A civil war is brewing in Hollywood, as prolific directors disagree over whether to give consumers the option of watching new-release movies in their homes rather than at the theater.
According to Variety, James Cameron and Christopher Nolan have come out against the new start-up Screening Room, which would offer customers the option of renting films the same day they open in theaters. These rentals would last 48 hours and would cost $50. Speaking for himself and Cameron, Avatar producer Jon Landau argued that Screening Room would harm the sanctity of the theatrical experience.
"For us, from both a creative and financial standpoint, it is essential for movies to be offered exclusively in theaters for their initial release," he said in a statement. "We don’t understand why the industry would want to provide audiences an incentive to skip the best form to experience the art that we work so hard to create.”
The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan agreed with this sentiment, saying that it would be difficult to express the importance of preserving the theatrical presentation more eloquently than Landau did. The National Association of Theatre Owners recently released a statement arguing that any changes of this kind should be negotiated between theaters and studios rather than by a third party, although they did not reference Screening Room by name.
On the other hand, Screening Room has the backing of Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Martin Scorsese, Taylor Hackford, Frank Marshall and J.J. Abrams, as we previously reported. They assert that Screening Room would simply be targeting a demographic that does not normally go to the movies very often, i.e. large families for whom the cinema is a highly expensive venture.
“Screening Room will expand the audience for a movie – not shift it from cinema to living room,” Jackson said in a statement. “It does not play off studio against theater owner. Instead it respects both, and is structured to support the long term health of both exhibitors and distributors – resulting in greater sustainability for the wider film industry itself.”
AMC is reportedly in talks with Screening Room and is close to a deal.