I was talking last night about how much of our home media consumption is time-shifted. We pretty much only watch shows that I’ve downloaded or recorded on the PVR. I only listen to radio via a few podcasts. I discover music on my own schedule, as opposed to MTV or the radio.
I started thinking, then, about how we could time-shift media we enjoy outside the home. I wondered if the digital distribution of movies to movie theatres meant that they could display the movies when I wanted, instead of according to their schedule?
Couldn’t they open up their schedule to voting? For example, what if I had twenty people from my office who wanted to attend a summer blockbuster at 4:00pm, but the movie is scheduled to run at 3:00pm and 5:30pm. Couldn’t we, hypothetically, visit the cinema’s website and vote to change the movie schedule for that day?
Once digital distribution is commonplace, a cinema should run entirely like any other shop at the mall. It has no requirement for a skilled and scheduled projectionist, so the movie schedule could change daily based on the whims of its patrons.
And seeing as we’re changing movie start times, why can’t we vote on which movies the cinema runs? The real answer is that the producers, distributors and cinemas have this farcically baroque system for scheduling movies and dividing up box office revenue. That could change, though. Just as MP3s, Napster and iTunes has tranformed the music distribution channel, technology shifts could change the way movie sales work.
A vote-for-upcoming-movies model would reduce the amount of guesswork that cinemas have to undertake when scheduling movies. Combined with the crowd’s ability to adjust the schedule, these changes might, in theory, increase the average attendance per showing.
Surely some independent cinemas have tried this model. Have you heard of any?