Cinemas are out; home videos are in. Cinema operators should accept this unstoppable development rather than block it. The sooner they concede and adjust their business strategy, the less they will lose. Gone are the days when people had no choice but to file into a big hall to watch a film, which could only be recorded on celluloid and seen by using a projector that was clumsy to operate and expensive to acquire. Today, films can be recorded on cassette-tapes or laser discs, sold or rented at affordable prices and enjoyed in the comfort of one's home where videocassette recorders and laser disc players are fast becoming standard domestic appliances. A cinema ticket costs more than $50. A couple having a night out at the cinema will need to spend $100. Add to this the cost of meals and travel and the total outlay could more than double. Young people whose purpose of going to the cinema goes beyond watching a film - they may just want to be together in the 'privacy' of a crowded hall - may be willing to fork out the exorbitant sum for romantic reasons. But more and more people are finding it cheaper and more convenient to rent a tape or disc and enjoy a film in the privacy of their homes at a fraction of the cost of visiting a cinema. Cinema operators complain their screening plans for first-run movies are pre-empted by video rental firms which start renting the latest hits before they are shown on the big screen. But they should only blame themselves or the original copyright holders. There is a time lag, usually lasting around six months at least, between a movie's launch on the big screen overseas and the marketing of its video version. If local cinema operators cannot arrange for a new film to be shown here before the video version is available, then they should reflect on why this is so. They claim publicity and purchase plans take time. But if they are out to make a profit, then it is their own responsibility to shorten the lead time. Presumably, if they do not want videotapes or discs of a particular film to be available through rental shops here, they can make that a condition of their purchase agreement with the film's copyright holder, possibly by paying more. But they should not try to ask the Government to pass a law to ban or delay the importation or renting of videotapes or discs acquired legitimately. The only purpose of the law should be to protect the rights of the original copyright owners to ensure they are paid royalties, whether their works are available here through the cinema or video rental shops. Distribution technicalities should be the subject of contractual agreements between the copyright holders and distributors, not a legislative concern. The crux of the matter is technological advances have changed the mode of distribution of films. Cable television now has dedicated pay-per-view film channels and video-on-demand through the telephone lines is also a reality. Films can already be downloaded on the Internet, although the process now takes too long because of hardware limitations. But it is only a matter of time before watching films on the Internet becomes the norm. By that time, even video firms, the current targets of cinema operators, could be put out of business. Instead of standing in the way of progress, cinema operators would be better-off putting their minds to creating new value from their cinemas, most of which are prime pieces of real estate.