Would You Pay $50 to Watch ‘Batman vs. Superman’ at Home on Opening Night?Charles Bramesco |
Leaving your house, driving to the nearest movie theater (or, if you want to find a film other than a wide-release studio picture, driving what could be very far away), dropping $13 on a ticket, spending $8 more on a soda and popcorn, watching fifteen minutes of commercials and trailers, and staring daggers at jagwagons using their cell phones in the theater is cool. But you know what’s really cool? Not doing any of that.
At least, that’s the thinking guiding Napster founder Sean Parker’s (portrayed unforgettably in The Social Network by Justin Timberlake, which must be all the validation a guy needs in his entire life) latest business venture, a service called the Screening Room. For the price of $50, users would be able to watch the latest major studio releases, like a Batman vs. Superman, from the comfort of their own home on the same day as the theatrical premiere, effectively eliminating the need to head to a brick-and-mortar theater ever again.
The Variety item that broke this news indicates a final dissolution of what is called “the theatrical window,” a 90-day grace period for films to run before they come out on home video, allowing theaters plenty of time to serve all moviegoers before surrendering the rights. The Screening Room would pay as much as $20 of the $50 total to movie theaters for essentially undermining their business models, and also because the distributors that would cooperate with the Screening Room don’t want to alienate the exhibitors at theater chains that keep their bills paid.
The overall viability of this service is still unclear, with many voicing the valid concern that granting a mass audience direct access to first-run films on opening day would open the floodgates for piracy, already the scourge of the industry. Furthermore, for something like this to come to pass, a lot of high-powered executives with vested interest in this not happening would have to agree to allow this to happen, which also seems unlikely. But, for the moment, we find a fantasy of compromise: deprived of the immersive theatrical experience forevermore, but at long last, permitted to watch the latest superhero movie on opening day with no pants on.