Posted on Friday, March 18th, 2016 by Ethan Anderton
UPDATE: Now directors M. Night Shyamalan and Brett Ratner have come out against The Screening Room as well. You can read what they had to say on the matter after the jump. Our original story from March 17th, 2016 follows.
Just last week, we asked whether or not you would be interested in paying $50 to watch major big screen releases from the comfort of your home at the same time they’re released in theaters, because that’s what The Screening Room initiative wants to make possible. The new effort from Napster and Facebook’s Sean Parker has been rather divisive since it was revealed, and now it looks like the service might be creating a sort of filmmaker civil war as some of Hollywood’s most respected directors take a stance.
While filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams have spoken out in support of The Screening Room, other directors like Christopher Nolan and James Cameron are on the opposing side. Whose side are you on?
What Is The Screening Room?
For those just joining us, here’s the gist of The Screening Room. Users would pay $150 for access to a set-top box that would receive and transmit theatrical movies at home, and which promises to have top-notch piracy protection. And then each movie viewed through the box would cost $50 per viewing, accessible within a 48-hour window after rental and allowed to be watched only once in that window.
As much as $20 of the fee would go to movie theaters. Along with that, Screening Room would give away two free tickets to see the movie they just rented at the movie theater of their choice. So there’s still incentive for these consumers to go to the theater and likely spend money on concessions, which is where movie theaters make most of their money. In addition, about 20% of the fee would reportedly go to distributors, leaving The Screening Room with their own fee of 10%, along with the aforementioned set-top box cost.
With all this in mind, Variety and Deadline revealed that Spielberg, Abrams, Peter Jackson, Martin Scorsese and Ron Howard, as well as producers Brian Grazer and Frank Marshall, are throwing their support behind The Screening Room, with some even investing their own money in the venture.
But now Deadline and THR reveal that Nolan and Cameron, as well as the latter’s producing partner Jon Landau, are coming out against The Screening Room. Landau made this statement about the service, speaking on behalf of Cameron and himself:
Both Jim and I remain committed to the sanctity of the in-theater experience. For us, from both a creative and financial standpoint, it is essential for movies to be offered exclusively in theaters for their initial release,” he said. “We don’t understand why the industry would want to provide audiences an incentive to skip the best form to experience the art that we work so hard to create. To us, the in-theater experience is the wellspring that drives our entire business, regardless of what other platforms we eventually play on and should eventually play on. No one is against playing in the home, but there is a sequencing of events that leads to it. The in-theater communal experience is very special.
Christopher Nolan didn’t offer up quite as extensive of a statement, but he did agree:
It would be hard to express the great importance of exclusive theatrical presentation to our industry more compellingly than Jon Landau and James Cameron did.
UPDATE: M. Night Shyamalan posted his thoughts to Twitter, saying:
“I am completely against the Screening Room. Film is one of our last communal art forms. There are other ways to experience art on your phone and laptop. But cinema is a group of strangers sharing stories and it belongs in a theater. Once filmmakers and theater owners open the door to this idea, there is no going back. The movie going experience is something to fight for! Watching a movie by yourself & watching a movie in a theater are two very different experiences. Film is meant to bring people together.”
Meanwhile, Brett Ratner, who was against a similar day and date VOD offering back in 2011, gave a statement to Deadline reaffirming his stance:
“I said it in 2011 and it’s even more true now, I’m a firm believer in the importance of protecting the theatrical window,The home market is important too, but it must be in its proper sequence. This alternate form of distribution would destroy the exclusive theatrical window which is one of the crucial elements – along with the best possible presentation, the social experience, and the sense of a unique event theatrical creates – that drives the value of the entire distribution chain. There may be certain movies that will lend themselves to this platform, but I am still a firm believer, and as a movie going fan will always support the traditional theatrical experience ”
On the next page, we’ll talk about the pros and cons of the service.