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How to Open a "Movie Cafe"? 57

tunari asks: "Here in my neck of the woods (Cochabamba, Bolivia) there are hundreds of Internet cafes and Nintendo salons, where you can rent games by the hour. I would like to open a movie salon. I imagine a central CD/DVD jukebox and either dumb terminals or, if possible, TVs. Users would need basic control over playback, and, if possible, some automated way to request new titles. Cost is a big issue, as we will probably be charging less than a dollar per hour. What are some of the ways we could set this up?"
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How to Open a "Movie Cafe"?

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  • Biggest cost (Score:4, Informative)

    by MattCohn.com ( 555899 ) on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @08:22PM (#4509183)
    The biggest cost you need to worry about is the movies themselves. Every time you turn on any movie you see a big 'FBI WARNING: ...movie is licenced for private home viewing only...'. Now, most of us have already gotten used to this but if you try and set this up you are going to need special licences. And they don't come cheap. Whenever you loose a blockbuster movie, know why they charge so much to replace?
    • Re:Biggest cost (Score:3, Insightful)

      by quintessent ( 197518 )
      Then again, these will probably be the biggest costs:

      1) Cost of fines after judge awards huge sum to the MPAA because you used technology to provide a new service to customers without their blessing.

      2) Cost of attorneys.

      MP3.com was fined exhorbitant amounts for letting people listen to their own music.
      • Re:Biggest cost (Score:2, Informative)

        by leviramsey ( 248057 )

        That's the reason that you get licenses from the distributors of the films. I would find out who holds the distribution rights in your country and ask them. Most likely, you will have to pay them a percentage (50% sounds likely) of every time the movie is shown, plus a fixed fee.

        The simple fact is that this guy wants to exhibit films for profit (or to at least make money from the sale of viewing films; as far as the law is concerned, these are the same thing) and that's not covered by any definition of fair use.

        If you get the licenses, they really can't sue you (unless you break the terms of the license, for instance saying that you only sold $100 worth of viewings while you really sold $10,000 worth); any suits would get laughed out of court. I would definitely have a lawyer present while negotiating the license, though, and might even consider having the lawyer draft all correspondence.

        • The simple fact is that this guy wants to exhibit films for profit (or to at least make money from the sale of viewing films; as far as the law is concerned, these are the same thing) and that's not covered by any definition of fair use.

          What about going at it from the other angle? Have a free library of movies available. Movies can not be removed from the library, similar to how libraries do not allow certain books to be taken home. The cafe would charge for use of the movie viewing equipment. People would still be able to bring in their own laptops with batteries and watch movies for free, but there has to be a tradeoff somewhere (and they might buy food or whatever).
          • Re:Biggest cost (Score:3, Insightful)

            by leviramsey ( 248057 )
            What about going at it from the other angle? Have a free library of movies available. Movies can not be removed from the library, similar to how libraries do not allow certain books to be taken home. The cafe would charge for use of the movie viewing equipment.

            That doesn't get around it. The law's position (at least as interpreted by the courts) has essentially been that any time money changes hands and a movie plays more than an incidental part in the transaction constitutes sale of a viewing of a movie with the accompanying requirement of a license. Video stores do have to receive licenses from the studios to play movies at the store (though such licenses are generally part of the license to rent the film, as the studios have found that having the video playing in the store helps the rental revenue).

    • Re:Biggest cost (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      (Cochabamba, Bolivia)

      does the fbi have jursidiction?

      • Nope, nope, and nope. I haven't been in Bolivia since 98, and was in La Paz, Sorata, Chulumani and many other places, beautiful. Unless the FBI and RIAA are paying big dollars into the coffers of those in power, they'll have a hard time trying to do anything about it. Money changes hands and palms are greased quite frequently. Fuck, you've got to pay a cash fee at the airport just to get on the plane (in addition to any airport taxes you already paid with your ticket). Anyone with the slightest amount of money can do just about anything they want.
    • by realgone ( 147744 ) on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @11:16PM (#4510076)
      Just a thought, but would it be possible to get around this by "selling" the DVD to the cafe customer at full retail price (i.e., a deposit), then allow them to "return" it two hours later? You'd then give them a full refund -- minus a small restocking charge (i.e., your fee). For those two hours, that DVD was legally their property, and they were privately viewing it in youer kiosk. No harm, no foul. *whistle*

      (This is all moot, of course. The MPAA would still sue you to Weehawken and back. But hey, it's fun to dream...)

