Would you be ready to watch a TV series in a cinema theater?
Considering the amount of money lavished on both The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power and House of the Dragon, and the sweepingly large-screen’ish way they have been filmed (at least the former, if not the latter too), would it make sense to release them in theaters?
Yes, I’m aware that there are eight 60+ minute episodes of the former, and ten almost-60-minute episodes of the latter. And also that most movies released in theaters have a run time of about 90 minutes (most English films) to 120-150 minutes (for most Indian films with songs).
That would make The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power a ‘movie’ with a run time of about 8 hours, and House of the Dragon ‘movie’ with a run time of about 10 hours!
So, apples-to-apples, the direct cinema theater release of a TV series doesn’t make sense.
But why not innovate?
How can we think about the theater experience a bit differently?
Option 1: A day out in the theater! (well, almost)
With some theatrical edits, a 6-hour ‘movie’ with 2 interval breaks?
Option 2: ‘Subscribe’ to a theater experience!
The theatrical edit of a 6-hour ‘movie’ has three almost 2-hour parts. A theater could run Part 1 back-to-back on a day, or a week. Week 2 could be Part 2. Week 3 could be part 3. The audience could ‘subscribe’ to the 3 parts and pick any day/show to complete the 3 parts based on ticket availability (they pay only once and get reserved tickets accordingly).
Imagine the number of times the theater chains can sell popcorn and other food items with these 2 options – see it from a revenue-generating potential from the theaters’ perspective 🙂
This can also be, potentially, benefit a membership plan, if initiated by the theaters, instead of the one-time/occasional relationship we have with theaters.
Option 3: What the makers of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power actually did!
The first two episodes actually premiered on August 31 in theaters, two days before the TV premiere! But it was an exclusive only for Cinemark theaters in the US.
Would you pick any of these options? If so, which one?
Any other models that you can think of?
And would this be an incentive for Indian OTT producers to tell larger-than-life stories that could be accentuated using the big screen experience?
This is not just for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power and House of the Dragon alone. Think of the many TV shows that are imagined on a grand scale – Amazon Prime’s Boys and Peripheral, Netflix’s Squid Game and Kingdom, and many Disney+ shows like the ones from the Star Wars franchise, Marvel franchise, and so on.
This is not to say that these longer TV shows should not make it to OTT platforms at all. But why not give them a grand theatrical release first, the way we release movies, and let them be watched on the big screen with grand acoustics and experience? Why restrict their viewing alone as TV-first and TV-only?
But let’s move beyond the TV shows for a minute – why not look at the many multi-part movies?
Imagine Ponniyin Selvan or Baahubali being made as a single 6-hour movie. How would they be released? Go to options 1 and 2 above!
The logic? If OTT platforms innovated away from conventional TV channels that released one episode a week and instead released all episodes at the same time (to enable binge-watching), why can’t the same logic be used to release binge-watch movies in theaters?
Of course, there are operational questions, like pricing! People are already complaining about the huge prices of theater tickets. If there is a longer release with 2 breaks, the prices are obviously going to be a lot higher than conventional tickets! But this is where theater chains could look at innovating in more interesting ways beyond simple transactional pricing, including subscriptions, memberships, loyalty programs, and more.
We now have ‘subscriptions’ for everything, including just the daily milk delivery 🙂 So why not subscribe to a theater experience that offers not just the occasional movie but more opportunities in consuming longer-form content? This also helps theaters sell the tickets to a lesser number of people – that is, if they have 5 shows a day, instead of selling each shows’ tickets to a fresh set of audiences, they need to sell 3 shows’ tickets to the same audiences (for a 3-show, 6 hour ‘content’ with 2 breaks)!
I’m sure the idea of releasing long-form (longer than a theatrical cinema) content in theaters would seem bizarre because we are so used to the current system. But that’s the same logic Netflix broke when they launched binge-watchable shows!