Studios, Exhibitors Consider Revolutionary Plan for Day-and-Date Movies at Home (EXCLUSIVE)

Day & Date Movies at Home
Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Tech moguls Sean Parker, Prem Akkaraju pitch industry on premium service offering $50 rentals of new releases

Five years ago, major studios attempts to offer first-run movies in the home months early set off a fierce standoff with theater owners.

Now, a startup backed by Sean Parker of Facebook and Napster fame is trying to encourage Hollywood studios and exhibitors to wade back into those controversial waters.  Called the Screening Room, the company offers secure anti-piracy technology that will offer new releases in the home on the same day they hit theaters, sources tell Variety.

Individuals briefed on the plan said Screening Room would charge about $150 for access to the set-top box that transmits the movies and charge $50 per view. Consumers have a 48-hour window to view the film.

To get exhibitors on board, the company proposes cutting them in on a significant percentage of the revenue, as much as $20 of the fee. As an added incentive to theater owners, Screening Room is also offering customers who pay the $50 two free tickets to see the movie at a cinema of their choice. That way, exhibitors would get the added benefit of profiting from concession sales to those moviegoers.

Participating distributors would also get a cut of the $50-per-view proceeds, also believed to be 20%, before Screening Room took its own fee of 10%.

Representatives from the Screening Room have been pounding the pavement in recent months, meeting with all of the major studios and feeling out exhibitors, more than a half dozen industry insiders confirmed to Variety. Parker, who is the major investor in Screening Room, has tapped former Sony Pictures worldwide marketing and distribution chief Jeff Blake in an advisory capacity. He has been working on the project and has deep ties to both the exhibition and studio communities.

At the presentations, Screening Room officials have told studio executives that they are close to finalizing a deal with AMC, which is poised to be the world’s largest exhibitor if its acquisition of Carmike Cinemas is approved by regulators.

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There is serious interest from several of the major studios, including Universal, Fox and Sony, people familiar with the matter say. Those studios are continuing to study the business plan and deal terms and remain engaged in discussions with Screening Room. However, many cautioned that the talks are still in the initial stages. For its part, Disney does not appear to be interested in the plan.

One potential deterrent for distributors is that Screening Room is looking to be the exclusive content partner. This may give pause to studios like Universal that make movies available through parent company Comcast, or Sony, which has family ties to PlayStation.

On the other hand, the company’s anti-piracy technology could be appealing to studios who struggle with global content theft. Major films can be widely available illegally online in file-sharing sites within hours of their release.

However, some exhibitors worry that they would essentially be midwifing their demise by agreeing to shrink the windows — which continues to be a hot-button issue for theater owners. Regal, for example, has steadfastly refused to screen any films whose backers do not agree to a standard exclusive theatrical run of roughly 90 days. Box office hit record levels last year, crossing $11 billion for the first time in history. But attendance has been essentially flat in recent years.

Although a few studios, such as Paramount and Universal, have tried to cook up alternative distribution strategies in recent years, most distributors have been wary of upsetting exhibitors. Last fall, Paramount teamed with a few chains, such as AMC and Cineplex, on a plan that allowed them to release the pictures on home entertainment platforms 17 days after the number of theaters showing the films dipped below 300.

There have also been efforts to create technology that allows consumers to watch major studio films in the home. Prima Cinema, for instance, boasts a box that allows customers to screen new releases, but is priced at a much steeper $35,000.

In addition to Parker, Prem Akkaraju serves as CEO of the company and its co-founder. He was previously a partner at the electronic music company SFX Entertainment and was a partner at InterMedia Partners. In addition, he worked at JP Morgan Entertainment Partners and Sanctuary Music Group.

Representatives for Screening Room declined comment, as did AMC and the major studios.

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  1. Eric brown says:

    YES, TAKE MY MONEY NOW!!!!!
    At $50 a movie and $150 for the equipment this is a win-win for me. Currently in Sacramento California for my wife and two children it’s $42 just for tickets then add on popcorn, snacks, and drinks, I would much rather sit home with my 100 inch screen, Sony 4K projector and Bowers & Wilkins audio (way better and any theatre) and sit comfortably in my home watch a movie get my drink on and pause the movie if we have to go to the bathroom PLEASE TAKE MY MONEY NOW!!! I can’t wait for this to come out.

