Studios Offering $30 Movie Rentals; Theater Owner Complains That He Can't Compete With That

from the yeah-that'll-work dept

A few weeks back, we noted the rumors that a bunch of studios were getting ready to offer $30 video-on-demand movie rentals, in an attempt to create a new tiered “window” much closer to the original theatrical release date. It appears those stories are now confirmed, as DirecTV has said that it will, indeed, be offering $30 film rentals for movies just 10-weeks after their theatrical release. Of course, before we discuss how bad an idea this is from the studio’s perspective, let’s look at the even more braindead response from movie theaters:

Regency Theatres, based in Calabasas, California, will pull “Just Go With It” from its second-run theaters, where it was among the top two titles last weekend, said President Lyndon Golin.

“We don’t want to show movies that are on TV,” Golin said in a telephone interview. “We want to protect the movie-going experience.”

Protect the movie-going experience? Huh? Does Golin even hear what he’s saying. First off, how does pulling the movie out of the theaters protect the movie-going experience? It seems to do the opposite. It seems to tell people “we don’t want you to enjoy the movie-going experience” with this movie. Golin seems to be flat-out admitting that his movie theaters suck. After all, if he can’t provide a better movie-going experience than a TV at home, then apparently his theaters really aren’t worth going to, right?

I’ve pointed this out in the past, but I can never understand theater owners who complain about competition from rentals or video streaming. The whole point of a movie theater is that it’s a social experience. It’s “going out” to the theaters. It’s enjoying the overall event on a giant screen. Obviously with home theater systems, there is some competition, but theater owners can certainly provide an overall excellent theater experience, if they put some effort into it. What Golin’s statement here says is that he’s not interested in trying, and he doesn’t think his theater’s experience can compete. That’s really more of a statement about problems with his own theaters than about this new rental window.

As for the rental window, it’ll be interesting to see who actually pays $30. I understand the studios’ logic. They think they’re providing extra value by making a movie available earlier. But that’s not — at all — how consumers are likely to view this. They’re going to compare it to Netflix or other PPV/rental options and have no idea why the studios and DirecTV think they can get away with charging many multiples higher.

Of course, going back to the theaters’ response, it seems even more ridiculous when you realize that Regency doesn’t even think it can compete with a ridiculously overprice home rental option that very few people are going to choose.

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Comments on “Studios Offering $30 Movie Rentals; Theater Owner Complains That He Can't Compete With That”

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pixelpusher220 (profile) says:

The full theater experience

Giving $50 to my wife for popcorn, candy and soda just isn’t the same as giving it to the movie theater.

Oh wait, I have ‘beer’ at home… Why would I go to the theater again?

The single biggest increase in movie theater experience in probably the last 30 years has to be stadium seating. When the best thing you can claim is simply putting seats on a platform, you haven’t been innovating…

John Doe says:

Re: The full theater experience

“The single biggest increase in movie theater experience in probably the last 30 years has to be stadium seating.”

This is exactly my thinking as well. Not only that, at home I now have a nice surround sound stereo and a 46″ flat panel TV. So the innovation in home theater has been great while the innovation in movie theaters has been minimal. Not to mention $1 per pack popcorn, pause for bathroom breaks and beer.

I still go to several movies each year, but I wait for many more to come out at Netflix and Redbox.

Vincent Clement (profile) says:

Re: Re: The full theater experience

I second that. Since buying my 46″ flat panel TV in January, my desire to go see movies at the theatre has diminished. I’ll go to a movie with my wife or kids for once-in-a-blue-moon night out, but my TV and audio system are more than adequate.

The movie studios are crazy if they think I’m going to pay $30 for a rental.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: The full theater experience

I remember theatres with beer & cocktails. Good to hear that they still exist, although they appear to be somewhat rare these days.

Sadly, I also remember being able to smoke in movie theatres. Then it changed to only being able to smoke in the bar area. Then it went completely non-smoking.

Drinks & cigs and a flat screen at home or pay a fortune for badly mixed coca cola and nicotine withrawal at the theatre? No contest, I’m afraid.

pixelpusher220 (profile) says:

Re: Re: The full theater experience

Then it boils down to price. If they’re charging $9/beer, it still isn’t worth it.

