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Is this the end of Cinema as we know it?


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#1 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 01 August 2015 - 08:17 AM

Paramount has come up with a new scheme to bring films to VOD quicker then ever before. They have the big theater chains signed up and are going after the smaller ones right now. The concept is to bring first-run movies to the home quicker so people who can't go to the cinema, are able to see them using the theatrical marketing program. Paramount will be profit sharing with theater chains when films are released on VOD prior to 90 days after initial theatrical release.

Yes, it's just a trial, but it's most likely going to work for the general masses. However, the moment it's on VOD, it's available for pirating. With piracy out of control, they're literally handing movies to pirates. Instead of going the opposite way and extending theatrical runs so movies are unavailable to pirates, so people are forced to see things in the theater, they're making it easier for the public to stay at home.

Frustrating
 

With the vast array of options currently available, the way movies are distributed is changing drastically. As theatrical revenue gets harder and harder to come by, Paramount has come up with a plan to allow viewers to watch new releases at home much faster than before, and they just signed up a couple of new allies and could indelibly change the way movies hit the open market.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, five more theater chains have signed up for Paramount’s plan, which already has the support of AMC, one of the nation’s biggest conglomeration of theaters, and Canada’s Cineplex. The new partners include National Amusements, Alamo Drafthouse, iPic, Landmark Cinemas out of Canada, and Southern Theatres, based in New Orleans. These are all smaller companies, and big boys like Cinemark and Regal have yet to join the party, but together they represent almost 8000 screens, and this certainly illustrates a changing tide in the industry.


Last month we got news that Paramount had come to a bargain with AMC and Cineplex to let the studio take two of their smaller titles, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension and Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, both of which release in roughly 300 theaters this October, and make them available via digital video on demand services just 17 days after they finish their theatrical run.

Most movies are in theaters for a month to six weeks, with the most popular titles lasting as long as ten. What this new approach means is that, instead of waiting a minimum of three monthstheres an industry wide 90-day delay to encourage people to go to the theateror even longer for a recent movie to hit the home video market, viewers could get them at home in as little as six or seven weeks after they debut. In exchange for permission to release these recent movies more quickly, Paramount will share a portion of the profits from the VOD sales with the participating theaters for up to 90 days after release.

This could be a huge benefit to smaller films. Blockbusters dont have as much to worry about, but an indie film with a shorter theatrical run wants to capitalize on any momentum they can muster. Sometimes that 90 wait is enough to kill any word of mouth they generate. With less time, more of that remains intact, not to mention that films like this may not open in many markets, and this VOD model gives audiences outside of big cities the opportunity to see more recent releases. If this continues, this is likely where we will see the biggest impact.

Biggies like Regal and Cinemark, and others, have not signed on, though most in the industry have reportedly met with Paramount on the matter. Some seem opposed to this shift, while more appear to be waiting to see how this initial experiment goes before making the decision.

If this initial trial is successful, this could very well change the way the industry views the traditional theatrical release. At this point we dont know where it will go, but it is definitely something many in the movie distribution game will be keeping an eye on and watching with great curiosity.


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#2 JD Hartman

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Posted 01 August 2015 - 08:34 AM

If you want to see box office ticket sales increase, maybe lower the price of tickets?   Bring back matinee pricing.  What's the cost of a ticket in LA, San Fran, NYC?  $15?  $18?  I buy my movie ticket vouchers through Costco, two for $16 and sometimes I still feel robbed when walking out of a theater after a seeing some of this summer's trash.


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#3 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 01 August 2015 - 08:38 AM

Try paying the same money for the shoebox-sized screening rooms we get here. Most London grading suites are bigger than most London cinemas.

 

P


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#4 Kenny N Suleimanagich

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Posted 01 August 2015 - 10:00 AM

Also, there’s no correlation between theatrical run length and piracy. Most pirates get a hold of things from internal sources or things like academy screeners. The only way you could truly prevent it is to work entirely photochemical, with no digital dailies, and do a theatrical release in 35mm. 


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#5 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 01 August 2015 - 10:37 AM

To be honest I don't think DCPs are a significant vector for piracy. Surprisingly, the DCP content encryption is quite competent and is difficult enough to break that it'll be easier to get it somewhere else for some time yet.

