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Author Topic: A True Home Theater
Tom Lewandowski
Film Handler

Posts: 3
From: Northwood, OH
Registered: Sep 2005


 - posted 02-17-2006 08:44 AM      Profile for Tom Lewandowski   Author's Homepage   Email Tom Lewandowski   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
This short article appears in the March 2006 issue of Popular Science.

A True Home Theatre

Kiss the multiplex goodbye. First-run movies are coming to your living room
By Bilge Ebiri
Popular Science March 2006

Going to the movies today: You drive to the ginormoplex, fight for parking, empty your wallet on tickets and stale popcorn, and the brave the catcalls of 500 other "patrons" to watch an out-of-focus print of the latest blockbuster.

But image this: On the same day a film hits theatres, you pay $20 online, punch a code into a remote control, and enjoy a high-definition digital stream of that same blockbuster on your plasma TV - Legally. Sound too good to be true? It's not. Slowly but surely, the major studios are coming around to the idea of releasing films simultaneously across a variety of platforms. "I think everyone agrees it's inevitable," say Patrick Goldstein, a film columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

So why the early resistance? For starters, Hollywood claims it loses $3 billion a year to piracy, so the thought of sending high-quality digital films straight to people's homes has the industry scared to death. But that's just outdated paranoia. Digital-rights management (DRM), which keep media from being spread illegally, has come of age. The studios already rely on Microsoft DRM for online movie rental sites such as CinemaNow, Movielink and the new Starz Vongo.

"All the pieces are in place for this to work," say Joe Kane, a display consultant who advises technology companies such as Samsung. Indeed, the only hardware required is a hard drive, a stable operating system and a high definition decoder, all of which can be found in you TiVo or in the digital video recorder from you cable company.

But getting all the major players to agree on the universal standard may prove difficult. Many studios already have distribution or DRM agreements with competing services such as Apple and AOL. This means that early boxes might play only movies from cerain studios.

Then there are the theater owners, who promise to fight any technology that gives people an alternative to the cineplex. Last year, Disney CEO Rober Iger reportedly wanted to sell DVDs of Chicken Little at theaters showing the film. It didn't work. "If you try to sell DVDs in the lobby," Goldstein says, "the theaters aren't going to show you movie."

Well, some theaters. Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner, the duo behind multimedia company Broadcast.com, also own the Landmark Theatres chain, the production company 2929 Entertainment and the HDNet channel. In January they inaugurated a new series of films with the release of Bubble , a low-budget thriller directed by Steven Soderbergh. It was shown on HDNet Movies, screened at Landmark Theatres, and release on DVD, all at the same time.

Whether this vision of a convergent future comes to fruition doesn't depend on the success of Bubble . But if Cuban's experiment works, you can bet that the major studios will take notice - and that your living-room theater will arrive even sooner than they'd like.

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Daryl C. W. O'Shea
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From: Midland Ontario Canada (where Panavision & IMAX lenses come from)
Registered: Jun 2002


 - posted 02-17-2006 09:14 AM      Profile for Daryl C. W. O'Shea   Author's Homepage   Email Daryl C. W. O'Shea   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Tom Lewandowski
Sound too good to be true? It's not.
At least they got one thing right.

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Greg Mueller
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From: Port Gamble, WA
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 - posted 02-17-2006 09:29 AM      Profile for Greg Mueller   Author's Homepage   Email Greg Mueller   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I've had this conspiracy theory (probably a lot of others too) that the studios are trying to cut out the middle man (theaters) for a while now. All this push to digital is just paving the road for direct to consumer marketing by the bean counters in Hollywood.

(My conspiracy theory for the day) [Eek!]

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Jim Bedford
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From: Telluride, CO, USA (733 mi. WNW of Rockwall, TX but it seems much, much longer)
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 02-17-2006 09:59 AM      Profile for Jim Bedford   Author's Homepage   Email Jim Bedford   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Greg Mueller
the studios are trying to cut out the middle man (theaters) for a while now
Considering that theatres are the best marketing program for soon-to-be released DVD's this doesn't make sense (as if it has to dealing with distributors!) There is consistent evidence that there is a correlation between how well a film does at the theatre BO and how well it does as a DVD (recognizing that there are some exceptions to this.)

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Greg Mueller
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From: Port Gamble, WA
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 - posted 02-17-2006 10:07 AM      Profile for Greg Mueller   Author's Homepage   Email Greg Mueller   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Yah I agree, but it just seems like the studios are not caring more and more about theaters and film. All this digital BS and then schemes to sell DVDs in the lobby. You'd think they'd understand about killing the golden goose, but it seems just the opposite.

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Matt Fields
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From: Jackson, Ohio, United States
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 - posted 02-17-2006 10:26 AM      Profile for Matt Fields   Email Matt Fields   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
My 2 cents... technology (Internet, ect.) will kill the video store, not the movie theatre. - Matt

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Steve Scott
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From: Minneapolis, MN
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 - posted 02-17-2006 11:30 AM      Profile for Steve Scott   Email Steve Scott   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Popular Science is more like a buying guide for Sharper Image addicts. This is just more posturing by the home entertainment industry. Plenty of folks still like to go out of their homes and have fun, and chances are there are theatres near them that give a shit about fresh corn & focus (at least they didn't mention scratches).

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Lyle Romer
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 - posted 02-17-2006 01:14 PM      Profile for Lyle Romer   Email Lyle Romer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Matt Fields
My 2 cents... technology (Internet, ect.) will kill the video store, not the movie theatre. - Matt
Exactly! If studios allowed day and date PPV (even at $1 or $2 more) with video release, video stores would be gone in 2 seconds. If people wanted to buy a DVD they'd go to Best Buy or Amazon but nobody would go through the hassle of renting at Blockbuster if they could get the same thing with the remote.