  2. engagingculture says:

    This would be amazing for people like me who love film but live in smaller markets and don’t have access to some of the more creative and experimental works. They could partner with The Screening Room and effortlessly increase their revenue stream. I wonder if The Screening Room could be utilized by Microcinemas to show first run independent films that aren’t showing anywhere else. They pay a slightly higher fee and can show the movie as many times as they want and charge whatever is fair given their market and the quality of the viewing experience.

  3. Ken Moffatt says:

    I think a win-win for both the studios and the theatre owners would be to have “blackout” areas.

    An example would be if a film is playing in a theatre within 20 miles of the set-top box you would not be able to access that particular film, which would encourage people to go to the theatre.

    The theatre owners would still get their steady stream of local moviegoers and those that are living in outlying areas too far away from a theatre (who wouldn’t go anyway) will have a chance to add to the studio’s revenue.

    If you live in a major city that shows virtually every movie in a theatre, this box may not be worth it but if you live in a smaller city where you can watch Star Wars within 20 miles but you may not be able to watch something like “Brooklyn”, this might be a viable option.

    Logistically, the set-top box would be linked to GPS to identify the specific location of the individual box.

    Reply With Quote

  4. mike crowley says:

    I am concerned that Parker’s Screening Room will take away from the communal aspect of attending a movie theatre with an audience.

  5. Sandra says:

    I actually posted this idea to blockbuster years ago…..I held hold stock with them through etrade. I will hire a lawyer to find out of any connect

  6. Kevin says:

    As someone that also considers themselves most of those things and also has an amazing home theater (actual theater – with a projector and stadium seating), I think this is a great idea. Watching at home is 95% of the time much less distracting that watching the movie at the theater. Watching with an audience can be awful and completely ruin how the movie is supposed to be viewed. Comedies may be the only movies that benefit of a large audience. The audience is often the worst part of the movie going experience. And let’s be honest, many times the Video and Audio presentation is much better at home when you have a proper setup.

    Now my approval of this concept would greatly depend on the quality of the video and sound that was offered. If it was on par with VUDU or something, then it would not even be close to worth it. If it was available in at least blu-ray quality with high quality audio (including Atmos when available), then it would definitely be worth it from time to time.

  7. Ryan Smith says:

    as somebody that considers himself an audiophile, movie buff, soundtrack enthusiast (and someone that owns a very well done and amazing HT system, I despise this idea. A movie…a FILM is made to be seen with an audience…in a theater. No distractions..no phone…no food cooking in the oven. Sure I love my vhs, dvd, bluray, dvd AND Laser Disk collection and will watch anything at home……but the first time should be RESERVED for the movie theater. I mean come on..are you going to start allowing plays and stage productions to be “streamed” to the home? I think not!

  8. Shashank says:

    This will be the next big thing:
    1. Producers
    – Ex. If 10 lakh people go to a cinema out of 20 crore people who have TV it doesn’t add up for a producer.
    – Plus showcasing is a problem in theatres
    – There is a pull mechanism in this and all types of content will find their audiences.
    – $50 instead of $10 is considering home convenience and an average of 4 household members who will watch it with you.
    – 2 free tickets is to entice cinema chains and not piss them off as this model will face resistance from cinema chains

    Consumers
    – Costly proposition but consider that it will be 4-5 people watching the movie
    – Convenience of staying home.and tour own space
    – free tickets arw not for u, gift then. They r to massage the ego of the cinema chains and prevent resistance from them .
    Ex. In India a movie called Vishwaroopam faced stiff resistance from cinema chains in terms of showcasing and ban as they said they would release it on digital television.

    Hope this helps understand where these guy, are coming from. I wouldn’t mind joining them at their office

  9. fdds says:

    So they expect me to pay $150 for ANOTHER box. Then I have to pay $50 to rent a movie for two days plus two tickets to see the movie at a theater. When I can go to the theater for little over $10 for a single ticket. That bullshit won’t fly with me. SCREW THAT. I will wait for the bluray and watch it as many times as I want for life.

    • Kevin says:

      If you watch all your movies alone then the box probably isn’t for you. If you have a family with kids, this could be MUCH cheaper, especially if you factor in the cost for concessions.

  10. BC says:

    Little pricey but still worth it. 2 movie tickets – $20. Snacks – $20. $40 right there for just 2 people. Now add in a bigger family or baby sitting money and it’s worth it. Not to mention having to get ready, drive and deal with the horrors that is the general public.

  11. William says:

    This sounds like a great idea. Let’s trust the guy who ostensibly helped destroy the music industry to help destroy a majo revenue source of our industry.