 

In fact, DCP encryption is sufficiently cautious that it's notorious for causing problems in legitimate playback scenarios.

 

P


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#6 Freya Black

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Posted 01 August 2015 - 11:45 AM

To be honest I don't think DCPs are a significant vector for piracy. Surprisingly, the DCP content encryption is quite competent and is difficult enough to break that it'll be easier to get it somewhere else for some time yet.

 

In fact, DCP encryption is sufficiently cautious that it's notorious for causing problems in legitimate playback scenarios.

 

P

 

Kenny was meaning people getting hold of things internally not from DCP's.

He meant if there were no digital copies at any stage in the production and it was only screened from prints.

 

Freya


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#7 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 01 August 2015 - 01:15 PM

Well, OK, but prints are even easier to copy than DCPs...

 

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#8 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 01 August 2015 - 06:03 PM

Prints are very expensive and time consuming to copy. I can't imagine someone taking a first run movie, dropping it off at the telecine house and getting it copied to a digital format, it just doesn't happen. Film projectors have a flicker, so you can't really video them and get a good image. Digital projectors don't have flicker, they're very easy to shoot with a camcorder in the theater.

My point easier was… VOD is easy to rip and pirate. Today, pirate sites have better quality first-run releases then ever before. Thanks to digital distribution, countries that don't use the US DCP protection can rip the digital media instantaneously and send it around the globe in minutes. Now the content owners want first run movies to be on VOD within two or three weeks of the initial release? This is going to be a field day for pirates and all it does is take more money away from the content owners, who in turn raise the prices, which in tern causes more piracy. This new technology is making life so much easier for piracy and they don't understand that at all.

I think films should only exist on celluloid for the initial release and upwards of 6 months after. Then delay suspected piracy countries (Russia, China, India) so by the time they get it, the film is old news. I'm also fed up with the Academy… if you can't get off your ass and go to the theater to see a film your voting on, you can't vote!

GRRR!!!
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#9 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 01 August 2015 - 06:38 PM

I can't imagine someone taking a first run movie, dropping it off at the telecine house and getting it copied to a digital format, it just doesn't happen.

 

Sure. The point is that this is still currently easier than ripping a DCP.

 

Naturally at some point you need to decrypt it and pipe it to the projector. Some initial installs did have unprotected links in the chain which could, given a key or a hacksaw, be attacked. More modern ones are more difficult, but it's not impossible to imagine someone probing the data off a PCB in the projector. All of these things would be easier than attacking the DCP.

 

Film projectors have a flicker, so you can't really video them and get a good image. Digital projectors don't have flicker, they're very easy to shoot with a camcorder in the theater

 

Well, you can, in extremis. DLPs can also cause endless problems with rolling shutter cameras, which is all of them. In either case, with various scan synchronisation tricks it's possible. That's not really the problem, though; the problem is when people do it handheld, from the seat.

 

It's such a poor-quality vector for piracy, though, that I don't think it's really affecting the studios a lot.

 

The biggest shame of this is that the protection systems on blu-ray, DVD and HDMI are so badly done. They could never be perfect, but they could be a hell of a lot better than they are. It's a prime example of how corporate PR-oriented spin machines are incapable of correctly specifying technology, and that's why this sort of thing always fails.

 

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#10 cole t parzenn

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Posted 02 August 2015 - 05:06 PM

Well, when consumers want copies of things, we want copies we can create more copies of. That's kind of the point, even if only for personal use.


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#11 Richard Boddington

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Posted 02 August 2015 - 06:11 PM

Well in reality the theatre experience is now nothing more than glorified video projection.  My big screen TV and 5.1 system in my home is good enough for me and many others, enough to make us say....why pay theatrical ticket prices? Why drive to the theatre? Why wait in line?  Why deal with idiots who talk, and use their cell phones during the movie? Why be subjected to all those ads before the movie? Why? Why? Why?

 

The exhibitors have become their own worst enemies, much like how the airlines kill their own industry by treating their customers worse than cows going to the slaughter house.