      • While I personally don't see the issue with rental and on-site viewing I would DEFINITLY be sure to keep solid track of everything.

        Selling the DVD to the customer, and buying it back should not be necessary. It also could get you in significant hot water as courts generally do NOT take kindly to feeling manipulated.

        (You may not, for instance, be allowed to prevent the customer from leaving with their purchase. Not a big deal for some movies, they will rent it and return it. Other movies may be exceptionally hard to keep in stock that way.). ...

        A local video rental place will actually sell almost all the movies they have in stock for rent. You have the option to 'Rent or Buy'. My limited understanding of the issues involved (and they are complicated) is that any movie they aquire at regular retail prices MUST be available for sale and not only available for rent. Copies which they buy for Rental purposes do not have to be sell-able. And except for the occasional movie (and most anime) the prices are not out of line. The occasional movie is $80C for no apparent reason.
        • The $80C movies are probably films that have only been released to the rental market and not to sell-through yet. The video rental places still have to buy these and the prices are much higher to reflect that they aren't intended for the public sale market.

      • What's the FBI/Interpol's definition of "home"? Why do they consider my aparment a "home", but not some space at the local movie cafe?

        Maybe you could put the TV & player in a small room at your business, and rent out the small room as "apartment space" or "apartment storage space" or something.

        "Joe's Movie Cafe, your 'home' away from 'home'".
      • (This is all moot, of course. The MPAA would still sue you to Weehawken and back. But hey, it's fun to dream...)

        Good thing he's in Bolivia - I'd think, assuming that the local government aside of course, that the MPAA could do they *#$@$*% want, I mean who gives a flying, well, anything, about some industry assoc in a foreign country?

    • The owner of my previous local video store told me that the reason he is actively trying to get people to move from VHS to DVD is that he doesn't have such huge licensing costs for DVD's. I don't recall the details but I think he was saying that the cost to him for a rentable DVD is about the same as it costs to buy it in a retail store. He didn't seem to be doing anything dodgy like renting out "private viewing only" distros.
    • Actuallly, the what was high replacement cost of movies at Blockbuster has nothing to do with the license to rent them to people. Blockbuster had high prices on VHS as a deterent for people who wanted to buy the movies. With VHS, tapes were often releases several weeks/months before people could buy them in stores. By setting the price at ~$100, most people were turned off from purchasing them. When the title was released to the public, they would mark the cost down. Major films would recoop the initial cost quickly. Now that most DVDs are released for rental/sale at the same time, I bet if you check with Blockbuster, the prices are now the same for the rental copy and the purchase copy. I know when I worked there the rental copies that we got in were identicle in packaging and content as the for sale copies (in most cases...excluding Special Edition, Director's Cut, etc).
    • Do folks in Bolivia get this same message on their movies? Who in Bolivia would track this cafe down?
  • MPAA (Score:5, Funny)

    by Trusty Penfold ( 615679 ) <jon_edwards@spanners4us.com> on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @08:25PM (#4509201) Journal
    This is answered in the MPAA FAQ :- How do I open a Movie Cafe? [mpaa.org]
    • Is it just me, or does that site have a background that makes text very hard to read? Maybe it is an anti-piracy effort. "You can't read it, so you couldn't possibly copy it!"
      • Actually, it made me copy the text and paste it in Notepad in order to read it, which means that, in order to use the information, I was actually forced to infringe on their copyright because of the "protection", which is about par for the course I guess...
  • Hotels (Score:2, Informative)

    Hotels often have such a service and system installed to some degree. you Call say you want to watch a movie and you can... So there are systems that will at least partialy take care of your question. but as usual the devil is in the details such as cost of system, cost of licencing, etc...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @08:57PM (#4509391)
    I would like to have a lot of money, but I don't want to work for it. Would everyone who reads this please send me some money. Thank you.
  • by Usquebaugh ( 230216 ) on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @09:07PM (#4509452)
    Copy the DVD to a hard disk and strip off that encryption guff. OK now you just have to decompress and play.

