Day-and-date is a sticky subject in the world of home entertainment. If you're not familiar with the phrase, day-and-date refers to the act of releasing a film simultaneously in theaters and on home video, via disc or digital delivery. It's not a new idea, but the proliferation and popularity of streaming video services make it even an more viable and tempting option than in the disc-only days.
Thus far, the practice has been reserved primarily for lower-budget and independent films, not the big blockbusters. It can be a boon for smaller films that tend to see limited theatrical release and fly under most moviegoers' radars, as it's easier to promote the film through services like Amazon Video, iTunes, and VUDU. As you can guess, theater owners are the biggest opponent and obstacle to the practice. Studios have to find a way to keep the theater owners satisfied, but also to find an audience for the smaller films and keep marketing/distribution costs down.
The major X factor in the day-and-date debate is the movie watcher. How much do they really want day-and-date releases, and how much are they willing to pay to get them? A few months ago, Variety reported on the results of a survey that the magazine commissioned about consumers' willingness to pay for day-and-date movie releases, using the price model suggested by Sean Parker's The Screening Room day-and-date venture last year.
When asked, "Would you be willing to pay $50 to see a movie in your home if you could see it on the same date it opened in theaters, five percent of the more than 1,800 respondents said they would pay it; 78 percent said no, it was too expensive. When the price dropped to $25, nine percent said yes, and 64 percent said no. While those numbers might sound low, if you expand them to apply to the entire population, they could actually be promising. I'll direct you to the full Variety article for further analysis. The question on my mind is, how would those numbers change if we polled only home theater owners?
Common sense would seem to suggest that a home theater owner would be more likely to pay for the day-and-date release of a marquee film because he or she is set up to enjoy an excellent A/V experience in the home--and has already shown a willingness to invest in home entertainment by assembling that system. Then again, common sense also suggests that someone who takes the time to build a great home theater system does so because he or she really loves the movie-going experience. The home theater is meant to mimic, not fully replace, the theater. I definitely fall into the latter category.
I love my home theater system. I love being able to watch a movie on my own schedule, at my own leisure, at listening levels that I find comfortable. Comfort is a key word. My home theater system provides a comfortable yet high-quality way for me to enjoy movies on a daily basis.
But I also love going to the movies. I love settling in to that big, reclining, stadium-style seat and loading up on butter and sugar. I love trailers. I love the final dim of the lights and the whirring sound of the masking system as it adjusts the curtains to size the screen appropriately. I love the THX clips (the Simpsons one is still my favorite).
Most of all, I love the shared experience. The shared laughter. The shared frights. Certain movie-going moments will stay with me forever. Independence Day, July 4, 1996--the way the whole audience applauded after the first alien attack sequence. Misery, 1990--the way the audience shrieked when Annie brought the hammer down on Paul's ankles. The guy in the seat next to me almost flew over the back of his seat, he flinched so hard. The beginning of every Star Wars movie, when the music starts and those white letters first crawl up the scene.
Going to the movies is not comfortable per se; there are many potential annoyances that can accompany it, to be sure. But it's an event. A treat. A special occasion that I'm willing to pay to enjoy ... on occasion, for a film I'm really excited to see. Yes, I'll drop $25 to take myself to the movies and experience the film with other people. No, I won't drop $25 to watch it at home on the same day it comes out in theaters. I'll wait three months, drop $5.99 for an HD rental, and enjoy it just as much.
Admittedly, the value proposition changes if you're trying to take your whole family to the movies, or if you live in a major metropolitan area where ticket prices are higher and parking is a premium. You could easily drop $50 for a night out under those circumstances, so again it becomes a question of experience, not cost. For me, choosing to go to a movie is a lot like choosing to go to a concert. Sure, it's a lot cheaper, easier, and more comfortable to stay home and enjoy a U2 concert disc through a high-quality audio system--it'll probably sound a lot better than what you get through stadium speakers. But nothing beats seeing U2 live as a fan--the shared experience of singing and jumping around with 50,000 other people. That's what I pay for.
Now, I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that access to marquee day-and-date releases is already a reality in the home theater realm, if you've got the means. The Bel Air Circuit exists for Hollywood A-listers and other wealthy movie lovers around the country. PRIMA Cinema is another option for viewing brand new theatrical films at home--for the low, low price of $35,000 for the equipment and $500 per movie. Chances are, the people who use these day-and date services have dedicated theater rooms large enough to enjoy quite the shared experience.
If people like Sean Parker get their way, a time will soon come when marquee movies will be offered day-and-date to the mass market, not just the rich and famous. Will you take advantage of the service? If so, what's the right price? Let us know in the Comments section below.
• Why Do the Really Big-Screen TVs Cost So Much More? at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• I Want My UHD Blu-ray Rentals at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Why I'm Not a Fan of Higher Frame Rate Films at HomeTheaterReview.com.