I’m probably less ‘social’ in terms of movies. I actually want to see/experience the movie and not be distracted by people – even the ones I came with.

That’s also the one thing a ‘good’ movie experience provides that you can’t always get at home – the doorbell ringing, the phone ringing (yes I know you can turn it off), the dog wanting to be let out, etc.


A bit short sighted...

There are movies that have been the staple of broadcast TV for decades that could benefit from returning to the silver screen. Theater owners are of course falling for the same fallacy as the rest of the content industry in conflating success with enforcing artificial scarcity.

You make money selling a product or service by making that thing desirable.

If you make the cinema experience worthwhile then people will go to the movies. It’s as simple as that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: A bit short sighted...

I live in Rochester, NY and we have the George Eastman house (founder of Kodak, father of modern film, etc.) They screen movies 7 days a week, 1 movie a day in the Dryden Theater. On rare occasions they will show a movie for 2 days or twice on the same day, but it has to be REALLY popular or have huge advance sales.

About a month ago I went to see “The Big Labowski” … the theater sold out (about 500 seats) and still had 50 or more people in line. I also saw Sunset Boulevard and Mildred Pierce there; the theater was about 50 to 60 percent full. Pretty good for movies from the 1940s and 50s, certainly better than most recent releases I’ve seen.

On a different note:
My roommate went to Scream 4 the other day and came home so pissed off I thought he was going to punch someone. Apparently a woman in the movie talked non-stop, got into several fights, yelled instructions to characters on the screen, vomited popcorn in the hallway and then started yelling at people in the parking lot after the movie was over because she lost her phone.

And nothing happened, no security, she wasn’t removed, everyone else just wasted their money.

Jeremy7600 (profile) says:

Re: Re: A bit short sighted...

I saw that showing of the Big Lebowski, too. For my first time at the Dryden (a shame, I will admit) I was impressed with the fact that it sold out and the audience was very considerate. I probably got some looks for laughing at things I was the only one who thought were funny, but I digress.

The only time I have an issue with theaters is when I go to dollar theaters on busy nights. Its only happend once or twice and I’m mature enough to not let other people bother me in second run movies.

Which brings me back to the quote from the theater owner. Does he honestly think people are going to pay $30 at home for a movie that can be seen for $1, $1.50, or $2 second run? He must really hate his own theater experience. I much prefer theater atmosphere and sound than my living room. Especially with my girlfriend, who loves the going out part. You know. Like a date.

Which is why I jumped at the opportunity to see the Big Lebowski on a theater screen (with obviously like minded individuals)

FarSide (profile) says:

I've always wanted

… to have a theater near me that regularly runs older movies. And by ‘old’ I don’t mean from the 40s. I mean movies that aren’t in the theaters anymore.

When I was in college a few years ago, a student club would run on or two on the weekends – they were always jam packed.

I realize it’s different on a college campus, especially with the social aspect, and it was pretty cheap. However, I bet it would translate pretty good to the general public. Instead of 5 screens of the latest crappy romantic comedy, maybe put one of them running 10 year old blockbusters or something.

Thanatos (profile) says:

Lame experience

I haven’t been to a movie theater in more years than I can count. Why on Earth would I want to pay that kind of money for relatively uncomfortable seats (with God know what in them) to try to watch a movie with people talking and making noise during it?! Last time I went to a movie there was a guy behind me who stayed on his cell phone, telling his mother about the movie, the whole way through it! And people talking to the characters on the screen like they can hear them or something?!?!

I have a nice LARGE HDTV with a nice loud surround system, I have a refrigerator full of snacks and drinks, I can pause the movie to go grab a snack when I want and I don’t have to tolerate morons talking! Screw the “social experience”! And I can wait the 3 months for a movie to hit Blu-Ray. For what it costs in ticket and snack to see a movie, I can just wait and pay the same to buy it…..or pay a buck a RedBox to rent it!

