Virtual Theatre

Why Online?

In a quickly evolving media world, where HDTV saturation now exceeds 70% and the average US living room TV sold is a 44-inch HDTV screen, the concept of trying to compel consumers to attend and pay for a movie in a theater has gradually become more archaic.

With the overwhelming majority of multichannel video homes capable of utilizing video-on-demand, with the exponential growth of IP-enabled TVs, not to mention the growth of web-enabled iPads that have a sharper screen than any TV set, the stage is set and the “home” has quickly become the new “theater.”

Over the past several years, there has been a fast-growing decline in the publics’ interest in buying movies or venturing out to the theater. The annual number of movies attended per capita has dropped from 5.1 to 3.9 over the past decade. Simply put, consumers are watching fewer movies in theaters.

The downward trend in movie attendance and DVD purchases are really the results of one, simple catchall word: “technology.”  Technological advances in home theater, especially since 2005 have shrunk the difference between watching movies in the home and watching in the theater.

Broadband has also created competition for a viewer’s time and enabled new ways to experience film. With Netflix, streaming has brought large quantities of content to consumers at low prices, while creating competition between first-run “fresh” content and long-tail, catalog content. In addition to Netflix, online content options such as Hulu, iTunes, Amazon Prime Instant Video, Vudu, etc. have put theaters on a quick path to extinction, while home film screening is the revolution of today and certainly the wave of the future.

Since the inception of Netflix, video-on-demand (VOD) has increased the depth of content and video quality and is poised to improve even more with advancements in technology making the “Home Theater” omnipresent.

The convergence of these technology catalysts has raised the bar for consumers to either leave their home or buy a movie ticket or to buy a movie on DVD or digitally. We expect the bar to move notably higher over the next few years as an increasing percentage of TVs become IP-enabled.

If the bar is higher for consumers to leave their home and go to a theater, why not bring the theater to consumers?

Consider that in addition to the high cost of a movie ticket and the inconvenience of leaving the home, there are meaningful expenses for the consumer in going to the theater way over-priced concessions, parking, $5 per gallon of gas and often times babysitting.

We feel that the movie-going public and Indie Film fans are leveraging their in-home technology while reducing a wide array of non-movie costs, with the VOD technology at very high standards currently, and improving every day.

In addition, the collapse of the window between theatrical and home entertainment has been quite successful for an array of independent films and filmmakers alike.

In keeping with this trend, major film festivals such as the Sundance Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival and locally, the Erie International Film Festival are now bringing both the worldwide exposure to Filmmaker’s projects and the virtual theatre experience of Indie Film to the world.

The virtual theatre is the next step in the evolution of independent film screening and the future of film festivals. More and more festivals are now screening films online these days, and even the big festivals such as the Sundance Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Festival are now screening films online.

Festivals are moving to the online platform because of many reasons, including that it allows for so much more exposure for the films. It is expected that, just like the extinction of the 35mm projectors that were replaced with digital, one day in the not too distant future all film festivals will screen almost exclusively online, with only a few live presentations, if any.

Data compiled in part by Richard Greenfield and Brandon Ross of BTIG.

Our Virtual Theater 

The Erie International Film Festival offers a unique method of viewing films through a virtual theater system that allows Independent Film enthusiasts and filmmakers alike to watch and enjoy the films worldwide with the ultimate of convenience.

All films screened through our virtual theater system cannot be downloaded, and have no embedding code, while the HTML code if copied and pasted, the films will not play, therefore they cannot be placed on other websites. The only time and place any film screened in our virtual theater can be viewed is in our virtual theatre.

The Erie International Film Festival has gone to great lengths to protect the safety and security of each filmmaker’s film, while always offering the best film screening possible.