    Note to bumbleheads running the studios: I go see more films in the theater now than I did 5 years ago. The answer is very simple. The theater near my house installed very comfortable recliners and built privacy walls in between the rows.

  12. leodavinci1 says:

    Wow… studios are hell-bent on giving audiences more and more reasons not to go to a theater. I wonder if exhibitors realize this sort of thing is pretty much designed to put them out of business. Studios get to keep more when there are fewer partners to share with.

  13. Occultology says:

    It seems like once or twice every decade, I have to remind the Geniuses in Hollywood that the Cineplex owners are your PARTNERS, so quit trying to destroy the industry!

  14. Ron Upaday says:

    I like this. I will totally buy it. With two young kids at home; its hard for me and wife to find time (and babysitter) to go out for the movies.

    At 50 bucks, we can watch the movie at home (while the kids sleep in theirs) and if you take money for babysitter into account – we come out ahead. Also, we do not have to spend time to get ready and drive. (and time is the most critical commodity for parents with young kids)

  15. Bill says:

    Sounds like the industry would be shooting itself in the foot to me. On a personal note, maybe the 1% can afford $50 to see a movie on a TV, but I can’t and won’t and I would assume that the vast majority wouldn’t either. If one had a party and at least 5 people chipped in, it’s a possibility, but $50 movies at home for a group is a small demographic.

  16. nerdrage says:

    This guy will never be able to touch movies like Batman V Superman. Those make too much $$$ in the theaters. What about the other 90% of movies that aren’t franchise blockbusters? Those might benefit from this scheme, but they’re not what people will pay fifty bucks for. So just send those movies to Netflix. Everyone’s problem is solved. What exactly does Parker bring to this?

  17. Rex says:

    D.O.A. These guys might like to think the studios are sniffing around, but NONE of them will ever sign up for this. Disney’s lack of interest is telling, just as it has been in using other third-party MIDDLE-MEN to get its content in front of home audiences. It and the other studios are just biding their time until they can EACH have their own web-based distribution, free of Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Prima and all the others currently spreading valuable content hither and yon. All the majors have MASSIVE catalogs of content that is only fractionally represented on existing streaming services (despite how awesome you might THINK the selection really is). As it stands, to get access to everything, the average user probably has to spend MORE than their old cable/satellite bills for the privilege. Might just as well pony up to the studios directly rather than all these middle-men competing for table scraps.

    And anti-piracy technology? HAH! We live in an era where an entire generation really doesn’t care about the technical quality so much as just seeing movies and tv shows — legally or otherwise — on whatever screen happens to be convenient. They’re as happy to watch a movie shot with a decent HD camera off a home TV screen as they are an allegedly-but-not-really HD file stolen off some corporate server or otherwise ripped off. That being the case, NO anti-piracy technology will every truly prevent piracy. Sure, it’ll make it harder to steal and share pristine digital copies, but it won’t stop someone from aiming a camera at their TV (or better yet, a wall projection) and then sharing the love on a global scale. It’s a sad reality, but most of the world doesn’t care about seeing “the best” when all that matter is seeing it “first”, something technology like Screening Room promises to make ridiculously easy.

    • nerdrage says:

      Now all the Hollywood studios want their own streaming services? How many is that? Forty? Fifty? Consumers will just subscribe to the biggest and best one or two, three at tops, and the rest will fail. But I guess everyone’s gotta try to jump on the gravy train.

      There are some folks who make it a hobby to see things first, but the bigger trend is see-it-when-you-want. The ability to queue up content and see it when it’s convenient for you, when the mood strikes you. I think that’s the far bigger and more important trend. Piracy can serve that, but so can streaming services.

      • Rex says:

        Fine, but paying FIFTY DOLLARS to see a movie “when it’s convenient” is NOT convenient. Personally, I don’t care how the studios end up sharing their catalogs, either via their own services or spread out (unequally) across various middle-man providers like they do now. As you point out, I’m one of those who’ll watch what I want, when I want, either by going to the theater (which we LOVE since we don’t have kids sucking the fun out of life), or watching a stream, booting up a digital copy, seeing what’s on cable or satellite wherever I happen to be, or even buying and watching DVDs and Blu-rays (and even VCD’s from overseas!!) from my highly-curated personal collection. Personally, I like all the variety, but I’m sure the major studios (in particular Disney) are looking at ways to bring it all back in-house. Just watch.

        Nevertheless, the point still stands: this particular service will FAIL just like all the others who’ve tried to do it.

