Sean Parker v Hollywood: what the Napster creator did next

Would you pay $50 to rent Batman v Superman the same day it hits cinemas?

Sean Parker Screening Room Napster
Sean Parker v Hollywood The man behind Napster is launching a film service that could have huge repercussions for cinema chains. Image Picture Kenneth Lu/Flickr

Would you pay $50 to rent Batman v Superman or Captain America: Civil War the same day they hit cinemas?

If the answer is yes, then the brains behind Napster and the early success of Facebook might have the perfect product for you.

After taking on the music industry with his pioneering file service, Sean Parker’s latest project has its sights set on Hollywood. If you’re still struggling to remember who Parker his, he’s the bloke Justin Timberlake played in The Social Network.

Screening Room is a premium movie rental service that will bring the latest film releases into your home months before DVD, Blu-ray or Netflix streaming debuts.

According to Variety, Parker is rolling out the service in the US charging $150 for access to a set-top box that receives the films at $50 a view. Customers have a 48-hour window to watch the film after renting.

Just as Parker faced the wrath of record companies with Napster, Screening Room threatens to put him at loggerheads with the film industry.

Cinema chains traditionally retain a 90-day exclusivity window between a film’s opening weekend and its home release. Parker’s service will accelerate this and could throw a spanner into how cinemas make their money.

Captain America Civil War
Civil War Captain America and Iron Man go head-to-head. Image Picture Disney/Marvel

However, Screening Room is reportedly trying to tie up a deal with AMC, the world’s largest cinema chain.

Parker is proposing to cut the movie houses in on the deal, offering them as much as a $20 slice of the rental fee – essentially paying them off so Screening Room can show the films.

As an added bonus, Screening Room customers will be given two free cinema tickets with each rental, meaning theatres can still earn cash through popcorn, pick ‘n’ mix and pricey concession stands.

Film distributors such as Sony, 20th Century Fox and Universal – who have all shown interest in the service – will also be entitled to a share of the fee if their films are rented.

Parker’s Screening Room venture marks another step towards VOD cutting into traditional cinemagoing habits for new releases.

Last month PRIMA Cinema revealed a service bringing new blockbusters to your sofa – but at a cost. Their set-top box costs an eye-watering £21,000 and rentals are either £350 or £420 (for 3D releases).

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Loaded digital media manager Simon Reynolds has written about film and entertainment for various leading websites since 2008. Follow Simon at @simonreyn

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