Day and Date: How Much Would You Pay?

For many, going out to the movies is the perfect excuse to escape from the house. Get away from the kids. Unwind from work. Enjoy a date night. Whatever. Many people love the shared, communal experience of the local Cineplex. And, for the longest time, that has been the only way for law abiding, non-Hollywood types to watch a first room movie without waiting months for it to release to the home market whether on disc, on demand rental, or streaming.

But what if there were a way to watch movies at home, day-and-date when they were released in the theater? Would this be worth something to you? And if so, how much…?

A company called PRIMA Cinema has tried forging this path for the past few years, but it comes at an ultra-steep price. The hardware clocks in at $35,000 and each viewing sets you back $500. (I wrote about my experience watching Mission Impossible at home on the PRIMA which you can read here.)

And, while PRIMA content looked absolutely fantastic, $500 per viewing is pretty outrageous for the 99%-ers out there.

Sean Parker recently teased this concept with a new company called Screening Room. Parker planned on introducing hardware that would sell for $199 with movie “rentals” costing $50 per viewing. The whole thing set off an industry firestorm with studio heads, directors, and theater owners weighing in on both sides of the issue. There was a ton of news about this in industry pubs for a few weeks then it pretty much disappeared.

The technology is surely in place at this point to make day-and-date viewing at home a possibility, so how much would you be willing to pay for such a luxury?

First, it’s likely that accomplishing this would require some new piece of hardware. It would need advanced audio and video processing. It would also need a decent-sized hard drive to store content. Let’s imagine that the hardware is capable is displaying the movie in the highest quality that your system is capable of supporting; be that 4K UHD with HDR and Dolby Atmos/DTS:X audio, or 1080p with Dolby Digital. So kind of purpose-built, high-performance Ultra HD player with storage at a minimum.

Then it comes to the price of renting the movie. Remember, we’re talking about first-run, Hollywood movies, in your home, on the same day they come out at the theater, in pristine quality. Realistically, you have to factor in the cost of actually going to the movies; you can’t rightly expect that theater owners or movie studios would give away the cow. Especially when you could have multiple people over to watch the movie and only pay one rental fee.

What if there was a sliding scale for the rental price? Say the first weekend the movie was at a premium price, with a rental price that dropped each week following. Would that impact your desire to own this hardware and watch first-run films?

Also, what if renting the movie also gave you the digital, UltraViolet rights to own a copy of the movie when it was released to home video? Would that make you be willing to pay a higher price for a rental?

Finally, how often do you think you would rent a premium priced movie? Maybe once a week in summer, blockbuster season? Maybe once a month for a special event like a dinner party? Or rarely, once-in-a-blue-moon when some major release comes out like Episode VIII comes out.

Please take a moment and click here to complete my five question survey on this topic. I’ll share the results in a future post.

MatthewWeflen's picture

Given a typical movie ticket price of $10, I think $20 is just about the drop-dead barrier for first run, single-viewing rentals.

I have a 1080p projector and 106" screen, and often delay seeing movies to wait for the Blu-Ray, which I can often get for less than $20. I view it as spending $10 or less per "ticket" (I imagine most people view a movie with one other person). But it is true of course that repeat viewing is possible. I can't imagine going much above that for a single viewing with an average of 2 viewers.

I think the notion that home viewers would be cramming their houses with friends and relatives to take advantage of a single-viewing rental is ridiculous.

trashmanssd7's picture

I wouldn't spend more just to see a movie sooner in home. I'm used be an early adopter and had to have the latest greatest, but I have matured and grown and no longer waste money just to have something 6 month's or 2 years before everyone else.

schneiderbecket's picture

I would need Dolby Atmos and DTS:X (the digital stream from a HDMI connection would be fine, I don't think we will ever get the quality of sound that a current gen theater can) and Dolby Vision support HDR has happened and if it looks worse than a UHD BluRay what's the point? So basically it needs to be a video server just like the PRIMA but a little newer.

I'd also want the digital copy to be the same as the rental, if it was a more exclusive "theater release" at the same quality it would definitely add a lot of value.