Ron Howard, Brian Grazer Defend Sean Parker Home Movie Plan

Ron Howard Brian Grazer Nat Geo
Chelsea Lauren/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

Brian Grazer and Ron Howard confirmed their involvement in Screening Room, saying that the controversial start-up aimed at providing new releases in the home is a way to bring theater owners and studios together.

Backed by Sean Parker and Prem Akkaraju, Screening Room rents films for $50 while they are still in theaters. Exhibitors have long resisted any attempt to shorten the length of time between a film’s theatrical debut and its release on home entertainment platforms, but Screening Room tries to entice theaters and studios by cutting them in on a slice of the revenue.

“When we met Sean and Prem last year, it was clear Screening Room was the only solution that supports all stakeholders in the industry: exhibitors, studios and filmmakers,” Grazer and Howard said in a joint statement. “The SR model is fair, balanced and provides significant value for the entire industry that we love. We make movies for the big screen and for as many people to see it. Screening Room uniquely provides that solution.”

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Howard and Grazer run Imagine Entertainment, the company behind such hits as “A Beautiful Mind,” “Apollo 13” and “American Gangster.” They are stakeholders in Screening Room, along with such prominent filmmakers as J.J. Abrams, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Peter Jackson and Taylor Hackford.

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

The company has attracted interest from the likes of Universal and Fox, but so far no studios have signed deals. AMC is believed to be interested in partnering with Screening Room, but some exhibitors, such as Regal, are not participating, believing their business would be harmed.

In addition to the rental fee, Screening Room charges $150 for access to a set-top box that is said to be anti-piracy proof. 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. Billy Bob says:

    I can understand the studios considering it but not exhibitors like AMC. Do they not understand the moment you do this the cinema is dead? I guess that’s what happened when AMC hires a new CEO outside of entertainment circles. He simply doesn’t understand how the business works.

  2. Rich says:

    why would any of these object???… It just relates to more millions in their pockets!

  3. Stan says:

    Name a project Sean Parker has successfully launched and brought to any place.

  4. The Truth says:

    While enough of the details of how Screening Room works financially are not yet available for evaluation, there’s no question that a huge worldwide audience would prefer to watch new movie releases in their homes than in a theater. The tired notion that there’s something special about sharing a motion picture in a big dark room with a horde of strangers is validated today by only diehard purists. The sole reason most people go to a movie theater now is that they can’t experience the most current films any other way. Even members of the Academy would rather watch screeners at home than schlep to state-of-the-art screening rooms. And as VR headset technology rapidly improves, it won’t be long before the theatrical experience will pale when compared to ultra definition, immersive in-home/remote motion picture experiences.

    Charging $50 to watch a new movie at home initially sounds like a prohibitive figure. But for a family of four, this expenditure is equitable when transportation and hassle costs are factored in. If the size of the group watching in-home is any larger, economies of scale make the proposition more financially attractive. And if you have young kids that require a babysitter, it’s a winner for even a couple.

    If you’re a single guy, you invite five pals over; each pitches in $20 bucks for pizza, beer, smoke, and the newest superhero saga; and you’ve got a better deal all around than any theater can offer. The pay-per-view model for big boxing events, where many fees easily exceed $50 and air only once, has been working well like this for years. So why wouldn’t first-run motion pictures — which are a lot more popular than boxing and can air multiple times day and night for weeks — work even better?

    Getting first-run movies into homes concurrently with theaters is the best thing that can happen for the motion picture industry. No wonder some of the smartest directors and producers in moviedom are in league with Parker, whose nose for profitable technology disruption has made a multi-billionaire. So I wouldn’t be too quick to bet against Screening Room. Once the public gets comfortable with the math, the first-run theatrical movie experience is in the toaster.

    • TheBigBangof20thCenturyPopCulture says:

      Yeah, but this is showbiz generation suck where most films are remakes, special effect star in movies and no actor fits their role or can carry a picture. This is ok for kids but not a mature homebody audience. And so this would be like paying more for digital excrement home delivered instead of celluloid community dung.

  5. TheBigBangof20thCenturyPopCulture says:

    Dear Opie and Scarecrow: For home pay per view to work, the Hollywood dream factory has to refrain from new age nightmare quality filmmaking. Dump the bohemian dreck in group taste and do market research to find out what the rest of America wants. I can assure you that they are sick and tired of superhero remakes, end of the world movies, rom-coms, etc. Also, learn how to cast old souls with box office charisma. There are too many man boys and waifs with no stage presence to carry films that suck.

    • Malcolm says:

      How can you assure anyone of anything when it’s the movies you cite audiences as “tired of” that are making billions of dollars? Studios won’t – and arguably *shouldn’t* – listen to a few loud complainers; they listen to money: when the more daring and different films start making (rather than losing) money, there will be more of them. In the meantime, there are still many, many smaller budgeted – and easier, though not easy, to justify – movies out there that are neither apocalyptic, superhero, rom-com or remake.

      • TheBigBangof20thCenturyPopCulture says:

        You missed the point. You’re talking theater receipts, not digital home box office. Complaints like mine make up an ignored entertainment consumer demographic of up to 100 million people. And older people with more disposable income are the main target audience of the home movie plan. Youth profit does not equal universal quality that can be translated to home consumption. Kids can be conditioned to like just about anything, be it junk food, toxic drugs or poison pop culture. But this status quo won’t sell to those of us lucky enough to have enjoyed the classic golden age of Hollywood. Mature folks will demand epic quality for $50 and not juvenile dreck that appeals to dystopian airhead millennials. Why do you think Spielberg is doing Indiana Jones 5? For the PPV business model to work, Hollywood has to respect older movie fans.

