By: Mike Montgomery:
CinemaCon is one of Hollywood’s biggest annual conventions. Every year in Las Vegas, studios hobnob with theater owners to peddle their upcoming movies. But this year, the best story wasn’t on-screen. Instead, it was the attendees’ murmurings about what some might consider to be a terrifying new technology: The Screening Room.
The new proposal, pitched by Napster and Facebook FB +0.30% whiz kid Sean Parker, would allow viewers to bring the multiplex to their living room TVs via a highly-secure box that will stream first-run movies. The price for this privilege? Parker is suggesting $50 per viewing, plus $150 for the device — a steal for families, or really anyone with a decent entertainment system who enjoys having large screening parties.
Many in Hollywood are less than enthusiastic about the idea. At CinemaCon, James Cameron publicly condemned Screening Room, saying he and producing partner Jon Landau were “committed to the sanctity of the in-theater experience.” Warner Bros. Entertainment chairman and CEO Kevin Tsujihara said, “I assure you, we are not going to let a third party or middleman come between us.”
It’s understandable that Parker makes Hollywood nervous. One of the most well-known names in technology, Parker is a venerable Magic 8-Ball in human form when it comes to seeing the future of media; he’s also on the board of music-streaming service Spotify and helped bring it to the U.S. His history of disrupting industries has been well-documented, though most people probably can’t separate the real Parker from his on-screen alter ego played by Justin Timberlake in director David Fincher’s 2010 film The Social Network.
The music industry hasn’t been the same since Napster titillated users with the idea of streaming music — with or without a fee. People in Hollywood are terrified of seeing history repeat itself in the movie world.