EXCLUSIVE: The Screening Room will be the talk of CinemaCon anyway, and perhaps not surprisingly, organizers are going to Vegas to plead their case to exhibitors, Deadline has learned. Screening Room principal Prem Akkaraju and some of the service’s investors will head to the annual exhibition confab that runs April 11-14.
The service, which requires the approval of both exhibitors and movie-making studios, has gotten off to a rocky start because of all the press coverage that created a Hatfields & McCoys situation. The Screening Room contingent isn’t looking to disrupt the convention, but rather try to explain what the issues are. A bunch of directors came out for the service including Steven Spielberg, JJ Abrams and Peter Jackson, while others have been guarded or against it. So have numerous exhibitors. Some of those might be having second thoughts as we hear that Brett Ratner is among filmmakers who’ve gotten a look at the technology. He came away intrigued, but is not changing his stance.
This is going to be a long, uphill battle, and it is entirely unclear whether or not it will be embraced. Among the hurdles: theater chains that have invested in brick-and-mortar multiplexes that require staffing and upkeep have traditionally shunned any efforts that will move product to ancillary avenues too quickly, for fear it could make movie theaters go away like record and bookstores have gone. In addition, studios are largely owned by corporations that have invested fortunes in their own set-top box technology for their cable TV systems. Skeptics wonder why they would allow an outsider to come in and be the middlemen, taking profits away. Proponents argue that movies have to change and evolve the way that other mediums like television have, if they are to keep pace with rival leisure time activities like video games and the web.
It was not immediately clear whether The Screening Room will demo its prototypes at Vegas, but the process has become so controversial and polarizing because of the press leaks, an aggressive push to educate theater owners seems like a good idea.