Paramount Begins the End of the Movie Theater

Why go out when you can stay in?

Paramount announced plans today to reduce the time between its films’ theatrical runs and home video debuts by several months. The move will massively and almost immediately change the way we view movies. With two of Paramount’s fall releases set to be available for digital download 17 days after their theatrical debuts, we’re suddenly looking at the movie theater experience as a very limited-time event.

Of course, they’re not risking this type of experiment on a tentpole pic like Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. The horror genre will be the test subject here, with Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension and Scout’s Guide To The Apocalypse rolling out into approximately 300 theaters before rolling right online.

AMC and Cineplex, the movie theater chains showing the films, won’t lose out by cutting short the films’ theater runs. In fact, every party involved stands to gain in this scenario. The studio stands to make more money — or, the same money but faster — given that the two exhibitors will receive a significant chunk of the digital takings.

Spokespersons from Paramount, AMC and Cineplex are pushing the whole “it’s all for the audience” angle stating that it’s a supply-and-demand scheme. No-one wants to endure that pain-staking three to four month window between a movie’s theatrical opening and its home video release. People want things now. So, audiences get a good deal and Paramount gets to try to avoid losing out to illegal movie streaming sites. It’s a win win, right?

Sort of.

How long before the entire exhibition model bypasses the best — and intended — way to watch a movie and theaters go to the way of the video and Blockbuster? Those involved insist that it’s not the death of the cinema, but logic dictates otherwise. Movie theaters make less money from a limited run because of a) the simple matter of less time available to screen it; and b) people also are quite fond of money, and might not be bothered about waiting a few weeks to see the same film in their home for a fraction of the cost.

At this point, the two theater chains involved in this deal are just that: chains. Multiple locations, multiple income streams. They can implement risky strategies. That Paramount has only secured deals with them is indicative. Moviegoers are restricted by the location of their nearest participating multiplex if they want to see either of the earmarked movies on the big screen. And smaller theaters are cut out altogether, which is presumably the endgame anyway.

It wasn’t that long ago that studios stopped production on 35MM prints, forcing every movie house to install costly digital projectors. They can impose their will and it seems like they plan to do just that.

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