Peter Jackson Backs Controversial Streaming Service

Peter Jackson, who is best known for directing The Lord of the Rings trilogy, is now backing the controversial steaming site Screening Room.

According to Variety, the service lets viewers watch newly released films in their homes, while they concurrently play in the theaters. It is said to target a specific audience that chooses not to go to movie theaters – specifically young families, who may not get to the movies as much as they would like.

“Screening Room will expand the audience for a movie — not shift it from cinema to living room,” said Jackson.

The service, which was founded by Napster’s Sean Parker and entrepreneur Prem Akkaraju, is offering the newly released films for $50 to viewers, as reported by Variety. Viewers also have access to an anti-piracy equipped set-top box that streams the films, for $150. Customers are then given 48 hours to watch the films once they’re accessed.

To assure that the studios get a piece of the action and go along with the service, Screening Room will give them a reasonable sized percentage of the revenue earned. The theaters could possibly receive $20 of the $50 fee charged to customers. To sweeten the deal for customers, they would be given two free tickets to see a film in the cinemas.

“It does not play off studio against theatre owner,” said Peter Jackson, in an article for Newshub.

Jackson continued, “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.”

Peter Jackson isn’t the only Hollywood heavyweight to become a shareholder in Screening Room. Filmmakers such as Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Frank Marshall, J.J. Abrams, Taylor Hackford, and Brian Grazer are backing the service. However, it was reported by Stuff New Zealand, that not all of the filmmakers have invested money yet.

In recent months, Jeff Blake, a former vice chairman for Sony Pictures, has consulted for Screening Room and is reportedly a stakeholder.

After it was announced that Peter Jackson would back the service, some wondered if he was backtracking on previous support for a release window for theatrical films, according to Variety.

Jackson, along with such directors as James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow, protested a deal in 2011 that major movie studios made with DirecTV to give their customers access to films after eight weeks of being in the theaters. The National Association of Theatre Owners (or NATO) along with other directors like Robert Zemeckis. argued that the decline in home video sales would not be helped by a distribution model “that cannibalizes theatrical ticket sales.”

The New Zealand born director released a statement explaining his position.

“I had concerns about DirecTV in 2011, because it was a concept that I believe would have led to the cannibalization of theatrical revenues, to the ultimate detriment of the movie business,” said Jackson, who feels the service will be “a bridge” between the theater owners and studios.

Jackson continued, “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.”

“It remains to be seen whether audiences will be willing to pay the high premium to watch new releases in the comfort of their own home,” The New Zealand Herald said in a post.

Mike Fleming Jr., a writer for Deadline Hollywood, has called the service a “disruptive concept,” while the founder and CEO of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema Tim League has opposed the service.

“I think this is not a good idea, and I sincerely doubt the studios will go for it at that price point. It feels like a half-baked plan to me,” said League, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

Peter Jackson also made the news in January, when it was revealed that the late David Bowie was turned down for the part of Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, according to Entertainment Weekly.

“To have a famous, beloved character and a famous star colliding is slightly uncomfortable,” said Jackson, at the time.

(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)