cheaper AMC. My AMC, 4.50 for any soft drink, 5.50 for large popcorn.
      Sierra Pale Ale 6.00
      Plus I smuggle in my trail mix to munch on. Take the kids to your local art house for something different! @JEV1A

  15. BillUSA says:

    Well, those for the idea are half-correct. I don’t go to movies any longer because they are already too expensive. And while no professor of mathematics myself, I don’t think $50 a pop is going to cause me to re-think my long-ago decision.

  16. stevenmillan says:

    $50 bucks for watching a theatrically released film on VOD is sheer ridiculous,for I’ll kindly take the good old fashioned experience of seeing films in a theater anyday.

  17. Mattheww says:

    At 4K resolution there is no such thing as “piracy proof.” Point a good video camera at a good TV, get the sound from the headphone out, and you’ve got an excellent copy. Not that anyone should seriously believe even this workaround wil be necessary within days of the format going live. Hackers are sharp

    • Mattheww says:

      While I’ve got me: who is this even for? The young NEED places to go, and adults can’t even get through all the titles on home video they mean to see. I can see this working for family films but that’s about it and it’s too thin a slice of the market

  18. “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.

  19. Joe says:

    Nolan likes being on the wrong side of progress. Digital is here and day-and-date is the future of distribution whether he and the theaters like it or not.

  20. JK says:

    I dunno what to think. I like going to the Hearher but I also think some films I want to see at home. Why wait months? The price is prohibitive right now. They’re dreaming. But I live in NYC be theaters are too expensive as well. Like wtf. If I think there has to be a meeting of minds. It’s going to happen. Theaters need to embrace themselves. Folks want better access and more control over how we view expensive films.

  21. harry georgatos says:

    These industry insiders have their own personal cinemas in their mansions and watch movies in peace. I’ve been stuck in too many cinemas at high ticket pricing with absolute louts! I’m all for screening room as theaters offer little security.

  22. Paul Brno says:

    I’d sign up for this service if I were rich or crazy or both.

  23. Grace says:

    So if I am understanding this you can watch movies at home the same day they come out in a theater? If this is it all those directors pretty much agree with putting theaters out of business correct? Is it kind of like pay per view or something?

  24. Eric Baker says:

    Sean Parker… is the last person I’d trust as a filmmaker.

  25. CeceD says:

    Piracy proof? That would be laughable if it weren’t so frightening that they actually BELIEVE that.
    I very much appreciate Christpoher Nolan, James Cameron and Jon Landau speaking against this develoment. The very fact that Parker, of Napster fame, is involved should give everyone pause. It appears that he’s hell bent on destroying the cinematic industry like he has the music industry. As a member of the music community I know full well the damage done.
    This whole concept is horrific. “Fair warning,” people.

    • The Truth says:

      Sean Parker and Napster did not destroy the music industry. The business failed to recognize and embrace the realities of digital technology, clinging to its outdated model until it was too late to successfully manage inevitable change. Record companies devalued recorded music prior to the digital era by giving it away to radio as a promotional tool to drive physical sales, rather than directly monetizing it as revenue-generating programming. Record companies still spend millions on music videos, monetized pitifully in micro-cents per viewing, in hopes that fans will be enticed to pay up for downloads or streaming services. But anyone with basic computer skills can rip any piece of music from YouTube they want. You can’t blame Parker for that. He dragged the music industry screaming and kicking into the digital age, and forced it to mutate into a new business model based on live performances, merchandising, and licensing. The disruption of outmoded business models by innovation is a fact of life that reaches far beyond music. Just ask any bricks and mortar store owner, taxi driver, or hotelier.

      Piracy is the only legitimate problem with Screening Room. All this blather about the “sanctity” of movie theaters as the ultimate place to experience a motion picture is ridiculous. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this issue, most Academy and Guild members prefer to watch award screeners in their homes, instead of schlepping to state-of-the-art screening rooms on studio lots and around town. Even the people who make films don’t validate the theatrical experience because it’s inconvenient. Likewise for legions of movie fans, going to the theater is a drag they’d gladly avoid if there were any other way to experience a first-run motion picture. But if the technology doesn’t exist to prevent any analog or digital theft, Screening Room doesn’t make sense. Regardless, the future of motion picture consumption is not in theaters.

  26. John says:

    Have fun as your movie gets Periscoped at its midnight home premiere.

  27. J-dog says:

    I think it is important to explain whether the “stakeholders” (supporting film-makers/exhibitors) are actually investing their own money in Screening Room or if they are stakeholders because they are getting some form of compensation from Screening Room if it succeeds. Is it good for the industry, or just good for the stakeholders?

  28. mypoorhoney says:

    Piracy proof! What idiots! Did they forget how old telecine works? Project the feature and capture it with a 4K camera. There you go… piracy un-proofed! Also, who the hell would want to rent a film for $50? The rich elite is who… and that’s why these elite filmmakers think it’s a good idea. So now we will have pirated films on day one, and .1% of the population will actually cough up $50 to watch in their home theater. BAD IDEA!

    • Matt says:

      People do it all the time for pay-per-view events. Just invite a bunch of friends over and everyone pay’s $5 a piece. You guys are thinking about this all wrong. Of course 1 person wouldn’t pay $50 for a movie.

  29. Tom says:

    I love that the technology is ‘said to be ‘piracy proof’.’ But they’re ignoring or forgot about the clear analog hack.
    Someone can set up a camera on a trypod and easily recod the film playing on their big screen TV in their home in controlled lighting and sound conditions (remember it’s in their home) – on day one of its theatrical release and then upload the film for free online… to the rest of the world
    Not really a well thought out ‘piracy proof’ plan.

    It’s interesting that all the filmmakers supporting it are also apparently ‘stake holders’ in it as well. Kind of shameful, actually.

    Good luck!

    • I totally agree. We will have hi-def ‘cam’ with line-based audio torrents the day of release, so skip the theaters and the “Screening Room” costs and go stream it via Popcorn Time or download it and view it via your media center for ‘free’…

      I suspect after 6 to 12 months of the Screening Room public release, everyone will realize that they are losing money on this deal as the torrent sites will have DVD quality ‘rips’ on the “day-and-date” and many months before studios/distributors release their official DVDs… At that point the studios will only be getting money from people interested in a higher quality Blu-ray copy and the longer term cable/broadcast licensing.

      I can say just enjoy it while it lasts, as I have one, will only have to go to the theater for the select few movies that I truly want to see in a large screen format (IMAX versions) and the rest will be “Screening Room”-based torrents…. :-p

    • mypoorhoney says:

      I was thinking the same thing.

More Film News from Variety