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Simultaneous Release

MoviesIt’s a week old, but it’s new to me. I just stumbled upon this Fortune Magazine article on simultaneous release. For those who Google searched “simultaneous release” in the hopes they’d find something about tantric sex or dual climax, you’re way off base. Simultaneous release refers to releasing a movie in multiple formats – DVD, theater, Cable On Demand, etc – at the same time.

If you’ve read my posts on the topic, you know I am very much in favor of it, and believe it’s the way of the future.

Unfortunately, the small minded among us don’t believe this. M. Night Shyamalan – whose work I’m growing increasingly unhappy with – is opposed to the idea, thinks theaters will be wiped off the earth, and still believes the world is flat. He refers to DVDs as “souvenirs” of the movie theater experience. I imagine he has no idea how many people buy DVDs without ever having seen the movie on a big screen.

I’m not quite sure why he, and people like him, fear this idea so badly. Do CDs take away business from live concerts? Did movies erase the business model of stage productions? No, they don’t and they didn’t.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. People go to movies for a number of reasons.

They go to movies because there is nothing better. The sweeping grandeur of Gladiator, The Patriot, The Lord of the Rings (all of them) or Dances With Wolves on a giant screen can’t be captured anywhere else.

They go to movies for the life of the crowd. I love to see movies at Union Station. There is not a movie audience in America that compares. When I saw Remember the Titans there, I thought the crowd would start doing the wave. I’ve never heard an audience, in unison, yelling “Run! Run! Run!”

They go to movies on dates. The Friday night movie date is still a staple of life and always will be – whether it’s the drive in or the multiplex.

They go to movies for reasons I have probably never imagined.

There are, however, certain realities of life that prevent attending movies in theaters. For example, my wife and I have our 8 month old son. We may sneak out to see a movie occasionally if we have a sitter we trust. But there are movies released every weekend that we’d like to see.

Now, we would love the opportunity to share the water-cooler chatter about the latest blockbuster, but we don’t plan to drop $100 a week to keep up – especially when over-hyped pieces of crap like The Village fail to deliver so frequently.

Simultaneous release would lead me to do two things. First, I would invest in a Home Theater Projector. I would have to rearrange some furniture, have the projector professionally installed and remove anything hanging on my new 200 inch TV, but it would be worth it.

Second, I would become the biggest user of OnDemand. I’d be pulling down a new movie 5 or 6 times a week. Heck, I wouldn’t even care if I had to pay more for first-run movies. $10-$12 for a one-time in-home viewing (versus the $4 I pay now for something dated) seems like a fair deal.

If anything, simultaneous release would generate more money for the industry and more money for the consumer electronics industry. Imagine the potential for word of mouth marketing – the water cooler buzz – if everyone has the ability to see a movie and chat about it.

Simultaneous release would revolutionize the way we consume media. It would also lead to more instances of break out success like My Big Fat Greek Wedding. If OnDemand lists a good movie that may have no budget for marketing, it will gain an audience, and traction.

The Fortune article, however, has it right. Bubble could set the clock back on simultaneous release. This needs to be tried with a major motion picture, not some Soderbergh crap fest with amateur actors and low production value.

I just hope some studio exec, some day, will have the balls to try it.

Written by Michael Turk