Comcast vs. Cinemas

Yinka Adegoke of Reuters reports that cable company Comcast wants to show movies to homes the same day they are released in the cinema.  Disney President Bob Iger and others have previously thrown around the idea of simultaneously releasing movies via multiple platforms along with their debuts in cinema.

It is an idea that has cinema owners concerned and is one of the reasons they are looking to improve the cinema experience (including installing 3-D systems, among other things) enough to motivate the audience to continue to attend.

Comcast Chief Operating Officer Stephen Burke told a trade show that subscribers could be charged $30 to $50 to watch an opening-day movie at home, narrowing the "window" between big screen and small screen debuts to nothing.

I don’t see this go-around taking hold if people find that price too high.  Although home viewing has privacy and some convenience, the cinema provides the communal experience, larger screens, and often better sound.  So, some people are likely going to be more eager to pay $10 to watch the movie in a cinema rather than $30 to watch it at home.  However, $30 might be worth it for some segment of society when you consider what two or more people would be paying for tickets, parking, gas, and babysitters.  It could turn out to be a great deal if you have two couples with kids get together at one couple’s house, for example.

Theater owners have staunchly resisted any effort to cut the time between theatrical and DVD releases for fear that attendance would drop, while movie companies which get most of their profit from DVDs want a narrower window that would bring earnings forward and reduce the need for a second advertising campaign when a film is ready for home viewing.

It is probably also an effort to thwart the effect that piracy has on studio profits.

The piece goes on to talk about some of the recent efforts to improve home viewing options.

While cinema owners are worried, the fact is that some people are just not going to make it to the cinema.  If the audience for Comcast’s option comes mostly from that pool, the cinema will not suffer.  There is also a chance that if someone likes a new movie they watch on Comcast, they may grab some friends who haven’t seen it yet and go see it in a cinema, where they can watch it on the big screen with the nice sound system, and possibly in 3-D.

Blockbuster recently opened a cinema in Mexico.  It will be interesting to see if they grow a new cinema chain, or end up merging with an existing chain.  Blockbuster has been exploring diversifying their movie delivery methods, and perhaps cinema chains will have to do likewise and pair up with cable, satellite,  terrestrial broadcast, mobile, or online content delivery companies.

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One Response to Comcast vs. Cinemas

  1. Karen says:

    It would be a great deal for my family of 6. At the moment, we still have 3 child admissions to purchase and 3 adult admissions. Even if we go to the early show, that’s $38 and some change for admission (and more than $40 if we use Fandango). Add movie prices for snacks and we’re looking at a $75 night at the movies. I’d pay $30-40 to see it at home with homemade buttered popcorn and $1.45 movie-size snacks purchased at Target.

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