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Why movie theaters should and shouldn't be afraid of VOD

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A couple weeks ago, my friend and colleague Bryan Bishop visited Las Vegas for a flashy conference called CinemaCon, where movie studios and theater owners discuss the future of the film industry — a future that isn't as predictable as it used to be.

Many theater owners worry that, in the age of streaming, the cineplex will become less relevant. The message from studios, however, was clear: theater owners have nothing to fear, because studios still believe big, communal screens are the true home of movies. Of course, that's not entirely true.

Movies appear on VOD faster than ever before

Over the past decade, more and more movies have been released directly to video-on-demand, or VOD. VOD is a large umbrella of a format, covering everything from online streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon, to the On Demand section on your cable box. The format has grown dramatically over the years, in terms of users, but also in terms of reach and power. Movies transition from theaters to home-viewing formats faster than ever. Sean Parker, known for his involvement in Napster and Facebook, is pitching a service called the Screening Room that would allow people with a $150 set-top box to stream movies that are currently in theaters for a $50 flat fee.

So, James Cameron may have been sincere when took the stage at this event to allay concerns about threats to the relevancy of the traditional movie theater. But studios are not so quietly trying to glean their best options from a murky future. To provide us some context and prediction, I invited Bryan onto this week's episode of What's Tech.

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