Exhibitors are up in arms. Movie studios are licking their chops. Couch potatoes are caught in the middle.
News that several movie studios are teaming up to offer fresher pay-per-view rentals for $30 a pop before they hit retail sent investors scrambling to sort the winners from the losers.
Introducing a new release window -- 60 days after a film's theatrical debut, but weeks if not months before the DVD release -- is intriguing at first. A family or even a group of friends can save some serious money over a night at the movies by pooling together $30 to catch it with the creature comforts of home.
The service even has a killer name: Home Premiere. I can already see the ads showing circling spotlights on a front lawn, stretch limos, and a red carpet rolling out toward a suburban home.
This could be a threat to the local multiplex. Home Premiere could be a huge opportunity for filmmakers to generate a new revenue stream.
It won't be either, though. This thing is going to be a bigger flop than Mars Needs Moms.
Let me count the ways.
1. Home Premiere is a lousy value proposition
Most reports are pitting the premium pay-per-view experience to a night at the movies. A couple or a family of four can easily spend more than $30 between movie tickets, parking, and concessions.
Not so fast.
These aren't first-run movies. Outside of the rare Avatar-esque blockbusters with legs, no one cares about a movie weeks after its theatrical debut. Home Premiere's window is closer to the second-run cinemas showing older films for a buck or two. These dollar cinemas tend to be in strip malls with ample free parking. Even if you go hot-dog wild on the concessions, the Bradfords -- yes, I'm digging deep for an Eight Is Enough reference -- will probably be fine for less than $30.
Besides, why are we including concessions in the value analysis? It's not as if your TV is going to spit out Junior Mints and fresh popcorn for free.
2. There won't be a lot of movie-specific marketing
Movie studios really only spend to promote a film twice. They'll have massive ad campaigns and send stars on the talk show circuit leading up to the big-screen premiere, then they'll follow that up with a more modest television campaign for the more prolific DVD releases.
You've never seen a studio market a film's dollar-cinema tenure, have you? Studios have no problem leaving Netflix
"We underestimated the impact that the delay would have on demand," Coinstar CEO Paul Davis lamented during his company's poorly received holiday quarter.
What do a 60-day-old flick and an empty honeycomb have in common? No buzz.
3. Pirates of the Caribbean loveseat
Paramount parent Viacom
It's a logical stance, though I've never been offered anything other than first-run pirated discs in Chinatown. Is there really a market for DVDs so close to the legal release when optical disc prices are cheap and come packed with special features?
Either way, Tinseltown is a place of Nervous Nellies. Once Viacom can say "I told you so" after the first Home Premiere rip, rival nail-biting studios will follow.
4. Exhibitors have some advantages
You may enjoy the luxury of kicking off your slippers as you ease into your recliner, the ability to pause a flick for bathroom breaks or important incoming calls, and having your kitchen at your gut's beck and call.
There's also no lack of disdain for loud multiplex talkers, folks giving away plot points, and teens peacocking to impress other juveniles at the corner multiplex.
However, there's still something to be said for the social movie-going experience. I'd rather watch a horror or action flick in a crowded theater than a lifeless setting. There aren't too many people who have a commercial-grade peanut oil popcorn popper with warm melted butter at the ready.
There's also the quality of premium exhibitions. Do you think you can recreate IMAX's
Fade to black
This isn't the dumbest premium celluloid delivery experience that has been tossed out there in recent months.
The Wall Street Journal wrote about Prima Cinema back in December, a service backed by the venture capital arms of Best Buy and Comcast's
Prima requires the initial purchase of a $20,000 digital-delivery system, followed by $500 for every first-run home screening. It's obviously a niche product for eccentric multimillionaires -- and little else.
C'mon, Hollywood. You can come stronger and more mass market than that. The $30 price point will only work on first-run flicks. The 60-day window is only going to work if the ransom is closer to $10.
Either way, we've seen this before. Home Premiere and Prima Cinema? Dumb and Dumber.
Would you pay $30 for a pay-per-view of a film 60 days after it hits theaters? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.