Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Theatres get Screwed Again

How sad.

Many of you may remember a few months ago I wrote a post on how Disney had made the decision to shorten the theatrical run of Alice in Wonderland in order to get DVD/Blu Ray sales to begin earlier. Now it appears that the MPAA is pushing to do away with the whole 'exclusivity period' all together. With a new FCC ruling which will allow the studios to steam their films to homes ahead of the DVD release.

Normally when a film is released, studios will negotiate an exclusivity agreement with theatres, which gives the theatres the exclusive right to show the studio's film and prevents the studio from releasing the film to the home audience for a certain period of time. Over the years, studios have made attempts to shorten the exclusivity period that theatres have in order to try and get DVD sales, etc. to occur earlier. Now it appears that the studios will have their way.

This past week, the FCC made a ruling allowing the MPAA to distribute films via an encrypted cable or satellite connection to home audiences. What is disturbing for theatres (and theatre lovers) is the notion that this new home delivery option will be occurring prior to the DVD/ Blu Ray releases. Exactly, how much before the end of the exclusivity period was not spelled out in the ruling. But it pretty well sounds like they might be doing this new home release option simultaneously with the theatrical release.

Although, this new home delivery option does allow people who have great difficulties in getting out to the theatre to see the latest films, such a move will greatly undermine the theatres. Theatres normally don't profit off of a film until a number of weeks after the release of the film, so if people have the option to simply stay home, they may opt to do so, and thus hurt the theatres in the process. I'm thinking particularly of families, which go to the theatre usually at a great expense. Staying home could save families a lot of money depending on how this new service will be priced.

Whether this action by the MPAA is right or wrong is really uncertain. I know many people will be behind the theatres since well, they stand to lose out due to this new service. But as I said earlier, such a move does help those that find it difficult to get out to a theatre, like the handicapped or elderly. It will also be good for those that just don't like crowds. Whether or not this will actually help to prevent piracy, which was the justification for this home delivery idea, is beyond me. It’s hard to beat free or near free.

Pirates have been organizing for years and have increasingly been building businesses devoted to selling high quality DVDs (at least that is some of the comments I get from some people I know) of films still in theatres for next to nothing, I find it hard to believe that these same people will give up their pirating ways in favour of this alternative, especially given the requirements of a HD TV and all digital equipment in order to view the studios streaming service.

So the really question is, "Who will really win here?" Depending on the price and when this new streaming service comes out, the big winners in all of this will not be the consumer but the movie studios who now will have a new channel to show their films which may cut out the middle man.
So what do you think? Do you like this movie streaming idea?


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