Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Digital Downloading

The idea of digital downloads is spreading through Hollywood. In the last few days, I've pointed to articles about iTunes offering movie rentals and Movielink, which is owned by the studios themselves, offering burnable DVD versions starting in mid-2007.

Now, Scott Kirsner is reporting that CinemaNow is immediately offering burnable DVD versions of 100 older movies such as Scent of a Woman, Barbershop and Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. The L.A. Times (registration required) says that
Studio executives hope that as more titles become available online, Internet services will emerge as a way for movie fans to buy niche or older films that can be difficult to find at mass-market retailers. Some retailers that sell on the Web are considering starting their own online movie services.
Prices will be between $9 and $15.

While things seem to be speeding up, The Hollywood Reporter says that the studios are afraid of cannibalizing existing DVD income streams like Wal-Mart. The big box retailers together account for 60% of North American sales. Hollywood doesn't want to do anything to damage that income until they're sure that downloading will compensate for any big box losses, which is why that CinemaNow is being given older films. Those won't damage sales on the new releases at Wal-Mart.

On another front, Classic Media has hired Andrew Perlman as VP of digital media. His job is to make Classic Media's properties, which include Casper, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Mr. Magoo, Underdog, Roger Ramjet, Little Lulu and Veggie Tales, available for cell phones and online.

I don't think that this is going to kill the DVD market. Downloading probably won't include extras and once DVD's go to a hi-def format, downloading and burning will take longer, assuming that the consumer has the ability to burn hi-def DVD's.

However, this is another potential market for any independent filmmaker and, as I said earlier, a way to sell films without the expense of manufacturing and distributing DVD's. Just put your trailer on YouTube, Google and Yahoo with a final title card directing people to the website where they can buy the complete burnable download.


Nancy said...

It is a good idea, except that the corporations will almost certainly control the download software and possibly the sites as well.
I've always favored the 'syndication' idea similar to that of comic strips: let it go into cyberspace by paying a professional company to host the films and pay a royalty to the artist. If the film sells, everyone benefits.
I am not sure how much longer the Internet is going to remain free and clear.

Reg Hartt said...


When Zeppo left and the Marx Brothers became three instead of four (MGM) somebody else had to take over the straight role at the center of Marx Brothers` anarchy which accounts for why people like Allan Price (A NIGHT AT THE OPERA, A DAY AT THE RACES)got into the act. This was the formula their stage work (THE COCOANUTS and ANIMAL CRACKERS) as well as their most financially successful films prior to that were built around.

When that formula was dropped in DUCK SOUP (now considered by many to be their best film) the result was box office failure and the loss of their Paramount contract (but that loss can be laid at the feet of their producer Emanuel Cohen who tied up all of Paramount`s top stars--Mae West, Marlene Dietrich, the Marx Brothers and more so that it wound up costing the studio too much to make their films).

Enter Irving Thalberg. He analyzed the Marx Brothers`formula, produced A NIGHT AT THE OPERA as a touring stage production, refined the gags before live audiences introduced the romantic sub-plot, got them away from Mr. Cohen and saved the brothers` bacon. This became the formula for all of their post DUCK SOUP films.

Unfortunately for us and them Thalberg died young. The Brothers, meanwhile, had made an enemy of Louis B. Mayer (who destroyed more careers than time) who did his best to make sure their films would destroy them.

He pretty well succeeded. This idea of putting in a little something for everyone (to broaden the appeal) only winds up in diluting the main course) which kills the reason why we were going in the first place.

Years ago when I was runnning THE MARX BROTHERS`films on a regular basis I found that cutting Kenny Baker`s first song in AT THE CIRCUS improved the pace of the picture 100% and made it funnier. I then found that cutting all but the last few bars of the song made the picture work even better (I had my own 16mm print to play with so I used it when I rented the film from MGM. The print I rented was badly beaten up from wear. Mine was mint condition). I found running the picture with Baker`s song killed it dead but cutting the song had audiences coming alive (the venue sat nearly 1,000 people)and they stayed alive right until the picture ended.

The best thing to do with the niche mareting boys when it comes to a work of theatre is to leave them at the door.

I read your blog on copyright.

I discovered that copyright came into existence when publishers went to the crown saying,`We need copyright laws to protect our writers.`

That sounded reasonable so copyright lwas were created.

Then the writers were told, `If you want us to publish your work you have to sign copyright over to us.`

Copyright laws were created to rob creators not protect them.

Finally, there is a way out of this mess. More about that later.