April 5, 2013 at 8:36 AM ET
Care to watch the 3-D re-release of Steven Spielberg's "Jurassic Park" this weekend without going to the theater? For decades, an elite group of Hollywood insiders making up what's known as the Bel Air Circuit have been provided new movies as a courtesy to watch in the privacy of their lavish home theaters.
Now a new outfit called Prima Cinema is offering the unprecedented chance for anyone with enough money -- and a home theater, of course -- the same sort of access. The price tag: $35,000 for a special digital box that allows films to be delivered safely over the Internet, then $500 for each title (a movie can only be viewed once over the course of a 24-hour period).
Universal, which is releasing "Jurassic Park 3-D" this weekend, so far is the only major Hollywood studio to make its titles available. Those have included "Les Miserables," "Identity Thief," "Admission" and now "Jurassic Park" (in 3-D). The upcoming Tom Cruise sci-fi thriller "Oblivion" also will be made available. Films from Universal's specialty division Focus Features also pop up on Prima.
Universal chairman Adam Fogelson has been a staunch proponent of finding new and creative revenue streams, even if it means shortening, or in this case collapsing, the theatrical window.
In 2011, theater owners were enraged when Universal and several other studios made movies available on DirecTV 60 days after their theatrical release for $30. The experiment, however, was a bust.
Exhibition insiders tell The Hollywood Reporter that movie exhibitors don't see Prima Cinema as a threat considering the extraordinary cost. However, for the super-rich, the service is a convenient alternative to going to the movies on opening weekend. Sources say the service has found many fans in Hollywood, including Seth MacFarlane and other top stars.
It's not clear if other studios will partner with Prima; sources at several of the majors say they are monitoring the company's progress for now.
Prima CEO Jason Pang told THR in a recent interview that the service has attracted sports franchise owners, top Hollywood power brokers, talent and members of the financial community. Some have even inquired about the possibility of installing the system on their yachts.
"This is not Netflix," Pang said. "This is an event."
Prima quietly began testing its service last summer, primarily in Southern California, New York and Florida. The company doesn't advertise and instead relies on those with access -- including Sid Ganis, former president of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences -- to open doors. Ganis sits on Prima's board of advisors, along with filmmaker Peter Farrelly.
The Prima system includes elaborate security technology designed to ensure against piracy, including a remote biometric fingerprint reader that allows only the subscriber to access the box. Nor can a subscriber turn his or home theater into a commercial venture; Prima inspects the home theater to make sure there are no more than 25 seats.
Prima officially launched at the beginning of the year and hopes to soon have 1,000 customers, according to those who have met with the company (no figures are available for how long the client roster is now).
"Prima is what private jets are to aviation," Pang said.