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Screening Room Attempts to Recreate Theater Experience In Your Living Room By Subtracting Everything That Makes It A Theater Experience

Daniel Crooke, here. In one corner: art house cinemas, regional and independent theater chains, and the flickering hope that sitting in a dark room while watching strangers’ problems projected onto a screen will warm you from the inside out. In the other: Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Peter Jackson, Justin Timberlake in The Social Network and the redheaded squirt from The Andy Griffith Show. Somewhere beyond the ropes, off in the stands, or wherever spectators chill in a sports metaphor: you, the audience, wondering how the hell you can just lean back and watch a damn movie. The fight: whether Sean Parker’s in-home moviegoing composite, Screening Room – which offers the chance to stream day-in-date releases of top shelf studio releases in the comfort of your own home – accessibly accessorizes or fundamentally destroys movies as we know, watch, and profit from them. Is it a forward thinking, easy-making application or Napster’s file sharing, older sister with a Friedkin poster on the wall? A brave new venture or a brave new world?

Doomsday scenarios and potential benefits after the jump...

While the urge to waltz into the Arclight with my snobby kitty on opening weekend remains DEFCON Tabby – and this service offers at least a partial Xerox of that experience, cozy in your natural surroundings and sans traffic on Sunset Blvd. – the Screening Room proposal calls into question the experiential and bottom line components of going to the cinema as an art and industry. For an introductory fee of $150, which sets up the software platform, Screening Room proposes to shell out new releases via stream for $50. Currently scouting investors in Hollywood – with the aforementioned bigwigs already holding stake or lending vocal support – Screening Room aims to revolutionize the way we ingest the moving image. 

Questions arise. When you swap out the communal lights dim, shut up experience for an open environment of endless distraction, one wonders what happens next. There’s a class issue involved. While those prices may seem low to some, others couldn’t conceive of access on these price lines when a week’s lunches are on the line. At the same time, if you can afford it, why not smoke ‘em if you got ‘em or split the cost with friends? The difference between a 65” flatscreen and a micro-desktop hooked up to a Blu-Ray player are vast – a point that big screen broad strokers Christopher Nolan and James Cameron, opponents of the device, may likely sympathize with. But who hasn’t watched Aguirre, The Wrath of God on their laptop?

The Art House Convergence wonders whether bars could effectively buy into and become cinemas, and how this may accelerate online piracy. But is this legal and illegal proliferation inevitable and, to some extent, already happening?  There are cases for why this both increases or decreases the likelihood of further Metrographs. Above all else: how do you stay off your smart phone without the (good kind of) peer pressure to activate Airplane Mode?

Is the opportunity to watch Rogue One from the comfort of your own couch worth it, or is there a reason we go to movie theaters in the first place?

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Reader Comments (11)

I can't ever fathom using this myself because I never get a better experience from home viewing than seeing a film in a theatre, but I get people seeing it differently. I'm not in a market with $20 movie tickets, but I could see the appeal for those who are. Also, I get the appeal for families that might actually be spending more than $50 to take the family to ZOOTOPIA for example.

I'd probably only use this as an alternative for something I'm less motivated to see, but in that instance, would I really want to pay for it at a premium? No ma'am Pam.

March 17, 2016 | Registered CommenterChris Feil

I'm totally on board with this kind of experience.

It is a niche market, to be sure. Not everyone feels the need to see so many new releases as to justify the cost. Those of us who have been known to spend more than $50 a month on theater experiences would actually be saving money.

Even more specifically to me? I love the theatrical experience. I love going to see a new release on the day it opens. Yet, increasingly often, my anxiety stops me from getting to a movie theater before a film I want to see goes away. I'm working way more than I used to and can only handle so much social interaction in a day before everything starts to shut down and fight or flight takes over. Being able to stream new releases at home every weekend would let me see so many more films in time to actual join the discussion when interest is at its peak.

I mean, I'm a horror snob who hasn't made it to The Witch yet because they're only playing it at night at my local theaters, and those local theaters mean dealing with rush hour traffic and ridiculously overpacked mall parking lots before I even enter the fray of the multiplex lobby. It's a losing proposition. I'd see it in a heartbeat if there were early daytime showings, but there aren't.

I'm on board, so long as they do find a way to compensate the traditional theatrical distributors in a revenue sharing model ala Netflix or Hulu.

