Sir Peter backs new movie download service

Sir Peter Jackson (Reuters)
Sir Peter Jackson (Reuters)

Sir Peter Jackson, who once fought against plans to allow home viewers to rent movies while they were still in theatres, is backing a new service that will do just that.

Screening Room, which also has support from big-name directors Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard and J.J. Abrams, will let buyers of a US$150 set-top box to stream new releases the day they're released. Each movie will cost US$50 (US$75), and include two tickets to see the film in theatres.

In 2011, Sir Peter voiced his opposition to a similar offering from US satellite broadcaster DirecTV, saying it would have "led to the cannibalisation of theatrical revenues, to the ultimate detriment of the movie business".

The Lord of the Rings and Heavenly Creatures director says Screening Room won't do that.

"Screening Room… is very carefully designed to capture an audience that does not currently go to the cinema. That is a critical point of difference with the DirecTV approach – and along with Screening Room’s robust anti-piracy strategy, is exactly why Screening Room has my support."

Entertainment newspaper Variety reports Screening Room's strategy is to "capture middle-aged audiences whose family responsibilities prevent them from routinely going to the theatre".

"Screening Room will expand the audience for a movie -- not shift it from cinema to living room," says Sir Peter.

"It does not play off studio against theatre owner. Instead it respects both, and is structured to support the long term health of both exhibitors and distributors – resulting in greater sustainability for the wider film industry itself."

Distributors are expected to get two-fifths of the Screening Room ticket price, and theatre owners -- who make much of their money from selling food and drinks -- will benefit if viewers decide to leave the house and make use of the "free" tickets.

Napster co-founder Sean Parker is the main investor in Screening Room, which plans to take 10 percent of the revenue.