Napster Cofounder Launching Day-and-Date Home Video Service for Current Theatrical Releases


The domestic box office may have set a new overall record in 2015 with $11.3 billion, but attendance is still dropping and people continue to complain about the many hassles associated with going to the movies. Netflix and VOD are providing people with some great reasons to stay home instead and studio execs are starting to think that if they want to compete, they’ll need to bring current theatrical releases to the home market at the same time. Theatre owners have fought any such ideas tooth and nail, worried that it would completely destroy the industry. Despite this, last year Prima Cinema launched a service for high-end customers charging $35,000 for the equipment and $500 per movie. Now this year there is a much more affordable service in the works, courtesy of Napster cofounder and former Facebook president Sean Parker. Hit the jump for more details.

According to Variety, tech entrepreneurs Sean Parker and Prem Akkaraju are launching a new digital movie service called the Screening Room, which will offer movies at home on the same day that they hit theatres. Their plan is to charge $150 for access to a set top box and $50 per movie. Customers will have 48 hours to watch the movie, which will be encrypted with secure anti-piracy technology.

The big challenge that the company faces is getting all of the industry players on board. They are reportedly offering a major cut of the $50 charge to both exhibitors and distributors while the rental of a movie at home will also come with two tickets to watch it in theatres, thus encouraging additional theatrical attendance and concession sales. Word on the street is that Universal, Fox and Sony have shown serious interest and that AMC is close to signing a deal. They are inevitably still facing an uphill battle, however, as this is something that would shake up the movie business in a pretty major way. Would you pay $50 to watch a current theatrical release at home? Could movie theatres still survive if Screening Room became a reality?

  • Simon

    Would I pay $50 dollars to watch a new release at home? No because I can pay less to see it properly at the cinema. Netflix got its claws into people’s living rooms by being at such a low price point that people shrug it off if they don’t use it for a couple of months at a time. And their catalogue is big and growing. What is $150 dollars going to get me? Rental of a set top box plus access to buy overpriced movies so I can enjoy them in a less than optimal setting?

  • smitty

    $50 per 48 hr rental feels a bit much. Maybe per month, but for each rental that is really just excessive at that point. And unless you are sitting on a deluxe home system set up or just literally can’t stand people, you might as well just suck it up and hit the theater for ~80% money savings and a much better film watching experience.

  • Tommy

    Someone actually tried this already, but costing tens of thousands of dollars for the box and $500 per movie.

  • You’re forgetting parents. I think a lot of people with kids, especially toddlers, have just accepted that they can’t see movies in the theater anymore. And honestly, if you’re taking your spouse and a kid to the movies and buy snacks, that’s $50 right there (if you live in Chicago, at least.) I think if upper middle class parents get the chance to see one or two big summer movies from the comfort of their homes for $50, they’ll do it. Me, I’ll be having brunch and doing all day movies well into my 40s. Suck it parents!

  • Chris

    That’s what it says in the article.

  • At that price point, that doesn’t even present a competition to theatres. Maybe the multiplexes aren’t exactly a perfect cinematic experience, but at least I’m getting something I can’t get at home for my money.

  • The idea that distributers would only take 20% of the gross is laughable to me.

  • Tommy

    Woops. Teach me for skimming. I’ll feel bad for Prima if this works out, but maybe their thousand 1%er elite customers will stick around and enjoy the fact that they spend ten times as much. The price here isn’t too bad as alternative for groups and families.

  • Jasper

    Wasn’t this Reed’s prediction that this will eventually kill movie theaters?!

  • Going to a theater is an experience I remember far more vividly as a child compared to watching stuff at home. Same goes for renting videos from a store, I remember the act of the video store trip more than actually watching most of the stuff we rented back then. For parents with toddlers, a lot of cities have special showings you can bring babies to, or some second run places here have on site babysitting. If life is so busy that going to a theater is such a hassle then these people can surely wait the 4 months till the bluray release.

    I’m guessing Screening Room will hardly put a dent in box office sales.

  • I think his prediction was something along the lines of “no more movie theatres by 2013″, didn’t quite hit that mark

  • eliantigiorgi

    As Frank would probably say if you wanna play you have to pay. I’m in!