As a society, we have made it abundantly clear that we are impatient. Whatever we want, we want it NOW, immediately, before we change our minds and start wanting something else. Some cable and satellite systems show movies On Demand, while Netflix allows you to Watch Instantly. Even driving to Blockbuster to rent a DVD seems ludicrously time-consuming, especially now that the closest remaining Blockbuster is several hours away from your house and closes at 6:30.
In response to our impatience, movie distributors have drastically reduced the wait time between a film's theatrical release and its arrival on home video. In 1997, the average gap was 172 days, or almost six months. In 2009, the window had shrunk to 131 days, with Fox pushing its DVDs into stores an average of just 119 days after they first hit theaters. A movie opening on March 1 needs to be on DVD by the end of July, or else people will forget that they liked it.
But this is not fast enough! We want to see new movies immediately, and we do not want to go to so-called "movie theaters" to watch them. Forcing us into movie theaters is offensive. We will not tolerate such insults. We will illegally download a movie to our computers if we have to, and we will be justified because we are poor and impatient and good at justifying things.
The holy grail is "day-and-date," where a movie hits theaters and DVD (or digital streaming) simultaneously. Theater operators don't like the idea, obviously, because they make most of their money in concessions, and they do not have concession stands in people's houses. (Yet.) So far, only the indie studios have tried it, releasing their art-house stuff via On Demand at the same time it hits a handful of theaters.
But what if a major studio released a major film digitally the same day it released it theatrically? What if Pirates of the Caribbean 4: Coasting on the Calm Waters of Redundancy came out and you had a choice between seeing it on the big screen and seeing it at home? Reuters reported last week that DirecTV and Time Warner Cable have met with studios to discuss a scheme that will bring that fantasy one step closer to reality, and it will get a trial run this fall.
The proposal is this: For $50, you can watch a movie at home 30 days after it opened in theaters. Wait another 30 days and pay only $25. (At that point, you might as well wait another two months and just rent the DVD.) Reuters says two sources confirm that at least one studio is gearing up to try it in the next few months with a yet-to-be-decided film. The other studios will be watching closely to see if people go for it.
Do you think 50 bucks is a good deal for this? I wonder if family films would be more successful with this model. A trip to the movies for Mom, Dad, and the kids can easily cost $50 anyway, and is often a harrowing ordeal involving babysitters, tantrums, and meltdowns. It might be worth it to wait a month and see it at home, where you can provide your own cheap snacks, and pause for bathroom breaks, and get drunk. Single people and young couples, on the other hand, don't spend half a Benjamin at the movies, and they also tend to be the ones most eager to see something within its first couple weeks of release. I don't know if this plan will fly with them, unless they have a really sweet home-theater system and really, really hate cinema audiences. (I'm with you on half of that.)
Would you pay $50 to see a month-old movie at home? What about $25 to see a two-month-old movie? What if you could pay $50 and watch a movie at home the very same day it hit theaters? Would that be worth it?