 

I still aim for theatrical releases, but only because there is still an industry stigma attached to a theatrical release.  A stigma that will be gone in 10-15 years now that people like Woody Allen see no issue with making content for Amazon.

 

R,


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#12 John E Clark

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Posted 03 August 2015 - 11:37 AM


 

I still aim for theatrical releases, but only because there is still an industry stigma attached to a theatrical release.  A stigma that will be gone in 10-15 years now that people like Woody Allen see no issue with making content for Amazon.

 

R,

 

 

Allen did get his start as a TV writer... so it would seem that he has gone full circle...

 

Here's an article from May.

 

http://www.ew.com/ar...-series-regrets

 

----

“I have regretted every second since I said OK,” Allen told Deadline.com. “It’s been so hard for me. I had the cocky confidence, well, I’ll do it like I do a movie… it’ll be a movie in six parts. Turns out, it’s not. For me, it has been very, very difficult. I’ve been struggling and struggling and struggling. I only hope that when I finally do it – I have until the end of 2016 – they’re not crushed with disappointment because they’re nice people and I don’t want to disappoint them.”

----


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#13 AJ Young

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Posted 03 August 2015 - 06:20 PM

I don't believe cinema is defined by the theatre, but by how a viewer wants to experience it.

 

Home theatre enthusiasts are proud of their set ups. Declining attendance to movie theatres, cable subscriptions, and DVD/Blu ray sales are a clear indicator of the demand for VOD.

 

As a DP, and filmmaker, you can no longer control where, when, and how someone views your work (but this really isn't new, movie theatres are notorious for having inconsistent quality). Jayson Crothers brings a factory set consumer TV with him to color grade, regardless if it's a theatrical release or not. I personally review my color sessions at home on my iPhone to make sure it holds up.

 

As a viewer, VOD is all I could ask for! Richard made a great point about how much theatres take monetarily and how little a customer gets back in return. Everything a movie theatre can offer, an average american has at home. Comfy chair? Check. 5.1 surround sound? Check. 2k (minus 128 pixels)? Check. Eventually, consumers will have 4k TV's!

 

Most of the quality we want as cinematographers is unnoticed by consumers. Hell, a lot of them love the smooth motion setting on TV's. At the end of the day, cinema is defined by how the viewer wants to experience your work.

 

It's like a restaurant. As a chef, your meal is best eaten and enjoyed in the proper order, with proper wine, and proper setting. However, you can't ignore take out orders! Not just because it's good business, but because people are at least eating your food. Restaurant or not.

 

On another note:

 

In theory, piracy can be combated much better through VOD through two methods: tracking and availability.

 

A distributor can accurately track who is downloading the movie and visually tag the movie exactly how they did with prints. When a pirated copy comes up on the numerous torrents, the distributors can then look for the visual tag that is directly tied to the purchaser of the original download.

 

Secondly, availability is the key point in combating piracy. Spotify has done wonders to combat piracy by simply making music available (albiet for free). Fortune, Forbes, and Telegraph have reported studies showing the decline in piracy for music. I'm optimistic that Spotify is the cause, but declining piracy and growing popularity of Spotify is only correlation, which never means causation.

 

In any case, making content more available to consumers reduces the incentive to pirate. Furthermore, VOD allows to more directly track who is watching and downloading the movies which allows them to track what they do with the movie afterwards.

 

 

I don't think this is the end of cinema as we know it. I believe it's actually quite exciting. DP's have, and most likely never will, control what viewers want to see and how they want to see their work. But we can at least be happy that people are seeing our work.


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#14 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 03 August 2015 - 09:19 PM

I don't believe cinema is defined by the theatre, but by how a viewer wants to experience it.


Cinema in my eyes is like theater. You can watch theater at home on your television, but the experience is totally different and most plays, aren't available at all. This forces people to stand up and go to the theater, which is where the money is made.

It's the same with cinema in my eyes. If you give people what they want, how they want it, you as the creator have lost all of your control. The decline in cinema going is directly a result of price vs quality in my eyes. Give people a $10 good movie, they may come back.
 

Home theatre enthusiasts are proud of their set ups.


