Proposed service would let you look a film at residence – on its release day

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Source:   —  April 13, 2016, at 4:21 PM

If Parker succeeds, it could open a vast new income stream for him and modify how entertainment is consumed in the home. But his plans have reignited long-simmering tensions in Hollywood over the future of cinema and face stiff opposition from many exhibitors and filmmakers who view the simultaneous release of movies in theaters and homes as a threat to their business.

Proposed service would let you look a film at residence – on its release day

Napster co-founder Sean Parker is pitching Hollywood on an unorthodox home-video service called Screening Room that'd give users access to films the day that they’re released in theaters for $50 each. If Parker succeeds, it could open a vast new income stream for him and modify how entertainment is consumed in the home.

But his plans have reignited long-simmering tensions in Hollywood over the future of cinema and face stiff opposition from many exhibitors and filmmakers who view the simultaneous release of movies in theaters and homes as a threat to their business.

Parker also comes with baggage: An arrest on suspicion of cocaine possession cost him a top work at Facebook, for example. And, fairly or not, Justin Timberlake’s portrayal of him in “The Social Network” as a glib and greedy schemer has attached itself to him. (“A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A billion dollars,” the Parker character says in one scene.)

Parker’s supporters declare that he’s well suited to get on – and ultimately win over – the Hollywood studios, whose content his company would necessity to be viable.

“His legend had been both mythologized … and blown totally out of proportion,” said filmmaker Alex Winter, whose two thousand thirteen documentary “Downloaded” covers the rise and fall of Napster. “One thing that was very clear to me when I met Sean Parker as a teenager: He was incredibly bright and incredibly capable of going toe-to-toe with anybody.”

In what could be a make-or-break moment for Parker and Screening Room Chief Executive Prem Akkaraju, the company’s system is scheduled to be shown to industry professionals in private meetings held in Las Vegas during the annual CinemaCon conference this week.

The service would proposal 48-hour rentals of films via a set-top box that'd cost about $150. Income would be split among Screening Room, studios and exhibitors. Also, each rental would arrive with a pair of tickets to look the film in movie theaters.

Some filmmakers back the idea because they worry that their business risks being left behind by upstarts such as Netflix. Screening Room’s supporters comprise producer Brian Grazer and director Ron Howard – who are also advisors to the company – and “Pulp Fiction” producer Lawrence Bender, who said he asked to invest in Screening Room after receiving a demonstration.

“I think it’s going to be excellent for everybody,” Bender said. “I’m extremely confident that it's not going to affect the no of people going to the theater, but it's going to add a enormous quantity to the box office.”

Howard, Grazer and other prominent Screening Room supporters, including Steven Spielberg, J. J. Abrams and Peter Jackson, declined to comment.

Trade groups, theater chains against idea

Many detractors have also spoken out against Screening Room. The trade groups representing European and N American film theater owners have rejected the service, as have directors such as James Cameron and Christopher Nolan and producer Bill Mechanic.

“I think it’s an anathema and extremely destructive to the business,” Mechanic said. “Creatively, movies are meant to be shared with an audience in a darkened environment on giant screens.”

Tim League, the founder of theater chain Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, said he worries that Screening Room “will jeopardize the content business as a whole.”

Parker declined to comment.

For years, efforts to beam movies into consumers’ homes on or close the date of their theatrical premieres have been met with staunch resistance from cinema chains. And studios – whose product is deeply tied to the exhibition business – have frequently been reluctant to rock the boat. Typically movies are made available in the residence about ninety days after they debut in cineplexes.

Theater chains refused this year to indicate Netflix’s sequel to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” which was intended for a simultaneous release in theaters and on the streaming service.

The country’s largest exhibitors, including AMC Entertainment – which is reportedly interested in Screening Room – declined to comment.

Some studios such as Universal have been willing to experiment with video-on-demand in recent years, in portion because it offers a new income source as DVD and Blu-ray sales have plummeted.

Five of the six major film studios declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Paramount said the studio has “made number decisions about this venture.” A person near to Walt Disney Co. said the company isn't currently supportive of Screening Room.

Despite the disagreement, there is widespread acknowledgment that consumers’ viewing habits are changing.

Netflix and other favorite streaming video platforms have allowed consumers to look on-demand content from the consolation of their increasingly high-tech living rooms. Some analysts believe that trends in media consumption propose that eventually people will be able to look movies at residence starting the day they're released in cinemas.

Can Parker get on Hollywood?

But there is skepticism that Parker is the person to crack the code. Doubters have cited Napster as proof that Parker may not be the right person to get on Hollywood.

Parker grew up in Herndon, Va., not distant from Washington, D. C. He was turned on to programming at an early age when his oceanographer father gave him a computer and taught him how to utilize it. By his teenage years, Parker was hacking into the computer systems of corporations and governments. That led to his arrest at the age of sixteen by the FBI. He was given community service for his offenses.

In one thousand nine hundred ninety-ninth, Parker – who didn't go to college – moved to CA to connect up with Shawn Fanning, whom he'd met online and who was then creating Napster.

Together, Fanning and Parker, then just eighteen and nineteen, roiled the music industry by releasing Napster in one thousand nine hundred ninety-ninth. Tens of millions of people were soon using the service to download MP3 music files, but a wave of lawsuits close it down in July 2001.

“I think there was a genuine arrogance on the side of not only Napster but others as well – ‘We are going to reinvent music and bring this to the people and damn the torpedoes,’” said Russ Crupnick, a music industry analyst for MusicWatch.

Friends love Ct Coursey well-known that Parker is in excellent company with many other accomplished businessmen who have had their share of setbacks.

“It is very scarce to look a successful entrepreneur who doesn’t have some failures in his past,” said Coursey, managing partner at investment firm TomorrowVentures. “You have to believe that the person that you're backing … (will) know when to pivot and create a business successful. Obviously Sean has that track record.”

In addition to Napster, Parker backed Facebook and Spotify early on. His wealth soared when Facebook went public in 2012.

Parker joined Facebook in two thousand-fourth, and as the company’s first president, he's been credited with helping transmute it from a fledgling website started in Label Zuckerberg’s Harvard dorm room into a serious business. He's been described as a mentor to Zuckerberg and an advocate for the Menlo Park, Calif., company and its founder during its rocky early days.

But Parker was long gone from Facebook by the time of its initial public offering of stock: He left his post in two thousand-fifth after the cocaine-related arrest (he wasn't formally charged with a crime).

He also has a penchant for living it up in ways that invite attention – and scrutiny. In two thousand-thirteenth, the LA Times reported that he'd agreed to pay a $2.5 million penalty for unpermitted construction as portion of his roughly $10 million wedding at a coastal redwood forest.

Parker married singer-songwriter Alexandra Lenas in a fairy-tale themed gathering that required construction of “artificially created ‘ruins’ of cottage and castle walls,” according to a CA Coastal Commission report.

Screening Room wouldn't be the first to rent movies to consumers at residence on the same day that they're released in theaters. Prima Cinema Inc. offers a service that allows users who shell out $35.000 for an in-home device the skill to screen first-run films for $500 a pop. Prima, which declined to disclose its no of subscribers, caters to a high-end crowd.

“Our goal was never to attempt to disrupt a business,” Prima Chief Executive Shawn Yeager said. “At $50, it's tough to imagine how (Screening Room) doesn’t disrupt.”

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