Thursday, December 07, 2006

The future of the movie industry

From Roger Ebert:
It involves a fundamental shift in the medium chosen by moviegoers. The studios get more of their revenue from DVDs than from ticket sales, and if you consider that much of that revenue comes from rentals, it’s apparent that most people see more movies on DVD than in theaters. Sure, these movies would look better in a theater, but if they are getting to audiences that want to see them, that’s a good thing. There are precedents. When Allen Lane introduced Penguin paperbacks, he was told he would destroy the book publishing industry....

What Soderbergh tried with his film "Bubble" was revolutionary: He would release
it more or less simultaneously in theaters, on DVD, and on pay cable. This strategy
was not welcomed by theater owners, needless to say... My guess is that theaters are wrong to oppose this form of distribution, which will apply mostly to smaller films....

For years and years I have stubbornly been writing about MaxiVision 48, a system that provides a 400 percent improvement in picture quality over current 35 mm projection and involves a per-booth cost of only about $12,000 (only the front end of the projector changes; the housing remains the same). MV48 shoots at forty-eight frames a second but doesn’t require twice as much film; because of the way it uses the real estate on a frame of film, it needs only 50 percent more...
I'm less sanguine about the potential for theatre-bound film: simply upping the image quality will do nothing to make more people go to the movies. Maybe Ebert hasn't noticed, but going to the movies today is an extremely hostile experience these days - really high prices (especially compared to DVDs,) 20-30 minutes of ads before the movie starts, and a customer service philosophy that barely deserves the name. Personally, the most bizarre and insulting bit lately is the regular ads and PSAs exhorting customers to go see movies on the big screen and not pirate them - when I'm already a paying customer, in the theatre!

The problem for the movie industry in the future is that theatre releases are increasingly unprofitable - essentially, actually showing a movie in the theatre is a marketing cost, not a revenue stream these days. As people stop going to mainstream movie theatres for anything but the biggest blockbusters, how is Hollywood going to keep marketing films?

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