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Dominic Espinosa
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 - posted 02-17-2006 01:38 PM      Profile for Dominic Espinosa   Email Dominic Espinosa   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Wouldn't that be something for the studios to go full cricle and go back to owning their exhibition arms again...Doesn't that sound familiar? Like, oh I don't know, back in the day when theaters were owned by the studios?
Direct-to-consumer using whatever proprietary technology sounds like it's just begging for a rehash of the law that broke theaters off from the distributors back in the day.

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Monte L Fullmer
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 - posted 02-17-2006 03:55 PM      Profile for Monte L Fullmer   Email Monte L Fullmer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
..just more money that the film companies can make with both venues: Theatre (especially if the film flops on the big screen), and home video (where the studio can recoup the money lost on that film that flopped and still come out ahead).

Just can't help when Fox showed the numbers for "Napoleon Dynamite" grossing almost 60 mil in the boxoffice, and 104mil in DVD sales....almost double figures there..

..then we have to think of the overseas market with both. Now, there is a gold mine waiting to happen for sure,

-Monte

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Bobby Henderson
"Ask me about Trajan."

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From: Lawton, OK, USA
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 - posted 02-17-2006 06:18 PM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The movie theaters will only stay around as long as the window between theatrical release and home video release is preserved. Collapse those windows and 95% of commercial movie theaters will close.

Sure, there's a decent number of dedicated film fans who have to see the movie on a commercial movie screen. There's also a decent number of people who go to the movies to get out of the house. However, there is not a great enough number of people in those two camps to keep most theaters in business. If a family is given a choice between paying more to see a movie in a theater versus renting a DVD of the same movie, they're going to rent the DVD nearly 100% of the time.

The big movie distributors do indeed want to cut the "middle man" (read: exhibitors) out of the business equation on selling movies to the public. However, the distributors fail to realize just what real movie theaters add to the movie-going experience. Theaters are what legitimize a movie as a real movie.

Without theaters, all the major Hollywood studios are reduced to a standing not even on par with a cable TV channel. They would only be production outfits making made for TV movies.

quote: Matt Fields
My 2 cents... technology (Internet, ect.) will kill the video store, not the movie theatre.
I agree with this, but only if release windows are preserved.

10 years from now, Internet connections of 100Mb/sec or faster will be common. And they'll continue to get faster. By 2020, I would expect Gigabit-speed Internet to be pretty common. Not only will that kind of thing kill the video store, but it will also kill traditional forms of television broadcasting. Such speeds will allow video standards well above 1080p to be possible. The possibilities of such widespread high bandwidth connection is really kind of scary.

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Jim Ziegler
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 - posted 02-17-2006 06:56 PM      Profile for Jim Ziegler   Email Jim Ziegler   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Despite Iger's rantings (remember, they guy isn't used to the movie business - he's still thinking in terms of TV), I don't see the studios tryint to release day and date with theatres, ever..

The reason is simple - the current system makes them more money. Under the current system - the release a movie and you buy a ticket , netting them $6 or $7. Then, a few months later, they release a DVD and you go and buy it, netting them another $15 for a total of around $21. If they run day and date, they, at most, can hope only for the $15. The current system allows them to sell the same product twice - the day and date system will give them one sale and one sale only.

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David Stambaugh
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 - posted 02-17-2006 08:10 PM      Profile for David Stambaugh   Author's Homepage   Email David Stambaugh   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The way I understand it Iger wants day-and-date releases on home video to be priced higher at their initial release. So the DVD might debut the same day as the theatrical release, with a list price of $39.95, instead of $29.95 under the current release system. The DVD price would then drop to "normal" later, probably in a few months or so. They'd come out ahead because they wouldn't have the extra expense of a separate marketing campaign for home video release like they do now. There would be a single big marketing blitz: "Now in theaters and on home video!".

That's the theory anyway.

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Bobby Henderson
"Ask me about Trajan."

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From: Lawton, OK, USA
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 - posted 02-17-2006 09:18 PM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I really believe Robert Iger and all those other day and date DVD release fans are pushing this shit only because entertainment stocks took a hit on flat DVD sales. Shrek 2 and The Incredibles had a bunch of unsold returns and all the short-term day traders had a little shit fit over it and made those stocks take a temporary dip in price. Even more surprisingly, DreamworksSKG wound up being folded into Paramount over this kind of thing.

Now, because the DVD format has matured and everyone isn't going crazy to buy every freaking disc that hits the shelves, the suits in parent corporations of movie studios are wanting to throw out an entire movie distribution model that has endured well for nearly 30 years. On top of that, they're happy to risk the fate of the theatrical side of the industry just over some shitty DVD sales.

Basically, it's all knuckle-headed logic on the part of these guys. They want to make rash moves that will be permanent across the movie industry in reaction to short term conditions. I think that's pretty stupid.

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Jim Ziegler
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 - posted 02-17-2006 10:21 PM      Profile for Jim Ziegler   Email Jim Ziegler   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: David Stambaugh
They'd come out ahead because they wouldn't have the extra expense of a separate marketing campaign for home video release like they do now.
You know, a good theatrical release is the best marketing campaign they can get (and unlike most marketing campaigns, a good release will make them money even before the first DVD is sold). Especially considering that most consumers view a direct to dvd film as being one that wasn't good enough to play in theatres.

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