Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Screening Room wants you to watch new movies at home, and not everyone's on-board

photo by Mr.TinDC via Flickr
Years ago, we mentioned PRIMA Cinema, the absurdly expensive streaming device that requires a home inspection and, for $500 a pop, allows you to watch first-run Hollywood movies. This was mostly intended as a way for the Jay Lenos of the world to see The Force Awakens in the comfort of their home, something far beyond most people's reach. The selective audience and high price meant that PRIMA Cinema didn't eat into box office revenue too much, so everyone sat well with that.

But a new, similar fight has been brewing in the past several weeks with the proposal of Screening Room, a more budget-minded version of PRIMA Cinema for the average consumer. Tech entrepreneur Sean Parker (played by Justin Timberlake in The Social Network) has been shopping the idea around to studios and distributors, gaining high-profile support from J. J. Abrams, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and other film icons.

Not everyone agrees with the conecpt, though, especially not the theaters that depend on a cut of movie revenue. Only AMC has expressed support for the idea, with seemingly all other theater chains and organizations disavowing the concept for understandable business reasons. Mega-directors James Cameron and Christopher Nolan have also objected to Screening Room, citing not just piracy and abuse but the need to preserve the experience of seeing a movie in theaters.

That may be the strongest argument against this type of idea. With the appeal of cramming into a theater on opening weekend with dozens of people equally excited to watch a new movie on a huge screen, would you really prefer to have to see the next Captain America in your living room? Many people might not care, but for all the convenience of home viewing, film is strongest as a communal experience.

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