Would You Pay $50 to Watch a Movie at Home?

Mihir Patkar 19-03-2016

From Batman vs. Superman to Captain America: Civil War, 2016 is packed with geeky movies that will make you want to go to the cinema 12 Great Geek Movies You Need to See in 2016 If you are both a geek and a lover of movies, then 2016 is going to be a great year for you. Because so many great movies are coming out over the next 12 months. Read More . But what if you didn’t have to? What if you could watch these new movies in the comfort of your home, just like how you stream Netflix videos?


Sean Parker, co-founder of Napster and first president of Facebook, has a new plan to bring newly released movies to your home through a streaming service called The Screening Room. It’s his solution to the slow death of cinemas Cinema Is Dying: How Movie Theaters Can Ensure Their Survival Movie theaters need to offer more than just a way of watching the latest films. They need to stop competing on "convenience" and start focusing on "experience." Here's how. Read More . The catch? You need to pony up $50 for each movie.

This raises a bunch of questions. Can Parker actually make this happen, especially as some filmmakers and theater owners are resisting the idea? Will your experience at home be diminished? And is $50 really worth it for a movie, considering that even the latest Blu-ray movies retail for $30 or so?

What’s The Screening Room All About?

Parker’s new venture, in association with partner Prem Akkaraju and represented by Hollywood attorney Skip Brittenham, is still in the nascent phase. There isn’t even an official website yet. Variety was the first to report news of this fledgling startup, and very few details are available so far.


Here’s what we do know at this early stage:

  • The Screening Room will stream brand new releases directly to your home for $50 per movie.
  • You’ll be “renting” the movie for a period of 48 hours. After that, you’ll need to pay $50 to watch it again. There are already online services to rent movies for a limited time, like Google Play Movies and YouTube rentals.
  • You’ll require a special set-top box, which has a one-time cost of $150.
  • Parker and his associates claim to have made this set-top box with enough anti-piracy measures to ensure it stops illegal transmissions or copies.

So far, there is no release date or indication of availability for The Screening Room. And naturally, the bigwigs of the entertainment industry have an opinion about it.

Who’s For It, Who’s Against It

This isn’t the first attempt at bringing newly released movies to people’s homes. Back in 2011, DirecTV tried this through satellite services but failed to make a dent. It was opposed by several Hollywood executives, directors, and industry groups. But things are a little different this time.


One of the biggest detractors of DirecTV was filmmaker Peter Jackson, who made the The Lord Of The Rings movies. He was against DirecTV partly for its lack of piracy controls and also because it only brought movies eight weeks after their release. But this time, Jackson loves the idea of The Screening Room, convinced by its anti-piracy technology and overall package. Joining him in the For camp are directors Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, and J.J. Abrams, who have all backed the new service by investing in it.


The move makes a lot of sense, since streaming media options lower piracy rates The End of Ownership: Netflix, Spotify, and The Streaming Generation Streaming media is convenient, but you're giving up something important: ownership of digital media. Read More . Plus, it enables studios to tap into audiences who would not visit the theater otherwise, thus opening up a new revenue stream.

This is why The Screening Room reps have been courting studio executives to actively collaborate with the new service. And they’ve been making just as many trips to talk to the startup’s biggest detractors: theater owners.


The Art House Convergence (AHC) and the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) represent big hurdles for The Screening Room. However, AMC Theaters, the world’s largest cinema house chain, has already expressed some interest, thanks to the startup working actively with them and claiming that $20 out of every $50 purchase would be fed into the existing distributor-exhibitor infrastructure.


Some filmmakers have also come out against The Screening Room, claiming that the big screen is central to the cinematic experience. Christopher Nolan, James Cameron, and Jon Landau have expressed their concerns about the new service and claimed that from “both a creative and financial standpoint”, a theatrical release is critical to the film industry.

The Screening Room vs. Movie Theaters

For consumers, the big question is whether $50 (over and above the $150 cost of the set-top box) is worth the price for watching a movie at home. It seems like a lot of money compared to the average $8 ticket price in the U.S.


However, let’s look at the math a little more closely. Take a typical family of four. That’s four $8 tickets, totaling $32. According to Yahoo, a large bucket of popcorn averages to $8.15. A large soda costs about $6, and a packet of M&Ms costs $4.25. Add in the cost of gas or an Uber ride to and from the theater and our family is facing a lot more than $50 for a trip to the movies.