Squirrel Brains (profile) says:

Re: Lame experience

I am with you. I don’t understand the rationale behind “paying more” to see it earlier. Ok, at least in theaters you are getting something value added (I don’t have a big TV or a kickass sound system). You buy it on Blueray for $30 bucks: you wait a little longer, you get to keep it longer than 2 days and can watch it as many times as you want/lend it to friends and have the same quality you get on demand (or better). Versus paying $30 for a 2-day rental a few weeks earlier than it comes out on blueray.

Squirrel Brains (profile) says:

Studios don't understand Netflix

I am convinced that no one at the studios has used Netflix or understand how it works. This new “windowing” scheme totally misses the point. You put movies into a queue on Netflix and you receive them in the order they are on your queue. It is not unusual for my queue to be 25-35 movies long, with a mix of newer movies and oldies-but-goodies. When a movie that I want to see is out of the theater (usually don’t have the time/money to see it in the theater), I just put it in my queue at the end. You can even queue it before the movie is out on DVD. When it arrives, I watch it. Until then, I have plenty of other movies to watch. Sometimes I don’t look at my queue for a while and am pleasantly surprised when a movie shows up.

In my mind, this setup totally destroys the idea of windowing. I don’t need to see it right now (if I did, I would go to theaters). I can wait and enjoy the other movies I want to watch in the meantime.

montgoss (profile) says:

Re: Studios don't understand Netflix

I actually browse the movie showtimes every week or two and add/save the interesting looking ones to my queue right then. Every once-in-a-while, I’ll look through my Netflix queue (currently with ~275 titles) and move the ones I’m really interested in to the top. Of course, those are almost always “Very long wait”. If I really want to see it, I’ll swing by a Redbox or BlockbusterExpress.

In other words, the absolute most I’m willing to spend to rent a movie is $1 (plus tax). It’s a rental! I’m not going to pay $30 when I’d end up with nothing to show for it.
The most I’ve ever paid for a theater ticket was $12, and I haven’t been to a theater since then (Avatar). I almost went to a screening of “Cedar Rapids” where one of the stars was going to be there for a Q&A, but it was sold out. That showing, with actual interaction, was about $30.

Atkray (profile) says:

Re: Studios don't understand Netflix

I put them on in my queue when I first hear about them, sometimes before the movie is released in theaters.

Ones the kids HAVE to see are set to go to top of queue automatically, which normally means they are at my house the day they release to DVD.

Projector on wall = 120 inch screen + 7.1 surround + my comfy couch + snacks + pause = WINNAR!!!

Griff (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’d say it shows why Netflix is popular.
If it wasn’t for Netflix and their ilk the illegal downloading would surely be worse.

In the UK we have LoveFilm (which seemed to take over from Amazon rental). It is reasonably priced and it works.

Plus for about ?3 I can decide on the spur of the moment to stream a movie on demand for the kids. I even get 4 hrs / month free on my basic DVD by mail plan.

Now, near us is a “community theatre”. Internet booking of movies for ?2 / child, maybe ?3 (?4 tops) for adults. Basic, new clean comfortable theatre, (good sound, big screen) attached to a nice “wholefood coffee shop” sort of place.
Movies that the kids have only just seen the trailers for on rental disks come around regularly.
And they don’t let you take food into the theatre which means
– no sticky stuff down your back
– less opportunity to bankrupt yourself on popcorn.

Compared to this place the “mainstream” movie theatres feel like a mugging in a huge Macdonalds.

At one point I thought that with kids animated movies, the prices would come down, as there would be no need to pay giant celeb actor wages. But now all the decent animated movies are voiced by stars anyway.

It’s a bit like going to see soccer live in the UK. Costs a fortune then you see the players salaries and see why. Is this why movies cost so much ? Or is it just greed ? Or is it like drug development – you need to pay for all the failures as well ?

NotMyRealName (profile) says:

Re: but its true

especially since at the last “great update to your movie-going experience” my local theater changed the drape/carpet wall coverings to a different color (really? they shut the lights off for 99% of the time you are in there) replaced the sticky floor with carpet (ok, that’s good) but didn’t touch the speaker that has crackled on big booms for approx. forever. Either they really don’t give a shit(likely) or there is one hell of a carpet salesman in my area.(less likely, but plausible) Either way I haven’t been back, and that was years ago.

