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Theater Chains May Stream Movies to Homes

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Movie Theaters May Stream Movies to Homes

For decades, cable, telecom, and satellite video systems have fought fiercely with theater chains and with TV and movie studios– sometimes over market share, more often over licensing. They have to deal with each other, but they never do so out of love.

Germantown getting a pop-up drive-in movie theater; 'Frozen' to play

Can this marriage be saved?

The ongoing war escalated a few weeks ago, when AT&T landed a haymaker on Hollywood. WarnerMedia, an AT&T division, said it would bypass theatrical release of its entire 2021 slate of movies, streaming them exclusively through HBO Max and AT&T TV. The studios erupted in fury. AT&T then retreated, but only a little. The telecom said it will continue to allow screening of its movies in theaters, but the first screenings will be simultaneous with first streaming on its own platforms.

Studios and theater chains, already reeling from draconian government lockdowns of retail businesses, saw in AT&T’s latest assault their potential extinction. If other content providers follow Ma Bell’s lead, they could doom the theater industry.

How can theater chains recover?

It’s been said, though, that the best defense is a good offense. With this in mind, Christie, a manufacturer of projectors and other display devices, offers a potentially devastating riposte. If the firm is right, theaters could emerge from their defensive crouch, and might even poach AT&T’s core video market. Christie has patented a means for theaters to stream their movies directly to consumer homes.

The system combines hardware and software to send video via internet directly to consumer homes. Depending on the type of web service in the home, the streams can vary from H.265 at four megabits per second (4 MB/S) to uncompressed 8K at a hundred MB/S.

Are there any obstacles?

A few hurdles remain. Movie studios, concerned about increased potential for piracy with release of new content to consumer homes, may balk at allowing it. Under current licensing arrangements, new movies usually arrive on streaming platforms months after first release.

Still, with a public health crisis– or the political overreaction to it– keeping people out of public venues, Christie’s new system might prove the lifeline the theater industry desperately needs.

What does this mean for you?

What does this development mean for you? To start with, if theaters can stream first-run movies to homes, you save time. You can see first-run movies without wrestling with traffic. You don’t have to wait in line, and you don’t have to deal with loud or obnoxious people at the theater.

And of course, during outbreaks of contagion, avoiding crowds is all the more necessary. Life and health could depend on it.

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As you could guess, this makes a reliable internet connection all the more necessary.

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