    You can decompress on the server and stream a large quantity of data or stream a smaller quantity of data and uncompress on the client.

    I would start doing some quick mental calcs. How many clients can I support with a given infrastructure?

    This seems a very expensive way of providing said service. Why not just buy a bunch of TV+DVD players?
    • This is an excelent idea, this would allow more than one person to be watchin it at a time, the price would eventually be so much lower than Blockbuster that a lot of people would want to use it. I know that I would probably go to something like that as long as the equipment is good and the compression is not low quality.

      The big problem is getting it from the central storage unit to the individual rooms, this can be done by 2 methods that i can think of: pipe it over uncompressed which would make it so you would not have to have anything to decompress it on the viewers end, but on the other hand this would put an incredible strain on the central computer to decompress all the movies requirein a lot of money to be put into the central system. the second idea is to have a small computer at the viewers end to decript it, i am not sure if this would be more expensive or less expensive(i will leave it up to you to crunch the numbers) this would also require a very fast lan or other method to get the data from one place to another.

      I am really excited to see if this idea catches on, it is a great idea that i hope will spread.

      (sorry for any and all: typos, mispellings, mispunctuations and other errors; i am typing this up at 10:00 on a verry small keyboard)
  • by Danse ( 1026 )

    I just patented movie cafes. Thanks for the idea tho :)

  • One would rather go to Blockbuster.
  • Wait a minute (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Samus ( 1382 ) on Tuesday October 22, 2002 @09:29PM (#4509562) Journal
    Hey guys I don't think this guy has too bad of an idea. He is essentially opening up a video store where the movie is returned within hours instead of days. The turn around time is great. The biggest problem would be real estate and infrastructure. I think you would need at least 20 - 30 rooms to fill possible demand. Each room could seat say 8 people and there would be some kind of terminal to order food and what not. You would also have to install cameras to keep people from leaving nasty stains on the couches too. Still if the facilities were nice enough I think I would catch a flick or two at my own private theater/resturaunt.
    • I would say he needs to take over an adult arcade.

      Then, instead of showing "Tranny potters" he could show "Trainspotters" for one token/minute.

    • I saw one of these things the other day at a mall. The people called it a "movie theatre".

      It's a novel concept. You give this guy $8 and you watch a movie. There are people selling popped corn and candy, although it is very expensive.
      • There was a /. discussion awhile ago of how movies nowadays are filled with crying babies, cell-phones going off and people being real-time critics..

        Thankfully (surprisingly?), I haven't experienced such things in my local theare (in Germany), but Germans have more sense I guess, I haven't seen SUV-driving soccer moms either..
    • Re:Wait a minute (Score:3, Insightful)

      by karnal ( 22275 )
      We had this in a little po-dunk city back home. Basically, they'd rent out a room with a tv, and vcr, and also sell snacks.

      What they did finally get closed down for was that they'd copy all of the first run movies, to make more of a profit... This was back when the initial run VHS copies were 100$ or more, IIRC.... Renting a copy is a no-no, and I'm not sure where "servers" would stand, unless you had a copy (i.e. a license) for each movie used. Would probably have to keep a pretty good journal....
  • Have rooms. In the room, large TV. A cabinet, in plexiglaz, with a lock. In the cabinet, a dvd player. A remote-control, in the room, with a security wire.

    Dude comes in with his buddies. Wanna watch the latest hollywood trash. Clerk behind counter says: Be right back. Sets up DVD in DVD player in the room. Makes sure movie works. Collects the $2 for the flick, then says: have fun.

    When they leave, they leave. They can't take the dvd with them, cuz it's in the dvd player in the plexi case.

    You guessed it, you can still control the dvd player with the remote through the case.
    • Re:Go Low Tech (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TheSHAD0W ( 258774 )
      Yup. Considering what salaries are there, I think that'd be optimal.