I've had decent home theaters since the mid 90's. However, back then I was living at the cinema. I'd watch the movie and I was so excited when my favorite movies were available on laser disk. I'd go out, buy them and watch them over and over again, just to have the experience once more. However, back then video formats weren't up to snuff with the cinema, so there was excitement for going to the theater. Today, most movies look BETTER at home because theater chain's spent so much money on first gen digital projectors, your TV is probably higher resolution. My home theater today is excellent, but it's not the cinema in any stretch of the imagination. Just re-watching "Interstellar" 14 feet wide on my living room wall, wasn't anything like seeing it in 70mm at the Cinerama Dome.
 

As a DP, and filmmaker, you can no longer control where, when, and how someone views your work (but this really isn't new, movie theatres are notorious for having inconsistent quality).


This is the problem and it's the death of cinema. We're already making 'consumer dictated' cinema, most films fall into that category. We're back in the 50's with studio's mostly churning out lifeless crap and the independents loosing their shirts trying to produce decent content for no money. On the ground level, dealing with this stuff every day of the week, I'm learning there is very little money in VOD. I know that sounds dumb, as many companies are ramping up, but trust me, they will all fail soon. This is why Apple hasn't released their service yet, because the studio's haven't figured out a way of making any money. The music industry has already lost their shirt and it just keeps getting worse for them.
 

As a viewer, VOD is all I could ask for!


Right, but if your hand-fed everything, you won't ever leave the house! LOL :)
 

Most of the quality we want as cinematographers is unnoticed by consumers.


This is true when your making a mass-audience film for teenagers. If your making a film for educated people, then all those things matter. My parents will call me right after the see a film if the audio has something weird, or there was an out of focus shot, even if it was intentional and they're not filmmakers. So yes, regular people notice and it does make a difference. Watching Rogue Nation, my dad pointed out how the anamorphic lenses had out of focus edges and how he "disliked" that. Not a "quality" thing, but it's amazing how much the general audience notices.
 

In theory, piracy can be combated much better through VOD through two methods: tracking and availability.


The Russian's cracked the BluRay code in 8hrs. They cracked the DVD screener code in 2hrs. You just send the file to them and they'll blur when the code shows up on the screen, it's at a particular time. Plus, VOD is streaming and even if they had a code locked to your name, you could use a false name. Trust me, I've been dealing with piracy on both sides for decades now, since the very beginning in the mp3 days. I know the tricks and there is NO way to track stuff with digital mediums. We're analog beings, not digital, so in the process of converting it so we can see the image, it's very easy to remove any digital codes.
 

Spotify has done wonders to combat piracy by simply making music available (albiet for free). Fortune, Forbes, and Telegraph have reported studies showing the decline in piracy for music. I'm optimistic that Spotify is the cause, but declining piracy and growing popularity of Spotify is only correlation, which never means causation.


Spotify has been a big help to people who just want music in the background. There are many services like that today and they all work well, even the free one's. However, piracy was mostly effected by iTunes back when they started the online store. Now people could download that one or two songs they wanted from a certain album for only .99 cents each. People will pay that small amount to own the song, even pirates. However, the music industry almost died in the process, most of the "old" industry is long dead. So yes, music piracy has declined substantially from the MP3 days. However, movie and television piracy has increased over the last few years and cinema can't take the hit the music industry took. Today's films are so expensive, one or two big mistakes can lead to disaster.
 

But we can at least be happy that people are seeing our work.


I'd personally rather have 500 dedicated eyes see my film in a theater with no interruption, then 15,000 people at home watching my movie in the background as they do work. Honestly, do you really think people pay close attention to any content at home? At least in the cinema, they paid for it and try to get their $16 bux out of it.
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#15 Keith Walters

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Posted 04 August 2015 - 09:31 PM

"Most movies are in theaters for a month to six weeks..."

 

And for the bulk of the time, playing to near-empty houses.

For popular releases, usually the cinemas are only full for the first few screenings. After that, unless the weather is particualrly lousy, for most screenings you're lucky to get 10% of the seats with actual bums on them. It normally picks up a bit towards the end of the run when people realize that they need to get in quick if they're going to see it on the big screen but that's about it.

