20 years ago, movie watching was a different experience. Sure, movie theaters were around then, as well as movie rentals and purchases; but back then, you would always have to travel for a movie you didn't own. If you wanted to rent a movie, you would go to Blockbuster and rent one there. If you wanted to buy a movie, you were limited to a Blockbuster or an on-site store like Walmart.
However, this would not last, since over the last 20 years, movie services such as Netflix and Redbox have come to rise. As convenience and cost became a priority for movie viewers, mediums of renting movies like Blockbuster faded away, resulting in a new age of renting movies. But, like every aspect of life, everyone is asking "what's new" or "what's next" for watching movies.
As it turns out, the "newest" way of renting movies may be right around the corner. Recently, a project started by Napster co-founder Sean Parker, called Screening Room, has become a hot topic in the film industry. In a nutshell, Screening Room is a service that would allow customers to watch movies at home the same day they are released in theaters, using a device similar to a Roku . While the response for this project has been generally negative, film directors such as Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, Peter Jackson, and Ron Howard are actual stakeholders in the project, claiming that "it will expand the audience for a movie by catering to individuals who wouldn't otherwise go see it in theaters." (Variety.com)
The Gift of Screening Room
They do have a point. According to an article from Variety, each movie rental will cost a solid $50, and with movie ticket prices being more than $10 at most theaters, it's a more financially smart option for a family of five or more (like mine). Another benefit from Screening Room is that each rental will for two days, which is more than enough time to view a movie at your convenience. Plus, your snacks will be significantly cheaper, with $4 for a pack of microwave popcorn bags as opposed to at least $8 per bucket. One more benefit that may be overlooked is that Screening Room will allow you to view the newest movies in the comfort of your own home: no lines to get tickets or snacks, the seating would be as comfortable as you make it, you would have control over the volume, and you can actually pause the movie! With all of these benefits, it's easy to see what these film directors are talking about!
The Curse of Screening Room
However, there are some things that even the film directors fail to acknowledge. Viewers won't experience the story as the director intended it to be, since some movies are made have the best experience be in IMAX 3D (such as Batman V Superman or The Force Awakens). Another draft to Screening Rooms will be that getting out of the house would be a little less frequent, since movie theaters have always been an option to spend a Friday night or a place to go on a date. Another important thing to take into account is that the device to use Screening Room will be $150 (The Verge); not to mention that $50 will be rather expensive for a party of viewers totaling four at the most. On a another financial note, your viewing experience would be limited by how much money you have put into your entertainment system for devices such as an audio receiver, surround-sound speakers, and even the TV itself! Lastly, what Screening Room would take away from viewers is the excitement. There is typically an excitement that come from going to the movie theater, whether it's for the movie, or for hanging out with your friends, or just going somewhere where the newest things happen.
And we may not be the only ones to suffer!
While there is much that Screening Room may take away from viewers, it is also important to acknowledge that theaters may lose significant revenue. While it is true that Screening Room will give $20 of every rental to theaters (The Verge), that won't guarantee good sales for them to survive the arrival of Screen Room. In fact, it is possible that many theaters would actually close down! However, the financial future of movie theaters is not certain, since it isn't certain if the project will actually be a success or not.
So what's the verdict? Assuming it will be a success, will Screening Room be a blessing from the kingdom of Hollywood or a disaster where millions will suffer? While there are pros and cons to the project, nothing is certain. While I know people who would be all for it and have certainly seen the hate on Twitter toward it (just search #ScreeningRoom and scroll for opinionated tweets), I can honestly say that I actually support it. While I don't like the idea of the future of movie theaters being at risk, I do support the financial benefits and the idea of watching a new movie in the comfort of my own home. Sure, it will be a big change, maybe even costing some nostalgia. Then again, Netflix and Redbox came after Blockbuster, so change may not be such a bad thing.