  18. Dale In New York says:

    “A million dollars isn’t cool. . . you know what’s cool? FIFTY dollars!”

  19. Bob says:

    Name one movie that, after you’ve paid your $50 to watch it, you’d say, “Now THAT was worth it!”

  20. Adam says:

    Huh? Why would I pay 50 bucks to see a new theatrical release at home when I can see it for 8 bucks at my local movie theatre?

  21. P. Paul Dowly says:

    This is basically taking out a billboard saying you know your movie sucks and will get killed by bad word of mouth. As someone said retweeting your own poll on this story: What Batman vs Superman wants is 4 people to buy a $100-million ticket so they can claim a big opening weekend. If you’re not desperate, you don’t even consider this.

  22. There is a company called XCINEX that is ahead of the curve and has developed a technology that detects viewer and charges individual tickets to stream content to the home. They plan to stream theatrical movies, live events, concerts and more on a pay-per-viewer basis and looks like their anti piracy is on point.

    • leodavinci1 says:

      “… XCINEX … has developed a technology that detects viewer and charges individual tickets to stream content to the home.”

      Which is pretty why I (and most people) won’t bother with their service. The Screening Room is a much better deal for families and groups. not that I would be signing up for that, either.

    • Rex says:

      Planning and doing are two different things.

  23. stevenkovacs says:

    Considering theatre ticket prices (esp if 2+); snack food prices; line-ups; parking/transit costs; time to get there and inconvenient start times I’d go for this offer. One problem, however, what’s to keep someone from periscoping it!

    • Rex says:

      NOTHING! Which is exactly why it will never succeed. Joe Pirate can set up an HD cam and shoot a projected $50 stream from these clowns and have the movie spread all over the world within hours, to a receptive young public that really doesn’t care about pristine technical presentations so much as the short-lived bragging rights associated with seeing something first.

  24. Steve says:

    If this becomes reality, piracy would increase by 1000 X , this will be the movie industry bubble burst. The studios will be playing with fire making this deal.

  25. Jacob says:

    Why would anybody pay that amount of money to see the movie at home? The cinema is an experience and half the price. Ridiculous.

    • Mark says:

      Because some of us have young children but would still like to see first run movies on occasion. $50 is cheaper than a babysitter + tickets.

      • Rex says:

        The problem is, that $50 has to appeal to a LOT more than just people with kids who can’t have fun anymore. It has to appeal to singles and couples who make up the MAJORITY of the moviegoing public, and $50 is insane JUST for the movie on a boring old home screen, just to have bragging rights that you watched it there and literally NOTHING else (not even a digital copy for posterity?). Sure, a couple could spend that much IF they had to pay for parking and IF they wanted to pay grossly inflated concession prices in the theater, but most people either park for free (since most movie theaters are in malls or plazas, not Big City downtown cores), and likewise SHARE concessions or don’t bother with them at all. So, as others have said, paying $50 for a movie that SHOULD cost $10 (for one) or $20 (for two) to see in a proper movie theater is just a complete ripoff.

    • Gary says:

      Because some of us, have home theaters with sound systems that are far superior than your local movie theater.

      • Rex says:

        In this day and age, that’s VERY unlikely, and even if you do, you are in the MINORITY of suckers who’ll pay $50 for short-lived bragging rights.

  26. BillUSA says:

    Unfortunately, the movie theaters are at the same point now where the VHS industry found itself the day CD’s hit the shelves. The advancements in home theater technology are only going to improve to the point of near-extinction of movie houses.

    I prefer the old drive-ins and used to enjoy the sit-down theaters until the tickets got to $6 a pop. I also know that art-houses won’t go away, but the future is no less grim for multiplexes.

  27. Cinemaislife says:

    The issues the film industry is experiencing today aren’t just because people don’t want to go pay for overpriced movies and snacks. It’s also because most of those overpriced movies are complete garbage. The way films are shown should never change. Cinema is suppose to be experienced inside of a cinema. It’s magic and it’s spiritual when it’s done right. The industry needs to stop blaming the one part that works, and start pointing the finger at the uninspired and mediocre work they are spitting out of their sequel and reboot factories. Hollywood’s hallow copy and paste formulaic garbage wouldn’t even be interesting if it were available for free right after it was finished, much less for $50. So no thanks guys. I think I’ll stick to watching my cinema in a cinema.

    • nerdrage says:

      Yet Star Wars did great, and it was just a meh Mary Sue fanfic of a movie. So I don’t buy the “it’s all garbage” argument. People love garbage.

