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CinemaCon throws tons of shade at Sean Parker's proposed movie theater killer

LAS VEGAS — Well, that went over like a lead balloon.

Screening Room, Napster and Facebook co-founder Sean Parker's proposal to bring new movies into homes for $50 — the same day they hit theaters — got a round of loud boos and hisses this week from the biggest of bigwigs at CinemaCon.

News of Parker's business model leaked last month, right before the annual convention of Hollywood studios and cinema owners. For some time, they've been fussing over theatrical windows — that traditionally 90-day period between a film's first appearance in theaters and its home video debut.

As TV screens get bigger and entertainment gets streamier, Hollywood is searching for ways to keep the turnstiles spinning. Parker's plan: to sell piracy-proof set-top boxes that would bring day-and-date movies to the home for $50 apiece.

Parker lined up plenty of support coming into CinemaCon, including directors Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams and Peter Jackson — at least some of whom also have a stake in the gambit. But hundreds of exhibitors, from Main Street mom-and-pop movie theaters to the biggest chains, are having none of it.

From CinemaCon's Monday kickoff to its final event Thursday, several major players threw shade at the idea, either directly or indirectly. And each time, the crowd of exhibitors sent up a huge huzzah.

Here are the six biggest anti-Screening Room moments from Las Vegas — and the only one in favor:

"My producing partner Jon Landau and I are committed to the sanctity of the in-theater experience. And that’s creatively, and from a business standpoint. Regardless of what the folks associated with the Screening Room say, I think it’s absolutely essential for movies to be offered exclusively in theaters upon initial release. [Huge applause]. Boom!"

Why are we in such a rush to take the thing that separates us from everything else, the shared experience in movie the theaters, and do away with it? Why are we in such a rush to turn movies into television? It doesn’t make sense to me. Movies are special."

In the development of a recent strategic plan for the organization, NATO's members overwhelmingly declared that the preservation of theatrical windows constitutes the highest priority for our industry, and our members intend to execute that plan. Now, to be sure, more sophisticated window modeling may be needed for the growing success of a modern movie industry. But those models will be developed by distributors and exhibitors in company-to-company discussions.

At a press conference following his keynote, Fithian added:

Abrams, who supports the Screening Room idea but has not disclosed whether he is an investor, was actually the first to talk about it — though not by name — while accepting an award on opening night during Monday's Paramount presentation.

Ever the diplomat, he kept his comments vague — and the audience responded politely.

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