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

Peter Jackson Breaks Silence on Screening
Rob Latour/REX Shutterstock

Sean Parker and Prem Akkaraju- backed startup offers day-and-date releases in the home for $50

Peter Jackson said he is backing Screening Room, the controversial start-up that wants to deliver new releases to homes while they are still in theaters, because it captures an audience that does not go to the cinema.

“Screening Room will expand the audience for a movie — not shift it from cinema to living room,” Jackson said in a statement.

Jackson isn’t the only big name backing the venture. He is joined as a shareholder by Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Martin Scorsese, Taylor Hackford,  Frank Marshall, and J.J. Abrams.

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. The hope is to capture middle-aged audiences whose family responsibilities prevent them from routinely going to the theater.

After Variety broke the news of Jackson’s involvement, some questioned whether he was back-tracking on his earlier support for theatrical release windows. In 2011, Jackson was among more than 20 directors who signed a letter decrying a deal that several major studios made with DirecTV to rent several releases eight weeks after they landed in theaters. Other signatories included Michael Bay, Kathryn Bigelow, James Cameron and Guillermo del Toro.

But in a statement to Variety, Jackson explained that he believed that the DirecTV deal would imperil the theatrical business, while Screening Room will grow overall revenues for the industry.

Here is Jackson’s full statement:

“I had concerns about ‘DirecTV’ in 2011, because it was a concept that I believe would have led to the cannibalization of theatrical revenues, to the ultimate detriment of the movie business.

Screening Room, however, is very carefully designed to capture an audience that does not currently go to the cinema.

That is a critical point of difference with the DirecTV approach – and along with Screening Room’s robust anti-piracy strategy, is exactly why Screening Room has my support.

Screening Room will expand the audience for a movie – not shift it from cinema to living room. It does not play off studio against theater owner. Instead it respects both, and is structured to support the long term health of both exhibitors and distributors – resulting in greater sustainability for the wider film industry itself.”

As Jackson argues, Screening Room is intended to serve as a bridge between studios and theater owners. The plan is to cut exhibitors in on as much as $20 out of the $50 fee and give customers two free tickets to a film, so they will be enticed to buy concessions. Studios also get a substantial percentage of the fee.

Studios such as Universal and Fox are weighing the proposal, and AMC is interested in the company’s offer. Other exhibitors, such as Regal, are believed to be skeptical of the plan. The start-up is challenging established business practices. Wide-release films are typically in theaters for 90 days before hitting home entertainment platforms.

Parker is best known for his roles in Internet companies such as Napster, Facebook and Spotify. Akkaraju has ties to the entertainment industry from stints as a partner at the electronic music company SFX Entertainment and as global head of operations at Sanctuary Music Group.

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  1. Susan Walker says:

    Actually not a bad idea, Mr. Jackson. When I was ill and going through chemo, I couldn’t attend theatres. I will also admit since then I don’t go much for health and hygiene reasons. I think many people, healthy or not, will appreciate the option.

  2. If I really wanted to see a movie at the cinema I would go, however, it is considered a “treat” and not an everyday occurrence. It seems everyone wants everything right now and can’t wait a little. Mostly I have waited until I could rent the movie and watch it at home. Sometimes if I really like a movie I would buy it. As for taking “all the kids”, find a babysitter! Who says you have to buy any food at the cinema..its all junk anyway. Let the movie take over your imagination. The biggest reason why we all go to the cinema is to see it on the big screen. We have a 55″ screen and it doesn’t compare to that big movie screen. Like I said, it’s a treat!

  3. TheElf says:

    The target audience is only a portion of the market. However as a member of that target group I would buy it.

  4. I could see a family with small children using this. Kids are hard to take to the theater and you never know if you’ll have to leave 15 minutes in because they’re scared. $50 Would be be a bargain

  5. Julie says:

    There is something lazy about this. Get dressed, leave your house, and go to the movies. Geez…

    • JRDM says:

      Assuming they can. The marketing for this apparently targets families, which easily could make it a bargain. And it would keep those possibly disruptive families away from the theater.

  6. joe dunton says:

    It must be made compulsory to have a 96 inch curved screen atmos sound to join they must send picture to confirm membership please all think big joe dunton bsc

  7. Spike says:

    who the hell is gonna pay 50 bucks + 150 for a set top decoder? only a vary small percentage of the movie going public, that’s who. the programming and infrastructure needed to support this? ridiculous. it’ll be in the red for years, and maybe break even 10 or 20 years from now. all those moguls buying in? they’re hedging their bets, plus it’s a write off if it’s a loss.

  8. Je Vizzusi says:

    We are simply taking the Cinema experience out of our lives. Maybe Jackson whom I would imagine has a full on Movie Theater in his house, most of us don’t. I screened the latest Bond Film “Spectre” this weekend and even with my LG 48inch LCD Cinema Screen and Sony DTX Surround, its not the same nor will it ever be the same Movie Theater experience. I suppose if you live in a rural area, good idea. Direct TV is already offering limited release first run showings per pay per view. My concern is entire generations will grow old without the Cinema experience. Films seen with audience’s change your entire perspective on the movie as well. Distributors and FIlmmakers want this because its just another source of potential revenue. Studios shoving down the throat extraordinary high rental fees on exhibitors for films that bomb is initiating these new ideas for VOD. There has to be a middle ground here where yhe Movie experience is not damaged and Films that deserve so get wider releases. @JEV1A

    • JRDM says:

      I think you’re talking about locking up the barn when the horses are already loose. The communal experience is dubious now with how disrespectful people can be. And this lets families affordably watch first run movies without disrupting anyone’s experience, the same possibly goes with any large group of people that can have fun without disrupting others.

      One can get pretty good home theater experience without breaking the bank with a home theater projector and a decent sound system. No, it’s probably not as good of technical quality as a good theatrical presentation system, it’s plenty good enough to be worth the trade-off.

    • PICturePlay says:

      The true cinematic experience has long gone with the dead of celluloid technology.

  9. J-dog says:

    You have to stop this madness! There has to be a protected out of home movie going experience or it will go away entirely. Home theatre is great, but wait your turn.

    • Mark Nolan says:

      J-dog. Get.A.Life. This is going to happen one day no matter what. I’m sure you thought VHS Tapes where bad idea too. #2016

  10. PICturePlay says:

    I love the idea. $50 dollars and I can watch a movie along with my friends at our home and we can share the price tag.

    No need to pay cab when we need to go to movie theaters, no need to pay parking lot, no need to queue, no need to go to mall for watching movies, no need to pay overpriced F&B at the concession stand.

    But I still curious how Screening Room can guarantee the movie will not leak and go uploaded to torrent and piracy sites?

    • ............. says:

      Or better yet, wait a few months and buy the bluray for 10 bucks.

      • PICturePlay says:

        Some movies need to be watched as soon as they’re released to public. Or we missed the urgency or hype. Especially for people who love to write movie reviews, they need to watch a movie as early as possible.

  11. bkbeach4x4 says:

    Movie clubs etc. will be a target for the service, as well as college dorms etc. A risky investment, but risk is part of the game, that leads to the greatest reward.

  12. jen says:

    So middle-aged families don’t go to the movies “routinely” – this is audience Screening Room will capture? Nope. These folks are price sensitive – they’ll rent Red Box all day long for a few dollars just to keep the kids happy. Families also have a need to get out of the house, safely, to socialize without annoying cellphone lights and blinking bluetooth earpieces in a dark theater. Make the movie going experience less hostile and families will be there beyond Saturday mornings and afternoons.

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