Andy Roon (profile) says:

The Movie Experience

In a move in the other direction, the local theater chain in my state has started playing ‘Late Night Cult Faves’ every Friday and Saturday night, for $4. Previous titles have included Spaceballs, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Dazed & Confused, etc. I think this week’s is Top Gun. Everyone I know has these on DVD, if not Blu-Ray…and why would you pay $4 to see them on the big screen? The theater experience, that’s why. It’s a ton of fun to see your favorite movies not only on the big screen but with a huge crowd of people who love them as much as you do. Sure, private screenings are cool too, but saying you can’t compete is asinine. It’s comparing apples to oranges.

Families says:

Really $30 is cheap

Last time I went to a theatre for a movie it was a during the day and cheap tickets were $6 per person we spent close to $100 with food, drink, and admission.

$30 at home for the latest Disney animation 10 weeks after the theatre opening and I will have the neighbors visit for a viewing party and split the cost.

This is brilliant plus I can pause for child potty breaks.

NotMyRealName (profile) says:

Re: Really $30 is cheap

or – you can wait 15 weeks (or whatever) and split the $1 redbox fee. You sound like someone that still watches live tv… this will give you extra time to forget the incessant pounding of all the major plot points into your head by the trailers that run every 8 minutes. When your memory is down to “I think this looked good” from “I can’t wait to see this part” you’ll enjoy it more I promise.

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: Really $30 is cheap

it depresses me to see this. here abouts the tickets will run you to twenty bucks or so (that’s NZ, so call it 12-13 US) and snacks … well, seriously, if you Want to spend stupid amounts on sub-par snacks you probably could, but most people either just buy a few gummy things or a thing of popcorn (over priced at five dollars NZ or so) if they’re particularly like that kind of food… and eat at the food court right before/after the movie. (because most of the theaters are in malls or walking distance from resteraunts etc) or at home (because… well, honestly, a lot of Kiwis would take their own home made/supermarket bought food to the theaters if they were allowed, while the railways and airlines pretty much assume you’re going to by default except for really long international flights, to the best of my knowledge)

Anonymous Coward says:

Movies theaters just flat-out suck

They cost too much, they’re dirty, they’re full of idiots who are talking and playing with their phones, the concessions are obscenely priced, and most of what they’re showing is utter crap.

Once a year or so, I try again just to see if anything has improved; most recently, “The Adjustment Bureau”. There were underage kids in the theater who should not have been there, and they spent the entire movie destroying the experience. Not to mention the ads before the movie (and I don’t mean the previews, I mean the offensive advertising) and that the sound levels WERE REALLY RIGHT UP THERE WITH ROW FOUR OF A WHO CONCERT…which would be great if it was actually them Roger and Pete rock, but it wasn’t.

I plan on torrenting the movie so that I can actually enjoy it. I figure I’ve *already* paid for it, so screw anyone who doesn’t like it.

harbingerofdoom (profile) says:

Re: Movies theaters just flat-out suck

who concerts have never been that loud.

on topic, thats pretty much it isnt it. it used to be a good social evening out (especially any of you who used to do the weekend midnights where they showed anything from the wall to bad cult sci-fi). these days its really come down to overpriced seats for an overpriced movie while eating overpriced crap.

but apparently its not screaming teens annoying cell phones and ridiculous pricing which leaves your average family of 4 broke after such an evening… no sir thats not the problem.

its STREAMING… its that damn technology thats to blame!!!

Ohb1knewbie (profile) says:

Re: Been there, Done that, Happy to NEVER go back.

Having worked in the ?film exhibition industry? from the mid ?70s to the early ?00s, I can sympathize with much of what you have said. I would not work in that industry again for ?all the money in the world? as they say.

I”ll spare you my personal observations on the decline of the general public?s ability to behave in a civil manner while in public, especially on Holidays when they?ll pay anything for two hours where they have to neither look at nor speak to members of their families.

The only thing that I?ll say in the defense of the theater owners is that in first run theaters, they have no choice but to gouge their customers at the concession stand. The film rental, i.e. what theaters pay the film studios, can range from 60% on the low end to 90% or more on the high end. And while these figures decline over the run of the movie, if you don?t agree to play the film in your largest houses for the first weeks of the release – you won?t be playing the big releases. Thus, it?s a catch 22. Play the movie in four large auditoriums for the first month for an 80% plus film rent, or don?t you won?t be playing the movie until weeks after it?s initial release.

