And you think it’s only bad for TV?

Consider the conundrum that cable is presenting to the motion picture theater industry. Comcast COO Stephen Burke is talking with studios about showing movies on cable on the same day as they open in theaters. In the words of the immortal Frank Barone, “Holy Crap!”

According to the LA Times, this has not gone over very well with theater owners (who knew?). Two of the biggest companies, Regal and National, say they would refuse to show films that opened this way.

Stephen Burke…told an audience at an industry conference this week that several studios were “very interested” in the idea of allowing cable providers to charge $29.95 to $49.95 to watch an opening-day movie at home. He said it would increase studio revenues rather than cannibalize them, if handled properly.

…They (exhibitors) say simultaneous releases would erode the “magic” of the moviegoing experience, making film and television programming look the same.

And by siphoning business from the box office, they say, simultaneous releases would limit consumer choice by jeopardizing neighborhood theaters’ viability.

They also say that only Comcast would win in such a scenario, but Burke argues that it would give people more choices.

“I’m sure some movie theaters won’t like the added competition,” he said. “But at the end of the day, it’s about giving consumers what they want. Anybody who doesn’t do that is going to get left behind.”

This is the same Stephen Burke that argues against à la carte packaging for viewers, so his concern for us, while touching, is somewhat bullshitish.

This idea may not have a snowball’s chance right now, but as people drift more and more to the home theater environments offered by HD and big screens, it’ll be increasingly hard for the studios to resist. They’re arguing, of course, the same argument that the record industry has been making, that a $50 pay-per-view with 10 people attending is a big net loss for the studios.

What’s missing in this story is any feedback from regular folks. You know the ones I’m talking about — the people who experience this “magic” by paying $15 for the right to watch 20 minutes of commercials and 10 minutes of trailers while eating $20 worth of snacks that really cost about a buck. I wonder what they think about all of this?


  1. Oh, my God. What I wouldn’t have given for this choice last summer. I looked forward to seeing The Omen for weeks. I was there on opening night. Between tickets for me and a friend, two bottles of water and one bucket of popcorn, which we split, I paid $37 and — much more annoyingly — sacrificed almost 40 minutes of my one and only life to commercials, teasers, and trailers…for what? For the privilege of trying desperately to hear the movie over the noise created by the toddler and five-year-old whose parents were too goshdamned lazy and cheap to hire a babysitter.

    Movies for iPod download usually cost $9.99. I’d pay double without blinking to get movies on opening night.

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