Studios and Theaters are Missing the Point

· Joanthan Poritsky

Old hands in the film business point out that past changes in viewing technology did not bring the calamity that was sometimes predicted.

“I think it will do harm,” Sidney J. Sheinberg, who was president of MCA in Mr. Wasserman’s era, said of the new on-demand plan — yet Mr. Sheinberg also acknowledged that he had been wrong in seeing videocassettes as a threat, rather than a boon, to the studios in the early 1980s.

Interesting NYTimes article explains the current standoff between movie studios and theater owners over on-demand distribution. The trouble is that both sides completely miss the point of digital distribution and will eventually be outmoded by younger, more agile startups that can see what audiences want (e.g. Boxee Box, AppleTV, Vudu, Vimeo, YouTube, Netflix, etc.).

The tenuous relationship between studios and theaters is as old as cinema itself. At the end of the day, people will pay to go see a good movie, something theater owners have no say in. I love the theater experience and I can’t imagine a movie business without it. Still, when multibillion-dollar monopolies go to war with each other, it is the viewers who will suffer.