Recently, the founder of Napster, Sean Parker proposed a revolutionary idea: a set-top box called 'Screening Room' where viewers can pay to watch a movie as soon as it's released. Ignoring it's $50 watch it once in any 48-hour period, and a settop box price tag of $150, it is worth considering this novel idea.
Sean Parker is no ordinary man. His committment to shaking the entertainment industry is ledendry [See wikipedia]. Today, Tidal, Apple Music, Deezer and Spotify, and indeed ordinary folks are benefitting from his resolve to disrupting the status quo.
It comes as no surprise that major studios like Universal, Fox and Sony are expressing "serious interest" in Screening Room. This service might become a mega revolution in the cinema experience, considering how several factors are making it possible for a fruitition of this idea.
To begin with, there is a large and growing middle class which is fuelling access to better, sharper, and higher-quality 50+-inch 4K UHDTV devices with Samsung and LG leading the way. Included in this new generation of appliances are a crop of powerful surround systems like the [Monitor Audio R90HT1] and [SONY's BDV-N7100W] which are able to render crisp, cinema-grade sounds in the comfort of any home; and for under €1000. To top it all, internet speeds (2G, 3G, 4G, LTE, Fibre-optics) have quadruppled their speeds within the last 4 years and have bolstered the bandwidth capabilities of small streaming devices.
In addition to these changes, the movie-going experience has sunk to a terrible low, often due to their high street locations and it's residual challenges: parking costs, fuel costs, movie ticket costs, refreshment costs, uncomfortable seats, annoying people and seating with no care for personal space(s). A night out to the movies is nowadays more expensive than it was about ten years ago.
If movies are shot on 4K and projected in cinema halls at 2K|4K, then it makes sense to enjoy movie releases in the comfort of your home, on a 4K ULED / OLED smart television, without all the hassles of going to the cinema.
Notwithstanding, there are some studios (Disney, Warner Bros.) and filmakers (Christopher Nolan and James Cameron) who are against this idea. It is interesting, in the sense that the calibre of such studios and their projects are very often large format movies. Both Disney's Star Wars: The force awakens and Christopher Nolan's 70mm shot Interstellar are powerful cinema releases and primarily made for the cinema setting (larger screens, sublime experience, expansive surround sound).
Technology is enabling people to have more choices and as such, a part of the movie-going audience will be happy paying for Streaming Room or other such home releases; while the other consumers will prefer to go to the cinemas.
In order for cinemas to stay relevant and to serve a new and quality-demanding public, the cinema experience will metamorphosise into a PREMIUM technology fueled experience (Active 3D, IMAX 3D, 8K, UltraWIDE...and so forth). Furthermore, the number of seats in theatres will diminish and will be more flexible or spaced-out to better cater to "cliques" (couples, families, buddies, loner and students). When this process emerges and becomes a standard, the general public will also notice some aesthetic categorisation of movies. For example: Comedies and Dramas may be shot on 4K and released on home cinema streaming systems like Streaming Room, whilst Action and Sci-Fi will be shot on IMAX / 70MM formats and released in IMAX 3D in a cinema hall.
The future of cinema looks bright and the continued reshaping of its diverse offering(s) being dreamed up in Hollywood, Bollywood or Nollywood will appeal to all types of consumers.
In the future, there is a high probability that home and cinema offerings will be launched concurrently and the quality of experience(s) will be near-similar; a duality of some sorts. This is absolutely perfect. Viva cinema!
About the author: Sal Souza is an International Designer (Cinema, Graphic, Visual, Multimedia, Broadcast Media, Industrial, User Interaction, User Experience) and IT Consultant with expertise in New Media, Web 3.0, IPTV, DTV, Media Production, Product Prototyping, Desktop Software, Interactivity, Mobile Applications, Traditional Knowledge, Geographical Indications and Cultural Goods. He lives and works in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Follow me on [@sldsouza]