  6. Paully says:

    So only the younger and poorer will frequent theaters.. Yeah that’s plan.. Although $20 in the echo tors pocket 24-7 is mind boggling it’s essential a buyout of the theater owners position..

  7. Joe Bagodoughnuts says:

    Really… do you think anyone is paying $50.00 for a movie at home? Seriously? What bubble are you in? Two theater ticket cost $32 plus parking equals $35… why would i pay $15 dollars more to watch it on my 65in flat screen? Seriously? What bubble are you in? Movie today are all re-hashed sequels, prequels, remakes and pure shit…little originality. Why wouldn’t i just wait for VOD at $6, redbox at $2, or just stream it from free on my computer? Seriously? What bubble are you in? A more realistic price point for this type of service is $20- $25…. but then again, Hollywood is so out of touch with reality anyway.

    • Malcolm says:

      No bubble. Just last week my family of three met anotger family of three. We paid $30 for tickets, they paid $27. They paid another $25odd for popcorn and drinks, we paid $18.

      That’s near-as-makes-no-difference $50 *per family*. Not including gas and hassle.

      The week prior, we paid $12 for a Blu-ray of a film still in theaters four months ago, which we can watch as often as we like, sans trailers and with extra features, with or without noticeably-cheaper snacks and drinks. Usually we’re happy to wait. In the unlikely event we’d not be, $50 doen’t seem extreme for a timed-for-us ‘theater experience’ for as many people as we can fit around the TV.

    • Michael Anthony says:

      It definitely will hurt movie theatres, no doubt about it. But, you’re a bit off with pricing. Your estimate is conservative and based on cheap parking, which is hard in a city and no snacks. You get 2 couples or a family of 4, and you can easily slide past 50.00. It’s cheaper to pay the 50.00 and order in. And yes, for some event movies, people will psy, when the know how expensive it is for a group to go.

  8. Hans Dieter Ulrich says:

    This plan is demented. Sean Parker will cut in the movie theaters? Which theaters? How will they allocate the money? For how long? The minute the first term of the first deal expires…..so sorry, we don’t think it hurts you so were not paying anymore. This is the guy who said free music would never hurt the record industry……been to any record stores lately? Anybody remember book stores? What happens to your “big screen experience” when their doors close? I once heard Sean Parker say the demise of the record industry was good for “real musicians” because they could now focus on constantly touring…..or maybe find a patron like Mozart. Like f…ing Mozart! You’d have to be an idiot to buy into this logic. One of the greatest inventions of the 20th Century and a system of sequential releasing which not only works but has built a giant global industry, but you want to break it.

    • Malcolm says:

      These are reasonable criticisms. “Which theaters,” especially…

      I suspect – like bookstores – many will survive, though. Casual business may suffer (though it already is; hence in part the utter dominance of moneymaking Popcorn Blockbusters), but niche and specialty audiences will keep some open, just as bookstores, music stores, etc. stick around.

      • Hans Dieter Ulrich says:

        No doubt there will be niche and specialty houses and venues that survive. Just as the death of vaudeville did not mean the end of live theater – most cities still have at least one “legit” theater for touring Broadway shows. But turning the movies, the greatest mass media invention in history before TV, into Broadway is not a winning business model. The central conceit in those who would bring an end to the theatrical window is the naive belief that somehow the theaters will survive…but perhaps more importantly, that someone will still invest $200m to make Star Wars or Mission Impossible. The idea that the movie business as we know it will survive is the fatal self-delusion. Without the movie theaters, it will all be television. There won’t be “event films” – if you don’t like them to begin with that’s fine, but it is what keeps the ship afloat right now.

        It may be inevitable but we shouldn’t think that what everyone thinks of as movies, however you think of it (blockbuster or art house) will just go on – it will not. If you dream of that great indie project that finally explores the depths/heights of true love/romance/hate/bitterness/war/remembrance whatever, you will never have that chance unless a TV network orders it. And if you think the studios are heartless beasts, try pitching a network.

        No — movies, whatever that means to you, will end if the theaters end and the theaters will end when there is no exclusive window.

        But that doesn’t mean all is horribleness. Most people never go to the movies to begin with. We think movie going is ubiquitous, but it’s not. The end of Vaudeville and the decline of “legit” theater was succeeded by film and TV. Game of Thrones is as good as anything you get in a theater and is a different but equally satisfying form of entertainment. Entertainment will change and adapt – but don’t think you will still be making movies. Who would have dreamed of the scale of the game business 40 years ago. 30 years ago Atari dies a death of epic proportions but the console game business rose from the ashes. Personally, I can’t wait to see what the internet channels will finally deliver when someone cracks that formula. Twitch isn’t my cup of tea but it sure is for millions and millions of people all over the world…..who needs movies ultimately? They will die and Sean Parker will pound that stake while Grazer and Howard hold it, but do not cry for its demise….unless movies are how you make a living.

        Been to the premiere of a Grand Opera lately? Probably not….but Puccini was a contemporary of Irving Berlin and George Gershwin. La Fanciulla del West (The Girl of the Golden West) was inspired by cowboy movies. Caruso wore spurs and chaps in the premiere performance at the Met. Puccini was in an historical context, a contemporary composer, who knew the gramophone, saw movies and heard jazz. His world is gone and not that long ago considering…….but music didn’t die. (Although Silicon Valley keeps trying to bury it.)

        Besides, the Chinese are one international blockbuster away from putting us all out of business anyway. 你怎么说,在中国摔断腿?

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