 

This mentality came about when everything was projected on film and it was such a chore to re-thread the projector and re-load the "Pancakes", that projectors were left loaded up for weeks at a time.

 

Unfortunately the proponents of digital projection seemed to have done everything they could to make Digtial Projectors as inconvenient to use as film!

 

There are lots of applications where cinematic projection of live video would make sense: Live presentation of major sporting events in other cities or countries, finals of Reality TV shows etc, where the presence of a large audience of like-minded fans would restore something of the original atmosphere.


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#16 John E Clark

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Posted 05 August 2015 - 12:14 PM

 

I'd personally rather have 500 dedicated eyes see my film in a theater with no interruption, then 15,000 people at home watching my movie in the background as they do work. Honestly, do you really think people pay close attention to any content at home? At least in the cinema, they paid for it and try to get their $16 bux out of it.

 

Yes... but one way to make sure they have to watch is to actually make a Visual Film... Talky Talk movies are basically Radio with illustrations.

 

Imagine doing one's ironing during the first 10-15 minutes of "There Will Be Blood"(2007) or "Once Upon a Time in the West"(1968), which also pretty much has minimal dialog for the rest of the film...

 

From my point of view, one will not get even 500 eyes, or 250 bums in seats, for a Film film presentation, outside of some hipster joint like The New Beverly, and that helps to have a Film film archivist for an owner who can make sure something is being shown out of his personal library...

 

Most people are going to have to 'settle' for digital presentation. I actually don't mind that. There's a small theater that operates in conjunction with a 'film making' school/consortium in San Diego that would not be able to play their selection of films, that are not summer/winter/spring/fall blockbusters, if it were not for digital distribution. I don't know if they have a DCP capable player, as I've not had the time time investigate their theater setup... I don't get to San Diego much these days...

 

As a note, the Wife and I usually watch a movie a night, and for the most part we are 'paying attention', even if we have seen a film a number of times... we sort of have marathons, sometimes in a genre, sometimes some 'summer blockbuster' series, etc.


Edited by John E Clark, 05 August 2015 - 12:16 PM.

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#17 AJ Young

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Posted 05 August 2015 - 08:24 PM

I agree with John.

 

Films are becoming more like music; of course The Beatles would love your full attention when you listen to Sgt. Pepper, but audiences don't work that way.

 

The simple fact that someone wants to see my work, even if it's playing in the background while they're vacuuming, is an honor to me. Even great filmmakers do this (Tarantino worked at a Blockbuster in the 80/90's!).

 

Cinema is based on how the audience wants to experience the film, not what you require them.


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#18 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 06 August 2015 - 12:16 PM

Films are becoming more like music; of course The Beatles would love your full attention when you listen to Sgt. Pepper, but audiences don't work that way.


Right and as a result, the music industry is dead. The only way to make money is via ticket sales to concerts. If you can't draw people to concerts, you're living in your grandmothers basement selling music on iTunes, working as a waiter and playing nights. Plus, music (dollar per minute) is far cheaper to make then a low budget feature film. Even huge world-wide tours of top artists have less invested and make more money, then most films.

The simple fact that someone wants to see my work, even if it's playing in the background while they're vacuuming, is an honor to me. Even great filmmakers do this (Tarantino worked at a Blockbuster in the 80/90's!).


They aren't honoring you by having something you made in the background as they vacuum. In reality, what they're doing is saying your content has zero importance to them.

I worked at two different laserdisc stores and Blockbuster during my youth because I enjoyed watching movies so much and back then, it was the only way to get stuff for free. You had to WORK in order to enjoy something, rather then today where anyone can download a torrent and watch HD content for free.

Great filmmakers either have the time to sit down and watch a movie, or they don't bother. Same goes for albums, do you really think someone who cares about an artist would only listen to their stuff in the background? The problem is, the people who care are dying off and the people who don't care are having babies. You can argue "thats progress" but it really isn't, in my eyes it's the death of the industry I've struggled so hard to get into and now just as I get close to being successful, things are falling apart in front of my eyes. You may be OK with someone viewing your content in the background, but for the vast majority of filmmakers, it's just the opposite.
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#19 Jay Young

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Posted 06 August 2015 - 03:31 PM

If you want to see box office ticket sales increase, maybe lower the price of tickets?   Bring back matinee pricing.  What's the cost of a ticket in LA, San Fran, NYC?  $15?  $18?  I buy my movie ticket vouchers through Costco, two for $16 and sometimes I still feel robbed when walking out of a theater after a seeing some of this summer's trash.

