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Theater Group Opposes 'Screening Room' Premium VOD Service

16 Mar, 2016 By: Erik Gruenwedel

While a who’s who of A-list movie directors might be in support of a proposed premium VOD reboot, the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) says any re-jiggering of the theatrical window should be done within the industry and not by backers of “The Screening Room.”

Created by Napster co-founder Sean Parker and former SXS Entertainment executive Prem Akkaraju, Screening Room would enable users to rent new-release theatrical movies in the home through a proprietary $150 set-top box for $50 per title. Theaters would get $20 per VOD transaction as part of the platform’s revenue-sharing concept.

The platform is the first attempt to bring back premium VOD since 2011 when Universal Pictures dropped plans to offer ensemble comedy Tower Heist in the home 21 days after its theatrical debut following boycott threats from theater chains.

NATO said the existing theatrical release window helps make new movies social events — critical, it says, to establishing brand value and bolstering revenue opportunities in downstream markets such as home entertainment.

“Movie theater operators will individually decide what business models work for movie theater operators," NATO said in a statement.

Earlier this week, the Art House Convergence, a consortium of 600 indie theaters, criticized Screening Room for inviting digital piracy.

Yet, "Lord of the Rings" director Peter Jackson, along with directors Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Martin Scorsese, Taylor Hackford, Frank Marshall and J.J. Abrams, have reportedly come out in favor of the concept. Directors Jon Landau, James Cameron and Christopher Nolan have voiced opposition to the idea.

Even NATO acknowledges that a more sophisticated window modeling may be needed for the growing success of a modern movie industry in today’s digital marketplace.

"Those models should be developed by distributors and exhibitors in company-to-company discussions, not by a third party."

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