A couple of months ago I wrote a column warning everyone that Disney was trying to monopolize the entertainment industry, and I decided to update that idea when this little piece of the puzzle fell conveniently into place. So let me lay out for you how Disney is going to close down all but its own movie theaters, take over distribution for almost all of the major movie studios, and put all of the rest of the movie theaters out of business.
(Note: I do not know what exact order these things will happen, nor do I have any clue as to when these things will happen. What I do know is that Disney responded to a small drop in its stock price by buying an online streaming service. If the company sees momentum in its stock, it could accelerate its plans.)
- Disney will develop proprietary features with its online streaming service that will make it irresistible to customers. Along with its ability to saturate the market with its advertising for its online streaming service, the features Disney will utilize will immediately make the Disney online streaming platform the most popular in the world.
- Disney will start releasing its first run movies on its online streaming platform instead of into theaters. That will only make the platform more popular.
- At the same time, Disney will apply its disgustingly high percentage of the box office to all of its movies. Over time, movie theaters will be faced with the thought of not playing Disney movies, or going broke from playing Disney movies.
- The other studios will begin to follow suit and charge movie theaters an outrageous percentage of the box office to show their movies. Of course, the theaters owned by Disney will not have to pay these rates.
- Since the other studios did not think their plans out, they realize that theaters are no longer showing their first run movies because the studios want too much of the box office. Just when the other major studios decide to bring down their box office percentages, Disney releases a new program.
- Disney becomes the highest paying online streaming service for movie studios around the world. Studios that agree to release all of their first run movies on the Disney online streaming platform will get financial deals that would exceed what the theaters can afford. The catch is that the studios must agree that they will release all of their first run movies only on the Disney online streaming platform. The studios fall in line, and now Disney is getting all of the profits from its own movies as well as profits from every other studios' movies as well.
Still sound crazy? When I first started talking about this a few months ago, people asked me how Disney would make sure that every person who saw the movies at home paid to see those movies. I keep saying that Smart TVs can see into people's living rooms, and that is just the start.
So how will Disney do it? One of the requirements to utilize Disney's streaming service for first run movies will be that you must have a Smart TV (you can use the standard streaming service with any kind of television or computing device). If you want to stream Disney's first run movie service on your computing device, you must allow Disney access to the camera on that device. If you don't have a camera on your computing device, you cannot use the service.
Disney's service will be able to tell if you have the privacy settings changed to not allow the television to look into your room, and it will also be able to tell if you are covering the television's camera. If Disney's online service cannot see into your living room, it will not play the movie.
When your Smart TV can see into your living room, it will count how many people are in the room. There might even be technology in development to tell how many people are in a room based on conversations. If you paid to have three people watch the movie and the Disney system detects there are six people in the room, you will have to pull out your credit card and pay for the other three people if you want to watch the movie.
Look, I am not a conspiracy guy. I don't believe in the grassy knoll and I don't think space aliens live among us. But Disney is a cutthroat corporation that continues to buy up more and more entertainment properties. Just go to Disney's list of assets on Wikipedia to see everything the company owns. It is an impressive list.
I am not a conspiracy guy, but I cannot ignore this. Some theaters might survive by showing retro movies or maybe independent films that do not subscribe to the Disney plan, but my fear is that theaters will be wiped out completely.
What about the government? There have been some high profile anti-trust lawsuits filed by the government over the years, but those companies still dominate their marketplaces. Microsoft was slapped with an anti-trust lawsuit in the late 90s and Windows is still the only other popular operating system available besides the Apple OS. In Donald Trump's America, what Disney is doing could just be called "smart business." Meanwhile, the American born experience of going to the drive-in completely disappears. That default first date for new couples of going to see a movie in a theater is gone, and date nights for married couples have to become something different.
I have very good friends in the movie theater business. I don't want to see that business go away, and I don't want to offend those friends. But if we know about this now, then maybe we can start thinking about what we are doing when we subscribe to Disney's new online streaming service. My family has the Disney movies on DVD and blu-ray, but I don't know what we will do when the grandkids scream about wanting to see the new Disney movies. The problem is that Disney knows that it owns the hearts of the children of America and big parts of the world, and it uses that status to push its plan forward.
My dilemma is that my grandkids love Mickey Mouse. I cannot deny my grandchildren what they want. But it is hard for me to watch the pieces fall into place as Disney marches towards complete domination of the entertainment industry. I don't know when it will all happen, but I do know how.
George N Root III is a Lockport resident and concerned lover of the movie theater experience. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3, or send him a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.