Plus, that’s a one-time watch only, while you get 48 hours of play time on The Screening Room. And if you have a nice home theater setup How to Set Up a Projection-Based Home Theater, Step by Step Watch movies on the big screen, at home, with the perfect home cinema set up for any budget. Nothing beats the big screen experience for movies or gaming, but home theater is an expensive hobby... Read More and call a few friends over, watching movies at home through The Screening Room would be a much cheaper proposition.

On the other hand, Nolan and Cameron do have a point about the cinematic experience. Going to the movies is also a social event for many people. And then there are some 3D movies that you must see on the big screen 7 Incredible 3D Movies Actually Worth Seeing In 3D There are too many movies where the 3D adds nothing to the overall experience. However, when done properly, 3D has the potential to blow you away. The following movies are prime examples. Read More .

Who Would Want to Pay?

All of this brings us to the big point: Who would want to pay $50 for a service like The Screening Room. Well, I think there are quite a few scenarios where it’s useful.


Could It Actually Happen?

Right now, the jury is still out on whether The Screening Room is a doomed concept or a revolution waiting to happen. Both sides seem to want to protect their interests.


The current ecosystem of studios, distributors, and exhibitors is strong and extremely profitable, so multiple analysts claim that neither side will want to rock the boat too hard.

However, from a consumer perspective, The Screening Room makes perfect sense. As Arianna Huffington says in Variety, “Often people who are making a lot of money now don’t see why they need to adjust. They refuse to recognize how the world is changing.”

Would You Pay $50?

So, now you know what The Screening Room is all about, here’s the big question… Would you pay $50 to watch a new movie on release day instead of heading to the theater?

To help you mentally calculate whether it could ever be worth it, work out how much you spend on going to the movies (all expenses included) these days. And then let us know what conclusions you draw in the comments below!

Image Credits: Friends watching a movie by Air Images via Shutterstock, Christian Collins / Flickr, gsloan / Flickr, ginny / Flickr, Jereme Rauckman / Flickr

Related topics: Home Theater, Media Streaming.

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  1. Rik
    August 6, 2017 at 12:58 am

    I personally think if they offer the screening room in the near future , I will have the privilege to watch it with my wife since she never comes to the movie theater with me cause of our newborn twins ....

  2. dub
    January 27, 2017 at 3:24 am

    150 for the box is OK. You pay more than that for most good AV components anyway. 50 for the movie is a little more expensive than me taking the kids to the movies which is usually 30 - 45 for tickets depending on the theater and time. To ha e the option to do it from home would be nice especially if we could watch it more than once in that 48hrs. I would probably get this.

  3. Jelly
    December 19, 2016 at 3:57 am

    Nope. It costs $38 AUD for us as a couple to see it at the cinema. As much as it is more convenient to watch it at home, the cinema has a much bigger screen and better sound so the quality is a lot higher. Yes you can take your own snacks to the cinema and even if you watch it at home, you still have to actually buy your snacks from the supermarket.
    If the movie was $30 AUD to watch at home, yes I would pay that and would use the service regularly.

  4. Bob Dillon
    May 20, 2016 at 11:57 pm

    Wait a month and its online for free (90% of the garbage in theaters now it's worth spending $5 to see), wait 2 months and it will be in Redbox, Google Play, Amazon Prime, etc.

    No way would I or anyone I know spend $150 for a set-top box and then $50 per movie... We don't have the time to spend watching movies; So the set-top box would be used once every couple months.

    Who calculates the cost of snacks when going to the Theater? That's why Purses were invented for, to sneaking beer and candie into the theater... just load up the girlfriend/wifes purse and you are good to go...

    And of course these directors/producers are behind this... if they can just get 1000 mentally challenged people to fork over $50 for 1 movie; that $50,000.

  5. Leah
    April 4, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    It would not be worth it for me. If I had a big family who went to the movies all the time then it could be worth it. But, you know, part of the experience is actually going to the movies.

  6. Anonymous
    March 22, 2016 at 7:55 am

    I Feel Most HOLLYWOOD Productions Are Just On Life Support Since 911.

    Maybe It Is Just Me.


    Thank GOD For TV Comedy Shows Like TBBT - No Decline In Quality Since The Good Old Days, Whatsoever.


  7. TravisB
    March 21, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    Am I able to charge people for watching it in my home theater?