Shed no tears for the film studios, their greed has run deep for decades and their fear is the same as that of traditional print media. Their days of living fat and happy are coming to an end. They?re very much like the blood starved vampires depicted in the film ?Daybreakers?. Crazed and driven by desperation to find a way to continue to feed their blood sucking habit. The movie theaters operators are like the paperboys – under-appreciated and soon to be unemployed and out of business.

Steven (profile) says:

I generally dislike going to the theaters. I’d much rather sit at home and watch a movie where I’m more comfortable. Not only that but it really kills me to spend upwards of $70 for my family to see a movie in the theaters.

Recently one of the theaters near me started swapping out all their seating with large, leather, electric recliners. Really nice and comfortable. I’m not sure how much effort they put into the design, but I can recline all the way back and still comfortably watch the movie and not bother the person behind me.

I kinda like going to the movies now, but I only go to that theater.

JackSombra (profile) says:

Western cinemas have just be gouging customers for years, cinema tickets just keep going up, food and drink (read popcorn and coke) are even more expensive than a meal at a mid-average restaurant yet the experience has barely changed, just louder sounds and odd gimmick like 3d (which they charge even more for) and seating that would not be out of place on a budget airline. I stopped going for ages because of this

Then started going regularly to Asia and there is a totally different experience, reasonable prices for tickets, cheap prices for food (in comparison to local earning) , well-spaced lazy boy seating that would not mind having at home (and couch?s for groups/couples), some that are quasi restaurant/lounge clubs. While over there I am constantly going to the cinema

Over there they have no problem filling up the cinema?s?wonder why?.

Anonymous Coward says:

Lets see $30 or watch an older movie streaming on Netflix that is probably going to be better than any of the crap the studios are putting out now. Now if I want to recreate the theater atmosphere at home I just need to find a group of obnoxious teenagers to come in, throw soda/candy/popcorn all over the room, talk and use their cell phones throughout the movie. Then I’ll feel like I’m getting my $60 night out at the movies.

wallow-T says:

Two comments:

1) From the original report: “Regency Theatres, based in Calabasas, California, will pull “Just Go With It” from its SECOND-RUN theaters…” (emphasis mine) Second-run theater tickets are priced $2-$3 in most markets. So the theater chain owner is saying his discount movie experience can’t compete with a vastly more expensive $30 home rental!!

2) I feel an analogy with the experiences 5-10 years ago of the major music labels and the brick-and-mortar CD/record stores. Anything the labels might have wanted to do in moving towards the Internet was fought by the existing CD retailers, and as the existing CD retailers contributed nearly all of current incoming to the music labels, they had effective veto power over Internet music plans for quite some time. (Thus, pirates for the win!!)

Anonymous Coward says:

Well if I want the theater experience, all I have to do is throw some Mr Pibb and popcorn all over my living room floor, and mash some Raisinettes into the couch. Then, in addition to the $30 I spent for a RENTAL, I’ll just take another $20 and light in on fire. THEN all I need is some jackwagon talking/texting/slapping their meat/whatever, and I’ll be all set.

Dahoove says:

No brainer

I’d easily pay $30 for a rental. The last movie I went to see in the theater was some 3d kid movie with my son. It cost 1 adult and 1 child $45 for tickets, 1 popcorn and 2 soda’s. Plus gas is now $4 a gallon, so I would be saving even more by staying at home watching in on my 7.1 surround 52″ flat screen. Plus I can pause it when my 7 year old has to go to the bathroom.

Berenerd (profile) says:

i seem to be a minority...

I went to the theater to see Serenity. I supported the movie and the cult of followers (Browncoats). When it came out on Blueray/DVD I saw it on a 60inch HDTV with a kickass surround system. It was great, but still didn’t have the epic feeling I got in the theater. I would not have paid $30 to watch it on DirectTV. for $30 I could watch it 3-4 times at the theater. I OWN it now and only paid $10 for it.