    • BillUSA says:

      I think the problem lies – much as it applies to sports – in the over-proliferation of movies. Too many come out and after a while, they start to resemble one another – just the names have been changed. Originality is a dying virtue even if Hollywood has lacked the wherewithal to resist copying one another for half a century. And don’t get me started on reboots.

  28. Mich says:

    $50 is nothing – I drop that regularly at Amazon on bullsh*t + we spend $50 when we go out to a movie and buy snacks already, so I would totally do this. Sure, a digital download – when the movie comes out on VOD – would sweeten the deal, but I’m good with this as is. Count me in.

  29. Ultrawoman says:

    If we could invite three or more people over to see a major major must see blockbuster film, it might be worth it.

    • Rex says:

      But that will never happen. You might be able to invite them over to watch some small indie or foreign movie or an art film of some kind, but NO WAY will the majors ever offer up their “major major must see blockbuster films” to a service like this. The threat of piracy is just too great.

  30. Sloppy Joe says:

    I would pay the $50 to own the movie but not one for viewing! Rip off! Unfortunately the rude morons in the theaters make that option a rip off as well. I’ll wait for the home release months later instead. If the $50 included a Blu ray copy upon release – that might be more attractive.

  31. harry georgatos says:

    The cinema experience is overrated! No one likes being stuck in the session from Hell with disruptive patrons and technical breakdowns. Cinemas know if most people had a choice to watch a first run movie at the privacy and safety of their home most would choose to stay at home and watch the film. Cinemas have basically blackmailed Hollywood so these cinema moguls can stay in control with it’s hands choking the throats of film-lovers. I’ll defintely watch an Imax movie in Imax as for everything else I would rather watch these films in privacy and safety of my home. It’s time cinemas have been eradicated and studios take back control of their films instead of paying 50% of each ticket sales to cinemas.

    • leodavinci1 says:

      I’ve had my share of less than stellar theater experiences, but I doubt it’s more than a single digit percentage of all my theater going. You make going to a theater sound like taking a tour of a third-world war zone.

  32. cadavra says:

    No, no, no and no. Movies were meant to be seen in theatres. End of story.

    • That guy says:

      Not in this day and age, movies these days are mostly garbage. Everything is a re-hash that no one really gives a crap about or they are worthless superhero movies that just appeal to kids to get the whole family to go and see it because the parents just do whatever. There are very few great actors these days in film. I enjoy watching better television like breaking bad, american crime, life in pieces.

  33. Mark says:

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Watch how fast this is ripped off and puts the final nail in the coffin of the movie industry. A lot of TV shows are better than current movies, and cost a LOT less. What a bunch of MAROONS!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • JO says:

      Nothing funnier than someone calling others a MORON and misspelling it like the color Maroon

      • Marcus says:

        Except maybe the person who has never seen Bugs Bunny and feels the need to comment out of their own ignorance.

  34. tikkanen10 says:

    Would be willing to try for event films if the service supported common devices (ie: Chromecast, Roku, iOS) and didn’t require the purchase of any special proprietary hardware.

  35. What a joke says:

    -From the guy who destroyed the music business comes…

  36. Tom says:

    Good idea getting the SFX guy to run it, SFX is a shining example of a well-run company

  37. CeceD says:

    Sounds like the same greedy, unprincipled idiots who brought down the music industry are now after the movie industry. Please, God, just go away.

  38. JM Castle says:

    Too soon. Exhibitors are not scaled back enough yet. They have to shrink significantly for the fear to be real. Theaters will always exist but the scale will go down. It’s a nice try initially but other shifts in Hollywood have to happen first. Cart before the horse…

  39. John says:

    Periscope

  40. David K says:

    day & date is fine for the indies, but I’d rather see tiered pricing at the cinema. the usual $15 for something like Deadpool but half that for something like the Womann in Gold

  41. John says:

    Bad idea, that would kill the movie industry. Because anyone can still record the movie from TV monitor using a digital camera, especially on 4K and upcoming 8K TV, even recording from a monitor the quality will not be far off from theaters. This will just encourage piracy everywhere. We could see 10 million illegal downloads on opening weekend once this platform goes into effect.

    • John says:

      Naw. why bother doing that when the mechanism will be hacked within the week of it appearing. Everything gets hacked and everyone will be back to square one.

  42. CapitalP says:

    $50!!? This will never happen.

  43. John Shutt says:

    Yeah, good luck finding a crowd willing to spend $50 on this. This will flop big time

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