How to Watch the Latest Hollywood Releases in your Home Theater
Wouldn't it be nice to watch the latest Hollywood blockbuster at home with friends instead of behind texting tweens? Did you invest some serious cash into the best home theater system equipment like JBL Synthesis, Steinway Lyngdorf, Meyer Sound, or Wisdom Speakers? Well here is the low-down on how to avoid the theaters altogether but still be able to watch movies in your Los Angeles home the night they come out in theaters.
The Bel Air Circuit
I build many theaters for a lot of Hollywood heavyweights who have the extreme luxury of getting brand new films delivered to their home on the day of the theatrical release. Want to watch the next Star Wars in your jammies instead of fighting the lines at Christmas? Well, my entertainment pro clients can do just that by becoming a member of the Bel Air Circuit. The Bel Air Circuit isn't an official organization but really a phrase for those that have studio connections and professional cinema gear in their home. The typical requirements of entry are that you register your theater as a professional cinema with the film labs / distributors like Technicolor or Deluxe, and that you are in the entertainment industry with enough clout to get studio heads to approve adding your name to the list. Not all members get all films... or all studios. Sometimes DC or Marvel titles are limited. Sometimes certain directors make their titles less available to the circuit. Those with juice get all the studios and all the titles.
The equipment you need is not made by Samsung, LG, Vizio, or any of the video brands you may already know. Companies like Christie, Barco, Dolby, and NEC specialize in the D-Cinema equipment you will need to be a part of the Bel Air Circuit. These are the same projectors that you would find at the Arclight or AMC.
So what if you aren't a Hollywood hotshot? Well, the next best thing to the Bel Air Circuit is Prima Cinema. This is a device that gives you access to new theater releases but in a very consumer friendly way. Think Apple TV on steroids. The uncompressed picture and sound blow away any content on any streaming service, bar none. New releases and phenomenal quality come at a price though. The hardware sells for $35,000 ($50,000 is you want the new 4k unit with Dolby Atmos!) and the movies run around $500 per title. This may seem like a big price tag but our clients consider it the equivalent to a nice dinner and bottle of wine. It actually also might pencil out if you are taking a birthday party of 8 year olds to Minions 2.
Outside of those options there are not many choices for day and date releases. There are always the torrent sites if you fancy yourself a pirate and are OK with breaking the law. From a technical perspective, I would urge you to consider not using these sites simply because the video and sound quality are typically very low level. Despite the fact that the sites say they are giving you an HD feed, the compression typically dumbs the video down to a standard definition equivalent. As far as getting any of the lossless surround formats, forget it. You are lucky to even get surround sound, much less Dolby Digital or Dolby Atmos. If you have invested in high-end home theater equipment, you don't want to destroy your cinema experience with poor quality video and sound.
Don't have a screening room yet and thinking about building one? The folks at IMAX have a product called IMAX Private Theater that delivers the IMAX experience to your home theater. The system is what you would expect in professional cinemas yet scaled down for a home environment. The IMAX Private Theater is a big investment at around 2.25M, so unless you are the 1% of the 1%, it may not be an option. That being said, IMAX is rumored to be bringing their Palais product to North America. This is a scaled down version of the IMAX Private Theater that has been available only in China up to this point. We expect the price tag to be about 25% of the IMAX Private Theater. It is rumored that IMAX will be offering their own version of Prima Cinema with the IMAX Palais theater. No pricing or features have been confirmed but we should expect to know details sometime this year. A strong consideration if you are going to build a high-performance home theater anytime soon.
The latest option on the horizon is a product called Screening Room. This is being developed by Sean Parker of Napster and Facebook fame. cThe intent is to release a set-top box that would allow you to watch the latest Hollywood blockbuster for as low as $50 a film. Despite the fact that the venture has some big-time supporters like Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, and Ron Howard, don't expect Screening Room to ever see the light of day. Both the North American and European Theater Owner groups have come out against it along with Disney. The studios are very reticent to upset the theater owners so it is unlikely that this system will get past the incubator phase.
It is an interesting drama to watch unfold though.
With the theatrical windows shrinking, it seems inevitable that we will all be able to watch new films the day they are released in our homes. That being said, even though my home theater is off-the-charts, I still like to go to cinemas and watch certain films communally. For now, the ability to access these films is for folks with luxury home theaters in luxury homes. It will be interesting to see how long that will be a special perk available only to the uber-successful.