European Theater Group Shoots Down Sean Parker’s Screening Room

“The model as outlined seems to offer little benefit to cinema operators and their distribution partners, while representing significant potential risks,” International Union of Cinemas says in a statement

The International Union of Cinemas (UNIC) has spoken out against Sean Parker’s Screening Room, saying it would offer “little benefit” to theater operators and their distribution partners.

“The vast majority of UNIC members will view the ‘Screening Room’ proposal with great concern,” a statement, obtained by TheWrap, said. “The model as outlined seems to offer little benefit to cinema operators and their distribution partners, while representing significant potential risks.”

The UNIC is a European trade body that represents cinema associations across 36 territories. The organization firmly believes that an exclusive theatrical release is beneficial to film.

“While it is of course up to each operator to agree terms around a film release with partners in film distribution, UNIC maintains that the exclusive theatrical release of a new film helps create unparalleled levels of audience awareness and ultimately benefits its performance across all platforms, including VOD,” said the release, adding that the UNIC is “very concerned about a model that might result in a proliferation of high-quality copyright-infringing films online during the theatrical release and beyond.”

Backed by Parker and Prem Akkaraju, Screening Room proposes that consumers watch a new movie during a 48-hour window beginning the day of its theatrical release via a set-top box that would cost roughly $150. According to the proposal, theater owners and studios would collect as much as $20 each of the $50 fee for a new movie.

The debate has Hollywood divided. A-listers like Brian Grazer and Ron Howard have spoken out in support of the proposal, citing it as “the only solution that supports all stakeholders in the industry: exhibitors, studios and filmmakers.”

However, Christopher NolanJames Cameron and his “Avatar” producer Jon Landau are three industry figures who have spoken out against the new proposal.

See UNIC’s full statement below.

Brussels, 18 March 2016: the International Union of Cinemas (UNIC), the European trade body representing cinema associations and key operators from across 36 territories, has today set out its position regarding media reports around the proposed ‘Screening Room’ initiative.

The vast majority of UNIC members will view the ‘Screening Room’ proposal with great concern. The model as outlined seems to offer little benefit to cinema operators and their distribution partners, while representing significant potential risks.

While it is of course up to each operator to agree terms around a film release with partners in film distribution, UNIC maintains that the exclusive theatrical release of a new film helps create unparalleled levels of audience awareness and ultimately benefits its performance across all platforms, including VOD.

All the evidence we have shows that exclusive offers work very well in digital markets and that they help to maintain audiences’ desire for high quality content. It is also known that online piracy has a hugely destructive impact on every stage of the film value chain.

We are therefore very concerned about a model that might result in a proliferation of high-quality copyright-infringing films online during the theatrical release and beyond. The risk here is not just to cinema operators but to everyone contributing to the wider film ecology.

The past decade has shown that disruptive interventions such as the ‘Screening Room’ do not always yield the greatest commercial or societal benefits; the music sector is a good example of this.

Operators across Europe will strive to continue to offer high quality and exclusive cinematic experiences at an affordable cost to audiences from all ages and all walks of life.