The story below was originally published on Theo’s Roundtable, for which I am contributing writer.

Streaming, when discussing it amongst true believers—aka home theater enthusiasts—seems to be a four-letter word. They don’t like streaming because it represents a compromise in both audio and video quality. While they may be right in their assertions, they’re failing to see the larger, more important, picture. You see, most of these enthusiasts have home theaters because, well, they’ve grown tired of the commercial-cinema experience. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, the commercial cinema has largely been transformed from palaces of awe and wonder to Walmarts in need of a cleanup. The only thing stopping the home cinema experience from surpassing that of the commercial cinema is access.

Theaters still get theatrical content first, and while the release window that separates theatrical from home video may be shrinking, it’s still the commercial cinema that comes out ahead. But this is changing, and right before our eyes. While there are ultra-exclusive services like the Bel Air circuit and such that bring commercially-available titles home the same day they’re released in theaters, those services are cost-prohibitive, not to mention tailored for all but the top one of the one-percenters.

So what does this have to do with streaming? It’s simple: In an effort to wean consumers off of discs and thus (hopefully) piracy, the studios have begun releasing titles digitally—aka streaming—before even their home-video release dates. For example, the online or streaming service I choose to use is Vudu—one, because their HDX format in terms of audio and video quality is second only to Blu-ray and far ahead of where others are at present; and, second, because they’ve begun to make titles available before they’re available anywhere else. How soon? I bought Argo on Blu-ray this week as my wife and I hadn’t yet seen it. But had she not been out of town on a shoot these past few weeks, we probably would’ve enjoyed it on Vudu, as it was available three weeks ago. Other titles where similar early releases have been seen are Skyfall, Prometheus,and Here Comes the Boom. All of these before-mentioned films bowed on Vudu before physical disc. This is what I mean when I say support for streaming is a good thing—regardless of how you feel about its overall quality.

If more folks took up the cause of day & date—whereby a film’s release is seen both commercially and at home on the same day—rather than getting tied up in format wars or discussions over pixels, we might actually start getting our favorite films when we want them and instead of…


  • Mark Shaheen

    Not going to happen in my theater. I am tired to caps on data amounts. Bandwidth choking when the service provider is not the one doing the media sales. Repeat sales of the same product if you want to watch it more than once. All to fight piracy, no, all to make the content provider more cash. Now I am forced to buy more bandwidth, more on-line media I don’t have access to and fight my internet provider to provide more than a lousy 250 gig’s a month.
    Plus If I do stream and my neighbors do to, the system hickups and chugs to a halt. I will continue buying the disk.

  • Andrew Robinson

    I take it you’re using something along the lines of satellite Internet. Am I correct? I used to have it too in which case you may be stuck. While I feel for your situation and wish better Internet upon you, I still feel my points are valid -just maybe not for your particular situation. Thanks so much for reading and for weighing in.

  • David Mackenzie

    [quote]You see, most of these enthusiasts have home theaters because, well, they’ve grown tired of the commercial-cinema experience. [/quote]

    [quote] The only thing stopping the home cinema experience from surpassing that of the commercial cinema is access.[/quote]

    I don’t agree at all. The commercial cinema experience – even when the presentation is lacking – is still up there at the top in my book. Nothing beats a shared experience on a huge screen. For me, home theatre is very good second, but it is a second.

    I don’t care if the streaming version is out first, for me it’s inferior from two points of view. At the moment like you say it’s technologically inferior. That will change in time (although the desire for them to get away with the lowest bitrates possible isn’t going to change so be careful what you wish for). There is also the fact that I want to own a copy of the film to watch whenever I want.

    Don’t wish for the end of physical media – a lot of people would regret that.

  • Andrew Robinson

    I thank you for reading and for weighing in. The death of physical media is all but a given at this point. How long discs have is the question. Though I do believe they’ll hang around in the AV space longer than anywhere else. Regardless, it’s cool if you still enjoy the shared experience. Me personally, not so much. I appreciate your comments though!

  • Nick Thompson

    The concerns about piracy are kind of funny. A) some people just don;t like to pay for things and will find a way around that. As long as these companies charge a fee for the titles, this is going to continue. Streaming isn’t going to change this any more than iTunes stopped music piracy. B) The idea of a low(er) res/audio stream reduces any differentiation between TV quality/illegal download/youtube quality. Ask the rational question, why would people pay for something of no better quality than what they can get for free? Sure, it is illegal, and no, I do not support the practice, but I’m also realistic about it. Hollywood should be too.

    DVD was a great success because it dropped the price of owning new films (new titles on VHS could be very pricey back in the day), offered useful features (chapter skip, no need to rewind, etc), was based on a concept that people understood (thanks to owning other shiny discs), and most importantly, offered a noticeable increase in the quality of the product. For many people, streaming doesn’t do many, or even most, of those things.

    Finally, many people don’t, and simply won’t in the near to mid term, have access to broadband connections. Even those that pay for higher speeds, where available, most often don’t get them reliably. Hollywood’s desire, if it exists, to get around piracy concerns by streaming then leaves a large swath of potential customers out in the cold. It would be bad business as they would probably lose more revenues due to the above than they do due to piracy.

  • Andrew Robinson

    Agreed. People intent on doing wrong will so while streaming may make piracy (more) difficult it won’t eliminate it. I do get that many people don’t have broadband but the above wasn’t meant to come across as a reality tomorrow should everyone jump aboard, but rather a very real possibility in the not too distant future. I believe the latter is true, which is why I say those still clinging to discs, broadband connection or not, need to wake up and start accepting streaming and find ways of pushing providers to make it better rather than hold out a lot of hope for discs moving forward. Thanks so much for reading and for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate it!

  • Mike in SC

    “Nothing beats a shared experience on a huge screen”. This is becoming less and less true for me. Now, shared experiences are more like being distracted from the near-by glow of mobile devices or listening to someone nosily eat their snacks.

    My wife and I made a decision that we would reserve our cinema outings to action-adventure and sci-fi releases. Big screen and big sound! Drama and comedies we’ll watch at home.

    I do agree with you about owning the physical media. there are some movies I watch again and again.

  • Mike in SC

    I think some of the objections raised (sub-par audio and video quality) are noteworthy, and until some of the short-comings of streaming are better addressed, then taking up the cause will be a long and slow process for me.

    Having written that, I do agree with your sentiment that the cinema experience has grown wearisome. Furthermore, my local Blockbuster closed up shop and I had to discontinue my participation in their mail-order program: Too many discs were being broken by the USPS.

    So, I can see my family and I adopting streaming along with purchasing physical media for the movies we truly want to keep. To learn more about making streaming a practical matter for me, I have started paying more attention to these articles of yours as well as Adrienne Maxwell’s reviews.