Big deal Hollywood movie studios SONY and Walt Disney Pictures are working on a blockbuster new idea, but it's not a movie. It's a new way to watch movies -- at home, on your HDTV, while the movie is still playing in theaters. The two studios have both started trial runs of a system where movie fans can watch films that are in still in theaters, by streaming them on cable, Internet, and satellite TV.
Be warned, though, that these big deal Hollywood movie studios are not yet making this service available in Hollywood. Or even the United States of America. Right now, these are just two pilot programs being tested only in South Korea. But the studios are using South Korea as their test market, and they may apply the model to other countries -- or to a home theater near you!
The report that SONY and Disney will stream movies still in theaters comes in today's Wall Street Journal, which has the article behind a subscription paywall. But we've got the important parts summarized below.
It's works like this -- over in South Korea, the blockbuster films "Django Unchained", "Wreck-It Ralph", and "Brave" were made available as rentals for home TV or Internet streaming just three weeks after their release in theaters. The studios will closely watch the receipts, and see if this move might be more lucrative for them.
According to tech blog The Verge, "the four other major Hollywood studios are said to be watching the situation closely and may follow suit, putting pressure on movie theater chains."
You would assume this move means huge trouble for the movie theater chains, but this is not necessarily so. Even as the window between theatrical releases and streaming releases is closing, movie studios made more money than ever last year on theatrical releases. This is thanks to the technical magic of "increasing ticket prices".
The industry that this home streaming would really screw is the DVD and Blu-Ray sales sector. Those sales declined by about 30 percent last year, primarily because of Netflix,and good old-fashioned piracy.
Disney and SONY see home streaming as a way of curtailing piracy. Their logic is that if you've already seen the film via streaming, you're less likely to pirate the film once it's available in a burnable or rippable form of media like a DVD or Blu-Ray.
Still, the U.S. movie theater chains like Regal and AMC are fighting to defend their current 90-day window between theatrical release and home release, telling Variety that earlier home streaming releases of movies "muddies the value proposition" for movie-goers.
But you know what else muddies the value proposition for movie-goers? The technical magic of "increasing ticket prices".