Shyamalan speaks about windows at Showeast
There's a great piece in today's LA Times by Claudia Eller, reporting on M. Night Shyamalan's speech yesterday at the Showeast conference in Orlando.
Night is worried that we'll lose the collective experience of movie-going if new movies are released simultaneously in different formats: theatrically, on DVD, on the Net, etc.
"Art is the ability to convey that we are not alone," Shyamalan told the gathering of more than 800 theater operators and suppliers at the convention's closing night dinner. "When I sit down next to you in a movie theater, we get to share each other's point of view. We become part of a collective soul. That's the magic in the movies."
Then he added: "If this thing happens, you know the majority of your theaters are closing. It's going to crush you guys."
The article includes some predictable quotes from the usual players. NATO head John Fithian says the movies in 2005 haven't been as good. Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman Michael Lynton says that he thinks preserving release windows is important. But here's an interesting passage, about a debate I hadn't heard about previously:
As recently as June, at a Directors Guild of America event in New York, Shyamalan and [director Steven] Soderbergh argued vehemently — though respectfully — about Soderbergh's support of simultaneous release, according to someone who witnessed the exchange. The spirited discussion was notable in part because both are regarded as creative risk-takers, not mere purveyors of formulaic "popcorn" movies.
Shyamalan declined to discuss the summertime spat, saying only, "We're both fiery and passionate." Shyamalan said he believed Soderbergh "loves cinema," but if he prevailed, "I think he's going to kill it."
That might be a bit alarmist. What about this scenario: today, movies often linger in theaters for weeks, playing to mostly-empty houses after the opening weekend. What if new movies had a week (maybe two) in theaters, and then went to all other formats after about half-a-month? Those who wanted to be hip and with it, and see movies first in that collective environment, would have a chance. The studios could leverage the same marketing dollars from the theatrical debut for the DVD/Internet/iPod video/pay-per-view release. Theater owners would get more fresh movies cycling through over the course of a year - perhaps 20 or 40 per screen. And moviegoers wouldn't be able to say, nothing good is playing at the multiplex down the street...because new things would always be arriving.
That scenario would also give more directors the chance to get their films up on the screen.... perhaps producing the next M. Night Shyamalan and the next "Sixth Sense."