Josef Anvil (profile) says:

Note to trolls...

I bet there is one thing that the trolls have completely missed in this discussion.

The theater experience has been compared to the home experience and the prices of DVD rentals and Netflix and this DIrectTV offering have been discussed, and in all of that discussion almost EVERYONE has been talking about how the movie industry should be paid.

Trolls, please note that its NOT about piracy. People will pay for a valuable service, but if you take away their options then file sharing rules.

Ron Rezendes (profile) says:

What does $30 get you in San Diego...

I take my daughters to the movies 3-4 times a year on average. Unlike most folks we are thrilled to still have a drive in theater in town! We get TWO first run movies for our ticket! PRICES: Adult (13+) $8.00. Juniors (5 – 12) with parent $4.00

The sound is fed through a local radio broadcast and you tune your car stereo in to the station for your sound, which you can adjust – at will – as often as you like. The seats are my own and I take them with me when I leave! I also bring a lawn chair and sit outside on warm summer nights and the kids bring a futon.

Tickets for TWO first run movies: $16
HUGE bag of popcorn we make at home: About $1
One (3) three liter bottle of soda: $1.50
Some candy we buy at the store: $4
20 piece Chicken nuggets: $5
Biggest bag of fries available: $2.50
Dinner and TWO movies with my girls – priceless!

The movie going public (just like the MUSIC loving public) have some serious options to exercise when it comes to our entertainment, how much we’ll pay, and what we expect.

I honestly don’t believe I’ll EVER pay $30 for a rental…

Mojo says:

Wow, no one gets it

And I thought Tech Dirt readers were smarter!

Only a few commenters seemed to get the idea of the $30 rental – it has nothing to do with paying to be first to see it at home, it’s TOTALLY geared towards the family of five who will save a LOT of money if they wait a few weeks and rent for $30 instead of paying $60 for tickets alone if they go to the theater.

That is the target audience.

On a base level, I can understand the theaters being pissed since this directly targets taking business away from them, but I wouldn’t be too worried – it’s a TEN WEEK window! Everyone I know who goes out to see the “latest” movie sees it easily within the first four weeks – if you wait longer than that you get an empty theater and that spoils most of the fun of the theater-going experience.

Plus, good luck finding a decent theater showing ANY movie you want to see two and a half months after it’s release!

And I love reading all the “who needs a movie theater when I have a 42″ flatscreen at home and all the cheap beer I can drink?”

They are all essentially single nerds with no friends who simply want to justify the fact that their either have no one to go with, are AFRAID of being social or are just super fucking cheap (which helps explains why they are single).

Look, I have a ONE HUNDRED AND FIVE inch front projection screen with a top of the line HD video projector and a picture that’s better than the theater – and i still go to the movies with my pals almost every week.

Why? BECAUSE IT’S FUN. It’s a part of the human experience you cheap all Red Box junkies will never understand. But sure, go ahead and keep quoting the one WORST experience you ever had at the movies to justify not going out. Losers.

There is room in our lives for all three. Sometimes it’s great to go out with friends to see the blockbusters, maybe you stay home to watch a documentary and I could even see now and then paying $30 to see the movie you and your friends WANTED to see but missed, so now you can see it for $30 and not have to wait for DVD.

See? Everyone CAN just get along without bashing the other, totally valid experiences…

Silver says:

If the theaters want to give people reasons to go to the theaters, then maybe all theaters should install stadium seating?…It’s pretty bad when some giant 6-foot person sits right in front of you and you can’t see a damned thing.

Also, maybe they should lower the prices of the snacks and drinks. A large popcorn and drink costs you more then the freaking ticket, when I can make that for 90% LESS at home.

I think more people would go to the theater if they had age-specific times, regardless of the movie. A lot of adults like movies similar to Shrek, but don’t want to watch it with a bunch of bratty loud kids.

Maybe have assigned seating as well. There’s a reason why I chose that spot, and I won’t move, too bad, they arrived later then I and they need to find another spot.

And if only they could legally install plating in the walls to prevent cell phone signals so that people can watch the movie in peace and not have to listen to other people talk while in the theater. Why did you even pay for the ticket if all you’re going to do is talk all night??

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