The Screening Room, the technology company that threatened to upend theatrical distribution by offering new releases in the home, has been rechristened SR Labs. It also appointed a new CEO — former Sony Pictures Home Entertainment president Man Jit Singh.
Prem Akkaraju, who founded the company with Sean Parker, will assume the role of executive chairman of the company.
“Man Jit brings a wealth of studio experience, industry relationships, and knowledge of content licensing to the company,” said Akkaraju. “SR Labs has built a suite of innovative technology solutions to service the rapidly-changing film industry.”
In addition, SR Labs announced that it has raised $27.5 million in equity financing, although it did not reveal its list of backers. Jeff Blake, the former vice chairman of Sony Pictures, is on the board.
The announcement may be the first public acknowledgment of Screening Room’s existence. The technology company made waves when word leaked out in 2016 that it had lined up a murderer’s row of A-list filmmakers as supporters — a group that included Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, Peter Jackson, and J.J. Abrams. At the time, the idea was to give high-end customers the ability to watch theatrical releases on the same day they debut for $50. They would also shell out $150 for a set-top box. Exhibitors cried foul, claiming that the technology imperiled the primacy of the theatrical experience.
Of course, movie theaters are embroiled in an existential crisis. The coronavirus crisis has resulted in the mass closure of cinemas around the world and it’s unclear when they will be able to re-open.
SR Labs didn’t provide much insight into its ambitions, beyond saying that it has been issued eleven domestic and 25 global utility patents related to its “innovative secure delivery architecture.”
Parker, the former founder of Napster and a key executive in the early days of Facebook, alluded to the disruption in the entertainment business caused by Covid-19.
“In the face of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, our world has been upended by an invisible enemy sparing no country or industry,” he said. “The damage has been especially acute amongst film studios and theatrical exhibitors. Since my earliest memories as a child, my hopes, values, and aspirations were shaped by the power of film, and the immersive nature of the theatrical experience. We must do everything in our power to preserve the time-honored tradition of theatrical exhibition at this pivotal moment, when its very existence is under threat.”
Parker added, “We have endured many tumultuous moments in our history. This too will pass. But in the face of existential threats, it is only by summoning our greatest abilities — our collective creativity and innovative capacities—that we have not only survived, but also prospered. We need to work together to preserve the cinematic experience, not only for writers and filmmakers, but also for the moviegoing public, and for the benefit of future generations who have yet to experience the magic of cinema themselves.”
Akkaraju was the former chief content officer of SFX Entertainment, as well as a principal of JPMorgan Entertainment Partners. Singh also served as CEO of Sony Pictures Network in India and headed Compete, Inc, a predictive analytics company. Jim Baldwin, a Silicon Valley veteran who previously worked at Antimatter Research and Intel, is the company’s CTO.