Back in the golden age of Hollywood, the studios were like gods. They had all the money in the world, they could have people killed on a whim, and commoners worshipped them at altars known as “movie theaters.” Today, Star Wars and superhero sequels aside, the studios are falling apart. For some reason, people just don’t want to pay around $20 for a ticket and sit in someone else’s stinky chair at a theater when they can turn on Netflix and sit in their own stinky chairs at home for much cheaper. Now, though, a hot new startup backed by Sean Parker (the guy Justin Timberlake played in The Social Network) has an idea that will save the movie industry: Let people watch first-run movies at home and charge them a lot of money for the privilege. It’s the best of both worlds! Kinda.
This comes from Variety, which reports that the company—The Screening Room—has been pitching this revolutionary idea to the major studios for months, and there’s apparently “serious interest” from some of them. The Screening Room’s angle, essentially, is that customers will buy a set top box for $150 that will stream movies on the same day they hit theaters with some kind of “secure, anti-piracy technology.” It’ll cost $50 to rent a movie, and you’ll have 48 hours to watch it once you’ve paid. To sweeten the deal (for movie theater companies), Variety says that The Screening Room will also offer two free tickets to people who have paid the $50, just in case they want to see the movie again and also buy overpriced popcorn and Buncha Crunch.
Interestingly, though, a report from Deadline makes it sound as if the movie studios are significantly less enthusiastic about this idea than Variety’s article suggests they are. One unnamed executive says that The Screening Room “would be the beginning of the end” and that “half of the theaters in this country would close.” Another said, “this news is so damaging, I can’t tell you right now how unhappy I am,” which is appropriately dramatic for someone who works in the movie industry. Going off of Deadline’s anonymous quotes, then, it seems like The Screening Room is a service that nobody wants or needs, and it would just make everything worse in the long run. In other words, it’s a hot new startup.