When Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, Martin Scorsese, Peter Jackson, and J.J. Abrams throw their weight behind something, you know it’s movie gold … right?
While that’s sound logic for any feature film, the project that has these esteemed filmmakers rallying behind it is not a film at all, but a service that would allow consumers to get access to theatrical releases from the comfort of their own homes. A startup called Screening Room is currently in talks with movie studios on renting access for a price of $50 per film — and the big names above are all on board as investors.
Detailed by Variety, Napster co-founder Sean Parker is leading the charge and attempting to champion a platform that offers anti-piracy technology that will keep digital copies of the films off the Web.
To access one of these same-day rentals, consumers will be required to purchase a set-top box for $150 that’s specifically designed to deliver the film into the home theater. If a consumer wanted to rent a film like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice on March 25, they would pay a $50 rental fee for access to stream the film over a 48-hour window. Presumably, the film could be watched multiple times during the rental access window.
While there are plenty of powerful people in Hollywood who believe this would be harmful to the movie industry, Peter Jackson told Variety that he feels that the service would be used primarily by those who wouldn’t otherwise go to the theater. “Screening Room will expand the audience for a movie — not shift it from cinema to living room,” he said.
Screening Room also plans to cut in movie theater chains to the tune of 40 percent for each rental. This is an attempt to avoid a severe backlash from theatrical chains that are vehemently against any technology that keeps moviegoers at home. By cutting in exhibitors on a huge chunk of the rental fees, that would be advantageous to all parties. To top it off, Screening Room wants to offer the consumer two free tickets with each rental to see the movie in the theater, thus opening the potential for lucrative concession sales.
Distributors would also receive a cut of the rental fees while Screening Room only wants a ten percent cut of each rental. Of course, it’s likely the company would make money off sales of the set-top box as well. At this time, Screening Room representatives have indicated that the company is in final discussions on a deal with AMC, one of the largest exhibitors in the United States.
Of course, this isn’t the first attempt to bring same-day theatrical releases into the home, but it’s one of the most ambitious plans based on the price being offered to the consumer. Prior to Screening Room, Prima Cinema started offering hardware for $35,000 that brings theatrical releases into the home for a hefty fee of $500 per film.
Updated by Adam Poltrack 3/14/2016: This post was updated to add info about investors like Spielberg, Ron Howard, JJ Abrams, and others.