  8. Suleiman
    March 21, 2016 at 1:47 pm

    Oh, have you not heard?!.... Kodi is the word! ....Kodi ! Kodi ! .....Kodi is the word ! :) $50?!! Was movies discovered today. Today movie coasts $20 and Netflix banned VPN . Just when i thought i was out they pull me back in (Al Pacino)....so i got Kodi. Why you may ask and the sweet answer is because I can and i don't like greedy businesses.

    • Randall
      February 10, 2017 at 9:00 pm

      Stealing is still wrong.... I have Kodi and love it as well, but I have no issue using it for the completely legal purpose it was intended. Kodi themselves implore people to not use it for illegal activities because it gives the hardworking people at Kodi a black eye when people post that you can get illegal stuff and make it sound like it's as easy as running an app.

      If you want to use Kodi to watch stuff illegally, then more power to you... Just don't spread that as a "way around the system" when it's really piracy pure and simple.

      As to the topic at hand, it's pretty much a wash for me to pay $50 vs going to the theater after all totals are included. For some movies, I would gladly take the kids and head to the theater. For others, I send the kids to bed, watch with the wife at home, and spend less overall than going and paying for a sitter to watch the kids.

  9. Colin
    March 21, 2016 at 12:17 am

    You get 48 hrs to watch the movie, but I have read on other sites that it is for one time. You can't watch it again( can't replay the movie). For families, or groups of friends it might be okay, but watching a movie at home is not the same as at a movie theater, so costs cannot be compared exactly.

  10. TomSJr
    March 20, 2016 at 10:59 pm

    Uh, NO. Again, these people cater to the RICH who can actually pay this ridiculous price. I am a very patient person who would rather RENT the movie when it comes out.

  11. Onlinejimk
    March 20, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    As in most things, many prefer a choice, and that's what seems to be the Showroom's biggest perk.

    Purists go to the theatre for the iMax/big screen event; movie fans gather for a home experience, with all the benefits while spreading the cost.

    To me, is it any different than how we enjoy the superbowl? Add some commercials to the "Showroom" option to provide revenue tit the theatres to keep that option viable.

    Sounds like a "win-win" whose time has come!

  12. Anonymous
    March 19, 2016 at 9:46 pm

    No Way!
    The people that came up with this are insane.
    Most of the crap they churn out I wouldn't pay $5 to watch, at home or anywhere else.
    Hollywood cranks out nothing but drivel.
    For instance, I downloaded a rip of the movie Chappie, after watching it I feel I was the one that was ripped off. There's an hour and a half of my life I'll never get back. Where's my compensation?
    The last time I went to an actual theater I walked out about half way through.The movie was Pitch Black and again, where's my compensation?
    Hollywood is full of spoiled little rich kids who think they can produce, or direct, or act, when in fact they don't have an original idea in their heads.
    Take Johnny Depp for instance, big spoiled rich kid who can't do anything in any movie except mimic Charlie Chaplin. Seriously, watch any movie of his and think, Charlie Chaplin and you'll see what I mean.
    Besides all that, what does Redbox cost, like $1? There's nothing Hollywood can crank out that isn't worth waiting a week or to and renting for $1, and most of the time even that is a rip off.
    $50, that's hilarious. Sad thing is they take themselves seriously and think people will pay that for the crap they spew out.
    Gotta laugh at the whole idea.

  13. Anonymous
    March 19, 2016 at 9:28 pm

    I can see the appeal for families as $50 (or £35) would be cheaper than taking mum, dad and the kids to the flicks.

    However, for couples or singles it would not be worth the extra cost.

    It's almost double the cost of paying for two tickets!

    Cinema tickets have to take into account the cost of screening the film, the staff, distribution and ta etc.... However, I pay for the electric and TV set in my house so where is the justification in the $50 for watching a movie in my own home?

    $20 (£15) would be a better figure, i think.

    THere is still scope for film makers to make their money and there is more chance of somebody wanting to watch the film more than once before it comes out of DVD or normal TV.

    The idea is sound, but the price is just greedy.

  14. Dennis
    March 19, 2016 at 9:15 pm

    I definitely would. With a familly of five, it would be worth it.

  15. hollywoodhasenoughmoney
    March 19, 2016 at 7:13 pm

    No, ill wait till the scene rips it and uploads it to the web.