How The Ultra Rich Are Watching Brand New Movies At Home

Money won’t buy you happiness, as the old adage goes, but if you’re a movie fan with a lot of extra cash, it does mean you can watch newly released theatrical movies from the comfort of your own living room, and that isn’t bad. If you’ve got the means, there’s a new way to experience first-run movies at home.

The folks at The Verge recently had the opportunity to sit down and check out PRIMA Cinema. Overall, the experience sounds much the same as streaming a movie from Netflix. You’re sitting on your couch, no one is texting or talking (and if they are, they’re in your house, so you can tell them to knock it the hell off with impunity), and it’s all very normal. The difference is, with PRIMA, you have access to movies that were heretofore only available in the theater, many even on the same day. For instance, The Verge crew got to watch Furious 7 over the weekend while most of us battled our way into the local theater.

On the surface, PRIMA functions similarly to your Chromecast, Roku, Amazon Fire or whatever device you use, only way more intense. This isn’t some little thing you plug into your TV, this is a massive, rack-mounted device that looks like it should power the sound system at a nightclub. I hope you have some extra room. And you need to go through a biometric authentication process before you can actually use the device. There’s a thumbprint scanner.

It’s also prohibitively expensive. The device itself runs $35,000, and while that is enough for most of us to throw up our hands and say, "hell with that dream," just renting a movie costs exponentially more than going to the theater. If it was like $50 it might be worth it to get a couple of friends together to all pitch in to watch a new movie without the usual theatrical distractions—like a pay-per-view—but a movie on PRIMA will set you back $500. Yes, it will cost you five bills to watch The Longest Ride this weekend if you’re so inclined. Some indie movies are less, but odds are you can find most of those on some less expensive VOD service. And PRIMA is also only for new releases, you’ll have to look elsewhere for older movies and classics.

Security is the biggest reason why most first-run movies aren’t generally available for home viewing. Theater chains are highly possessive of how they make their money, and you don’t stream a movie on PRIMA. Titles are pre-delivered to the rack, downloaded over a secure connection, there’s a unique watermark embedded in each copy of each film so they’ll know if you pirate it, and there are even accelerometers in each device so it will shut off it moves. They are not playing around.

While all of this sounds like a crazy amount of effort to go through, PRIMA is apparently popular as hell. The movies reportedly look good, though they’re not 4K yet, and they can’t make them fast enough—there’s a waiting list to score one of these bad boys. Then again, if I had unlimited financial resources, like more money than I knew what to do with, I would probably get in line.

Brent McKnight