Day & Date Finally Gets Real, Pt. 2
In Part 1, I talked about companies that either currently offer or are about to offer the ability to watch movies at home the day they’re released in theaters. Here, I’m going to look towards “things that are coming,” and discuss a service on the horizon called Xcinex (pronounced See-nex).
I’ve already written a couple of posts about this company—you can read Part 1 and Part 2 here—but here’s a quick look at what they’re up to. Xcinex is a Silicon Valley startup that, unlike Red Carpet Home Cinema, is definitely looking to disrupt and change the whole movie delivery model. While Red Carpet requires a hefty $15,000 buy-in, Xcinex wants to sell you its Venue hardware for an almost unbelievable $29.95. (That’s not a typo.) And instead of paying thousands per movie, Xcinex expects its pricing to be similar to what you pay now when you go to a movie theater.
It’s been over a year since I wrote my original post on Xcinex, so I reached out to Founder and CEO Cihan Fuat Atkin, to see if they’re still on track for launch. According to Atkin, they expect to begin selling Venue by the end of 2019 at $29.95, and to have content available for purchase at that time.
One of the biggest differences between Xcinex and the other options—short of hardware costing fractions less—is its per-viewer pricing model. For example, while you pay $500 to watch a movie with Prima Cinema whether you’re watching alone or with a houseful of guests, Xcinex will follow the movie theater model of charging per each set of eyeballs. This also enables studios to have a more accurate count of how many people are actually watching a film.
How does Xcinex do this? The Venue set-top box has a sensor that monitors the room while a movie is playing to see how many people are watching. It also keeps piracy at bay by looking for any devices that could be recording the film.
This obviously raises some privacy concerns, since most people aren’t keen on having a sensor keep tabs on them while they watch movies. Atkin said Xcinex has redesigned its hardware since my last conversation to address this. Venue is now 100%
Bluetooth, which means it no longer has a network connection and can no longer be remotely accessed or send any images. All image analyzation is now done locally, in real time, without being stored or submitted.
Xcinex is proposing a 95% revenue payback to studios, which can then distribute a share of the money back to the local theater, cutting them into the sale just as if someone had gone there and bought a ticket. Viewers can select a theater if they’re part of its loyalty program or Xcinex can send the revenue to the nearest cinema.
Atkin said Xcinex is looking to “bring the 1% experience to the masses,” and that his company will be applying for app approval on all major services, including Apple, Roku, and Android; smart TVs; and game consoles like PlayStation and Xbox.
While he expects to have content available at launch, Atkin couldn’t name any studios that had signed on to support Xcinex. He did say he fully expects to have a mix of independents, foreign, and live content, and that while day-and-date availability will be up to individual studios, that is his company’s ultimate goal. “We wouldn’t have spent the past five years working on this if we didn’t expect it to be a reality,” Atkin said.
Over the past year, Xcinex has been busy streamlining the process for using its product, simplifying operation and the movie selection and purchase process, which will now all be completed via the onscreen app instead of requiring a separate phone or tablet.
Atkin did share some information that some might find more than just a bit invasive. Xcinex plans to be able to supply data to content providers on viewer behavior during films. To help studios know how content is performing, the sensor would be able to analyze audiences and share whether viewers laughed, cried, or got up during a scene. And while it wouldn’t be sharing specific information such as “John laughed, at 2 minutes 10 seconds in,” it could share information like “two out of four viewers laughed.” He said this feature won’t be active at launch, and users could opt out of sharing this data when it becomes available.
At its bargain-basement pricing, Xcinex could find itself successful even if it never gets a single studio to sign on for early-release windows. In fact, it might ultimately find more success in selling access to live events like concerts, sports, or plays. Imagine being able to buy a ticket to watch Hamilton or see Taylor Swift when the event is happening hundreds of miles away or sold out? Or being able to view indy or foreign films that don’t get a wide release?
Finally, you can’t have an article on day-and-date services without mentioning The Screening Room. This was the brainchild of Sean Parker of Napster and Facebook fame announced back in 2016 that created a wildfire of buzz in the industry for about two months.
Parker’s idea was that hardware would cost $150, and viewers would buy films for $50, giving them access to a 48-hour window. Of that $50, an equal share would go to both the studios and the local theater chain, cutting everyone in on the action.
Adding to the buzz, the service had vocal support of some pretty big Hollywood influencers like J.J. Abrams, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Peter Jackson, and Ron Howard. But it had an equal if not greater number of people—including Cristopher Nolan, James Cameron, M. Night Shyamalan, and Kevin Tsujihara CEO of Warner Bros.—speaking out against it, not to mention theater chain owners
But just like a shooting star that shines bright and burns out quickly, as fast as The Screening Room came to attention, it seems to have completely disappeared into the ether. Since June 2016, there has been almost no news or information on the company. One small update from The Wrap in March 2017 said the company was working on developing new security protocols to address piracy concerns and that The Screening Room planned on attending CinemaCon. There has been nothing about the company since.
With companies like Netflix and Amazon pushing release windows and creating Oscar-worthy content directly for streaming, it seems that day-and-date releases are inevitable, and at this point it seems more a question of when and who rather than if.
Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is
co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing
for such publications as Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at
@SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.