Anthony Grimani (email@example.com) is president of Performance Media Industries, with offices in Novato and San Anselmo, CA. If you walked the halls of CEDIA EXPO this year, you probably heard some statements like, “Dedicated home theaters are on the decline,” or “People prefer to watch movies in multi-purpose living spaces or on their smartphones and tablets.” If you’re like me, high-end dedicated theatres are a big part of your passion and livelihood. Hearing this kind of thing gives you reason for pause. Is the dedicated theater business really on the decline? Not really, because a new form of movie content will get our clients back into their private movie palaces.
It’s true that we’re seeing clients that have lived with dedicated home theaters opt not to include one in their new home, vacation home, or relocation project. The most common explanation I hear goes along the lines of, “You know, we really didn’t use the dedicated room in our old house that much, so we’ll just put a media system somewhere.” Or your client might say, “$500,000 is a lot of money just to watch a DVD!”
These are legitimate arguments. These days, movies are all about blink-and- you’ll-miss-it theatrical runs. Studios hype big-budget projects to the Nth degree to create incredible public anticipation. But, by the time these movies show up on home video four to six months later, they’re old news. Everyone’s either already seen them or has heard enough about them to know they don’t want to. Let’s face it; there aren’t that many movies good enough to watch over again in your home theater. Furthermore, content is available everywhere for every type of device. Home theater is ultimately all about content; once it becomes pedestrian and bundled together in packages, our clients lose interest, and we lose our business.
Companies like Prima Cinema currently offer a platform for viewing movies at home during their theatrical runs at a quality that exceeds even Blu-ray Disc. Titles automatically download to the hard drive, so the latest content is available when you want it. Imagine, if you will, that you could harness all the excitement and energy that surrounds a big Hollywood premiere. What if you could offer that to your clients in the comfort of their very own luxurious dedicated first-run home cinema? Our clients are the kind of folks that go clubbing in limousines, watch the Lakers or Knicks from floor seats, and fly the jet to Paris for breakfast. They are going to watch The Avengers: Age of Ultron on opening weekend in 2015, because everyone is. Yet they don’t want to line up with screaming teenagers at midnight to sit in a theater with sticky floors, who-knows-what on the seats, crackly sound, and a dim picture. Instead, you could give them the alternative to invite their friends over for a day-and-date movie party in the comfort and privacy of their own home. No lines, no teenagers, clean floors, comfy loungers, dynamic sound, and a sparkling picture better than anything on the market now.
This is reality, not a pipe dream. Companies like Prima Cinema currently offer a platform for viewing movies at home during their theatrical runs at a quality that exceeds even Blu-ray Disc. Titles automatically download to the hard drive, so the latest content is available when you want it. At $35,000 for the hardware and $500 for a viewing, the system isn’t what most of us would consider affordable. But we’re not buying this for ourselves. If you’re building a $500,000 to $1,000,000 home theater, then it’s a small price to pay for “day-and-date” theatrical releases.
In addition to Prima Cinema, there are rumblings of other initiatives aimed at luxury home theater owners who may soon be able to join groups with access to theatrical releases just like the big movie theater chains. Specific titles or even entire yearly catalogs from all the major studios could be purchased for unlimited viewing and presented by industry-standard DCI-certified equipment.
Granted, not everyone is a movie fan. However, all of your big clients probably entertain. When they decide to have a dinner party, that’s going to cost at least $50 a head. But it’s just another dinner party where they show off their fine china and the culinary prowess of their caterer. It’s nothing special; they don’t have anything unique for their guests. However, spend that same $50 a head on a latest movie release, and 10 or 20 of their friends get an experience that they can’t get anywhere else. If you’re one of these folks, you’re not going to want to do this in a living room with a media system. Those spaces can be built with reasonable audio-video quality, but not what is required for a true first-run screening. The room doesn’t necessarily have to look and feel like a movie theater, but it does need to be a little special. A little…custom. Now you’re back in business building dedicated home cinemas!
Chase Walton contributed to this column.