A tech startup that’s the brainchild of the former president of Facebook and co-founder of Napster has rolled out a plan to bring first-run Hollywood feature films into the living room, sparking concerns from the industry about piracy, DVD sales and box office receipts — not to mention theater concession sales. But the plan appears to be gaining much more traction than similar efforts have managed in the past several years.
The New York Times reports that the new enterprise, the Screening Room, from Napster co-founder and former Facebook President Sean Parker and former music executive Prem Akkaraju, would bring high-profile films into consumers’ homes at the same moment they arrive in theaters. Consumers would pay $150 for a new living-room device, along with a rental charge of $50 per title for a 48-hour window.
“Most studios, exhibitors and some major directors are already pronouncing the effort dead on arrival,” The Times reports, noting that detractors have voiced concerns about the impact on theater owners along with the hit that DVD sales would take. “Piracy is also a concern, especially when the idea comes from a co-founder of Napster, Mr. Parker’s early claim to fame,” The Times adds, noting that previous efforts along these lines have failed spectacularly after encountering stiff resistance from the industry.
But Variety, which profiled the Screening Room earlier this month, notes that the project appears to have picked up a key supporter. “Screening Room officials have told studio executives that they are close to finalizing a deal with AMC [Theatres], which is poised to be the world’s largest exhibitor if its acquisition of Carmike Cinemas is approved by regulators,” the publication reports. Variety adds: “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.”
Variety also notes that the Screening Room reportedly has secure anti-piracy technology. The company has been reaching out to the major studios in recent months, with former Sony Pictures worldwide marketing and distribution chief Jeff Blake on board in an advisory capacity.
The report says a number of major studios, including Universal, Fox and Sony, have expressed “serious interest” in the proposal, although talks are still in the early stages. Variety notes that Disney has not shown an interest.