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One of the biggest surprises about Sean Parker’s proposed $50 at-home movie service is the cadre of top filmmakers who are supporting the venture, including J.J. Abrams and Peter Jackson.
Now, the other side is lining up.
On Wednesday, James Cameron and his producing partner Jon Landau said that making movies available on the same day they hit theaters — via Parker and Prem Akkaraju’s the Screening Room — would be “disastrous” for theater owners and the film business. Christopher Nolan followed suit later in the day. “It would be hard to express the great importance of exclusive theatrical presentation to our industry more compellingly than Jon Landau and James Cameron did,” Nolan said in a statement.
And on Thursday, both Roland Emmerich and Brett Ratner voiced their objections.
In 2011, all five men were among a long list of filmmakers and producers who signed a letter opposing a short-lived experiment by four Hollywood studios to make titles available on DirecTV 60 days after they first opened in theaters for $29.99.
“I said it in 2011 and it’s even more true now, I’m a firm believer in the importance of protecting the theatrical window,” said Ratner. “The home market is important, too, but it must be in its proper sequence. This alternate form of distribution would destroy the exclusive theatrical window which is one of the crucial elements — along with the best possible presentation, the social experience, and the sense of a unique event theatrical creates — that drives the value of the entire distribution chain. There may be certain movies that will lend themselves to this platform, but I am still a firm believer, and as a moviegoing fan will always support the traditional theatrical experience.”
Jackson was a signatory of the 2011 letter as well, but has had a change of heart. This past weekend, the filmmaker said the Screening Room is different in that it proposes to share revenue with theaters, and that it also aims to capture consumers who don’t go to the movies.
Landau and Cameron, however, say it would fundamentally change viewing habits. “I’m surprised this is something that the industry in general would want to support, because it is so contradictory to what we try to create for moviegoers and audiences around the world — which is that very special and unique communal experience where the lights go down and you share an experience with others,” Landau told The Hollywood Reporter.
“If this happens, I personally think it would be disastrous for theaters. And if they can’t survive, then we will have no venue,” said Landau, who spoke on behalf of himself and Cameron. “Theaters struggle as it is. We can’t succeed without content being exclusive in theaters for a certain amount of time. Getting people out of their homes is already a challenge.”
Later on Thursday, M. Night Shyamalan tweeted that he “is completely against the Screening Room. Film is one of our last communal art forms.” In another tweet he added, “once filmmakers and theater owners open the door to this idea, there is no going back. The movie going experience is something to fight for!”
March 17, 4 p.m. Updated.
March 17, 5:28 p.m. Updated.
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