      I'd suggest a couple of changes, though... Instead of special constructions for housing the TVs, just put all the DVD decks in back of the counter. Have some shelving with the DVD boxes out front, much like a rental place; then when you bring a box to the counter, instead of handing you the DVD, the clerk sticks it in a player and directs you to the matching TV.
      • Except of course that his requirement was that the viewers would have stop rewind and fast forward capabilities, so unless you do something fancy with the remotes, it's going to be hard.
  • y'know, anything "for public or commercial viewing" is much more expensive -- unless you live in a country where the FCC is generally disregarded. (As opposed to the US, where we fear for our personal liberty when doing so much as talking in a public forum about using content outside of the letter of its license, or regarding changes we might make to the devices accompanying this license, though we pay for them and use them in the privacy of our homes).

    But if you're not in a Free-as-in-to-get-extorted-by-the-media-cartels country, then I guess that's not a consideration.

    In the US, a DVD for private viewing an indefinite number of times costs well under twenty bucks, but
    Screening a film outside of the home requires a license from the film studio or a distributor. Licences range from $125 - $1000 depending on the film.
    Source [nwu.edu]
    Note that this is from a small, independant film club! And even they're playing strictly by the rules of extortion, because they're afraid not to.

    Of course, chances are that in Bolivia you have more personal liberty than you would in the US, and do not have to pay protection fees to agencies of extortion sanctioned by the very Federal Government. [1]

    Anyway, good luck with everything.

    Also: I believe that Microsoft must be annihilated.


    ps. Once more, just to make me shudder:
    Of course, chances are that in Bolivia you have more personal liberty than you would in the US.

    (A run-down of extortion: We make it so that for what you want, you need to pay more than is reasonable, because we have distribution locked down. If you do not agree to pay our price, you must fear for your personal safety. [As in today's Federal prisons, with whose conditions we are all familiar.])
  • Jonny 290 asks: "Here in my neck of the woods (Hong Kong) there are hundreds of Internet cafes and Nintendo salons, where you can rent games by the hour. I would like to open a software salon. I imagine a central CD/DVD jukebox and either CD writers, or possibly DVD-ROMs. Users would need basic control over duplication, and, if possible, some automated way to request new versions. Cost is a big issue, as we will probably be charging less than a dollar per package. What are some of the ways we could set this up?"
  • Sounds like a job for VideoLAN [videolan.org] and perhaps maybe also LinuxTV [linuxtv.org].
  • When i was in Italy there we these trains but before you got on a train @ the station you could hire these mini-dvd players that came with a dvd or 2 in the deal then when you got where u were going you just handed it back in no problems so if ure doing the same just the fact is that the dvds move and the tv's stay still. Also i can c this takin off due to the fact that movies are 2 expensive but going into your own little thearter and spilting the cost make sure its not per person becasue then u may as well rent it at a blockbuster ect but if u could go ing pay ure 8 dollars ($AUS) and bring 5 guyz in with something like doby digital 5.1 sounds and a projected image or a really big tv then it would be well wicked. So there is going to be a nicie in this market but the cost will be heavy and you will neeed at least like 10 rooms even more but the rooms dont need to be that big but they have to be sound proof becuase if your watching some kind of drama and in the other room you can her saving private ryan its going to wreck the whole point. well thats my 2 cents
  • by spreer ( 15939 )
    I don't think he really has to worry about the MPAA goon squads showing up and taking him out. He is in Bolivia, for christ sake. In South America they take a, let's say, more liberal view on copywrite enforcement than they do here. Hardware cost is the big issue.

    Slightly OT, but I spent some time in Peru and used the interent cafes there a fair amount. I could never figure out how they made any money. Like this guy, they cost about a dollar an hour. Some had several sattelite dishes. The machines were not brand new, but certainly useable. What's going on?

  • I appreciate the comments, but really, the (American) legal issues involved in doing this are not a big concern. I was kinda hoping the Slashdot crowd might weigh in on how this could be done *technically*. Oh well.....
    • It probably wouldn't help, but next time you might try saying that you're looking for technical ideas, not legal ideas.

Order and simplification are the first steps toward mastery of a subject -- the actual enemy is the unknown. -- Thomas Mann