March 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

If there was any way to see movies at the cinema without other people there - that would be perfect, thanks.

I came to this conclusion the moment everything went quiet in that creation-of-the-universe sequence in Tree of Life... and a person 3 rows ahead of me decided these were the perfect 14 seconds to spend opening a bag of chips.

March 17, 2016 | Unregistered Commentergoran

This is an appealing alternative for many, but something deep inside me bridles at the very thought of opening a movie anywhere but in the theater. Is it being just a purist or a sentimentalist? As a realist, I understand we are knee-deep in that brave new world. But no manner of technology will ever replace the immersive, mind-cradling experience you get in the moviehouse.

March 17, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

If I had the money, heck yeah I would do this.

I hate going to a big mainstream movie and having to monitor other people's cell phone use, deciding whether not I should yell at them, or just hope they stop. It's a frustrating experience that isn't worth the $$.

March 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJAKE D

If the prices as proposed, this is going to appeal to a really small market. The Zootopia example that one of the commenters above mentions is a good one. If you have a family with two or three kids, who will also definitely ask for concessions at the theater, taking them there will cost you above fifty easily. And it's not easy for parents of young kids to go to the theatre anyway, so yes, great alternative. But I'd say the majority of film-goers will not shell out this money. And also, even the dreaded demographics to whom mainstream American cinema consistently caters -- 15-24, mostly white, mostly male -- won't view the experience of sitting home and watching a film together as appealing as going to the theatre. The pool of people who see the financial benefit and added entertainment value is very small.

March 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAmir

Yeah, at these prices it won't appeal to anyone other than the very wealthy or young families. If they were doing something like giving you a flat rate for the year (say, pay $500 and get every movie the comes out or something along those lines), I'd be very tempted, particularly during Oscar season where so few small films make it to my market, but otherwise this isn't really appealing and certainly doesn't outweigh the fun of going to a theater.

March 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

Jake D: If that's all you want, at $50, isn't it just more worth it to either wait to DVD or watch everything a month to a month and a half late?
Everyone: For big releases for groups of 4 ($8-12 a ticket, plus popcorn and drinks at the show = $60-90) or more? This is a good price. But that's not what they should be pricing this for. What this should be priced for is to be a theatrical gross expansion for acclaimed but under-released fare. Let's say this came out during last Oscar season and it set it's price at, say, $10 a movie and Box Office Mojo counted Screening Room sales as part of the BO, what would the BP grosses look like? Spotlight: As released, it got $80 million. With that service priced like that, I'd say it'd get $180-240 million. The Big Short: As released, it got about $130 million. With that service priced like that, I'd say it'd get $210-250 million. Bridge of Spies: As released, it got $165 million. With that service priced like that, it'd get about $250-300 million. Brooklyn: As released, it got $56 million. With that service priced like that, it'd get $150-200 million. The Martian: Screening Room would barely factor into the gross here. It'd get a bit more, but at most it gets to $650-670 million as a result of this service. Something like that, you want to see on the big screen. The Revenant: Looks to end it's run around $450 million. Screening Room might push that to $470-500 million. Again, like The Martian, it's something that if you're interested in, you'll think is more worth it on the Big Screen. Room: Final gross of $31 million. Screening Room would push that to $150-200 million as well.

March 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Watching a new movie in a dark theater in the company of complete strangers is fantastic in a Cinema Paradiso-way, and much preferable to any home viewing, even with the sounds of munching and unwrapping. But as Jake says above, unfortunately the increased use of cellphones make this experience so annoying that I can't concentrate and want to punch people and smash their phones to bits. Also, the movies I really want to see are many miles from my house, so it involves an hour commute, parking fees, etc. Unless I attend local film festivals (which are truly the BEST way to enjoy the movietheater experience with other like-minded, cellphone-off souls) I usually stream. I already pay for Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, which also provides a good assortment of US and foreign TV and documentaries, so probably not on board with yet another service.

March 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPam

Honestly, I don't think it's a good idea. This is among the things that is just making me despise the modern world. The idea of having a home theater and pay a monthly fee to see films is fine but it takes away much of the social aspects of seeing a film.

I don't consider myself a very sociable person but I prefer to go see a movie in the movie theater and then discuss it with someone random once the movie was finished.

March 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSteven

Good luck keeping those off torrents and streams!

March 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

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