MovieLaLa was busy this year attending the Facebook F8 conference. There was a lot of new information from Facebook, in particular to the messaging app which made it a strong conference for companies like us in the mobile space.
But we’re hearing a lot of Sean Parker’s new startup, The Screening Room, and tensions between studios, producers and the new startup that threatens to eliminate the theater experience. If you haven’t heard about it, The Screening Room will charge $50 a pop for newly released films to be seen at home, while it’s also still in the theater. The price point is also a point of contention amongst movie fans, but that’s neither here nor there.
We remember when we were first pitching MovieLaLa to investors in the bay area (SF) in 2012. So many times investors would ask while they were thumbing through their ipads, “Do people still go to theaters?” As IF nobody EVER went to a theatre in their life, much less themselves. Why would they when they have Flipboard to consume or Facebook posts to read? But in reality, movies are one of the biggest and most popular forms of entertainment with over 200M+ going to movies a year in the USA. And it’s like 100x the number of people when you combine concert goers, and sports fans COMBINED. And it developing countries like India, China and Latin America, it’s also one of the most frequent activities of their culture. It’s even growing here in the states, with 1.32B tickets sold in 2015, up 4% from 2014. And so far this year, it’s up 13% from last year.
While taking in the information at CinemaCon, we have to agree with James Cameron (Avatar), Todd Phillips (Hangover) and Amazon studios: there are some fundamental experiences around movie going that can’t be replaced with home theatre. The theater- going experience is not something you can interchange with your living room. It’s actually an escape from your living room. A way for people to get out of their every-day lives and be “transported” into a film to forget all their real-life problems and worries. And watching a film in a theater with strangers and other movie fans is FUN!! It activates our senses and gets the viewers more involved. It lets us feel more alive. It also makes the evening or afternoon feel like an event and special. In addition, it’s also an affordable escape with tickets ~$10, much less than a flight to Hawaii or a trip to Disneyland which can cost thousands.
I know, in Silicon Valley, it’s hard for people to believe that movie-going is still a ‘thing’. Which it is. And that people in the USA and around the world LIKE to be with strangers and randoms in the theater. Which they do. And you only need to look at facts and the numbers to understand that the social experience of people going to theatres is NOT going to go away overnight. In a world where technology continues to eat away at our loneliness and isolation, I can see movie-going having an even more important role in our lives in the future.
We’re still excited to see a Silicon Valley person getting behind an entertainment startup. Kudos to Sean Parker for bring new ideas to the Hollywood space. And fresh new ideas and innovations in this space only help to bring more breakthroughs and guidance towards what the future holds. But let’s let cinema fans continue to go to theaters and watch movies with complete strangers with cell phones put away and out of sight. That’s the real way to experience a movie and feel fully immersed.