 

I attend the local 2 screen.  I MUCH prefer the stereo only, smaller theatre in which they usually show Art-house and off A-list films.  In the large theatre they have some sort of digital [redacted] surround system and DCP.  It's ok.  BUT, I still only pay $6.25 per show, AND I can order BEER! Or Whiskey!


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#20 Aidan Gray

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Posted 09 August 2015 - 01:05 AM

To quote producer Ted Hope:

  "We cannot logically justify any ticket price whatsoever for a non-event film.  There are too many better options at too low a price.  Simply getting out of the house or watching something somewhere because that is the only place it is currently available does not justify a ticket price enough.  We still think of movies as things people will buy.  We have to change our thinking about movies to something that enhances other experiences, and it is that which has monetary value.  Film’s power as a community organizing tool extends far beyond its power to sell popcorn (and the whole exhibition industry is based on that old popcorn idea)."

 

Everyone in this thread brings up fantastic points as to the current failings of "theatrical distribution" but whats the solution? Is it another distribution method? Is it interactive content that forces you to pay attention and make decisions in order to follow a narrative? 

 

I have 0 experience with actual distribution and I generally work with people way smarter than myself and entrust that responsibility to them, so this is just my untrained opinion. If the revolution we've faced in cinema technology is anything like the revolution thats happening in film producing and distribution, I'm sure things will pick back up. We've travelled from the glory days of celluloid, where there was only one person on set who really knew what was going into that can to cameras in the pocket of almost every person on Earth. But the amazing thing to me is... We're heading back to those origins. Sure, we have LUTs that show us roughly what we're going to see, but Exposure Indexes are gaining mainstream adoption and with new log gamma profiles, what you're seeing isn't even all the information being captured. I think much like the economic market, the film market crashed in 2008. The lack of financial support was met with a technological explosion and a revolution in the way visuals are captured. Unsurprisingly, most of that technology has been abandoned in favour of more traditional digital camera formats and as a result, I think we're picking back up. The specialist died for a few years. Following DSLRs, the one-man band popped up and I have producers who entered the industry at that period laughing at me when I ask for $1500/day for a 3-person G&E crew and $3500/day for lighting kit rental that I deem a necessity to make the most compelling visual for the story.

 

The larger conversation that is a little more enticing to me, however, is how we're going to keep the next generation interested.  Having spoken with the heads of development at several TV networks, who were once duking it out with NBC and HBO, this is the problem that really matters. Theatrical release might be dead - okay fine. But what about keeping the next 30 years interested in the medium? You'll always have your kids like me who feel a little out of place in their obsession for visuals, but what about the mainstream? In an age where user input matters more and more, how do we keep narrative content relative to an unknown and quickly changing generation of users? This is where that whole cycle thing I was talking about early comes back into play. What was the main driving force of the "Glory Days" of Hollywood? It was a combination of grandiose escapes from everyday life (the things action films are generated from) and timeless insights into human nature (hello drama). With almost every blockbuster using immense layers of flashy (yet ultimately pointless) visuals, the only way to keep viewers attached is by telling compelling stories. To quote screenwriter Billy Ray (in his brilliant speech “A Warning for Our Next Great Screenwriters” which is a required read if you’re in this thread), “…the idea that dazzlings visuals are enough, has led to a certain kind of movie-making laziness that has not been good for anybody”. 

 

 As of now, the “numbers” matter more than faith in the thesis. If we focus on telling better original narratives and perhaps start doing what Ted Hope suggests and using films as a tool to build communities and conversation, rather than upon focusing on the ability to make wheelbarrows of cash, we can get people back into theatres. If not into theatres, then at home. Much like what camera you should buy in 2015, I don’t think the venue matters as long as theres a vested interest in visual narrative. 


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