CinemaCon: J.J. Abrams Explains His Support of Controversial Home Movie Service

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J.J. Abrams

"We are in a moment of disruption," Abrams tells THR. "I love nothing more than going to the movies. That's the way it has to be. I also know I'm the father of three kids and I haven't been at a theater on opening night [with them] in probably 12 years."

J.J. Abrams has a message for theater owners: Don't be fearful.

Monday night, Abrams reaffirmed his support of Sean Parker's controversial Screening Room moments before appearing at the annual convention of exhibitors in Las Vegas to receive CinemaCon's Showman of the Year award during the opening-night ceremonies and plug Paramount's Star Trek Beyond, which he's producing.

When taking the stage, Abrams told the crowd: “There’s nothing better than going to the movies and there never will be. I’m open to all good ideas. In this age of piracy we must be thoughtful partners." He added, "we must do that without fear.”

The proposal to collapse theatrical windows is already becoming a hot topic this week at CinemaCon. Representatives of the plan to make new movies available at home for $50 are unofficially at the convention taking meetings in hopes of convincing wary cinema operators why the plan won't jeopardize their business.

Abrams insisted he likes the Screening Room precisely because it proposes sharing revenue with exhibitors at a time when many consumers, including younger demos, are seeking their entertainment elsewhere.

"I love nothing more than going to the movies. That's the way it has to be. I also know I'm the father of three kids and I haven't been at a theater on opening night [with them] in probably 12 years," Abrams told The Hollywood Reporter before taking part in Paramount's presentation. (Two of his children are teenagers; the third is younger.)

"That's not to say that this is why it [the Screening Room] speaks to me. But I see what's happening, whether people like it or not, and the way things are evolving with piracy and digital technology. And in this moment, I think it's important to be open to all avenues that allow everyone, including and especially exhibitors, to be at the table and a part of that discussion. That's, to me, the thing that makes Screening Room exciting," he continued.

So far, though, most theater owners are a long way from embracing the proposal.

Abrams declined to say whether he was a shareholder in the Screening Room. He's among numerous top filmmakers and producers, including Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, who are backing Parker's and music executive Prem Akkaraju's latest venture.

To be able to rent a movie for $50 on the same day that it hits theaters, a consumer would first pay $150 for an encrypted set-top box.

Jackson said he supports the Screening Room because it would capture those who don't go to the cinema anymore. Abrams agreed with that.

"We have to be mindful and work together. I like the Screening Room because it allows everyone to be at the table to figure out ways to evolve," he said. "The important thing to do is listen to exhibitors and listen to the Screening Room people and that's what I'm doing right now.

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