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Friday, October 28, 2005

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.

Eller writes:

    "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."


  • Hmm. At the risk of overlooking the real issue here, I find it awfully rich that M. Night Shyamalan talks about how cinema makes all viewers part of a "collective soul" when he himself has insulted more viewers with his asinine flicks than Steven Soderbergh ever did (yes, even when he directed Ocean's 11). Another surprise ending shoehorned into a syrupy lite-chiller, eh, Night? Wow, I only saw this one coming from the queue at the box office. How long is this guy gonna whip the dead horse that is "oh, Bruce was a ghost all along"? I wonder whether Lady in the Water has a climactic "twist", too? I can only guess as Mr. Shyamalan has plummeted so greatly in my esteem since his admirable debut that I will NEVER pay to see another one of his pictures in a cinema. It's because of hacks like him that people are sick and tired of going to the movies: it costs him fifty million to make a shaggy-dog story look pretty enough that we'll stick around til the end where, you guessed it, there's a Surprise. How much did it cost to take the family to see this? How many helpful idiots in the seats behind you gave a running commentary on the action which was taking place before your very eyes (is moronic chatter part of that "collective soul" you were talking about, Night?) as you watched? Part of the reason people are such disrespectful patrons in cinemas is surely due to the low expectations they now have of cinema to begin with - because they keep getting gypped by people like Shyamalan who pump out the same tripe ad nauseum without ever trying to experiment, all the while waxing philosophical about the "magic of the movies". Soderbergh has earned his props: he can be forgiven Ocean's 11 and Traffic (sorry, the oscars don't count for anything outside the industry, people) precisely because he's prepared to try (and capable of) making a movie as interesting as Bubble - or Out of Sight, or sex, lies, and videotape, or The Underneath, or King of the Hill, or Schizopolis, or The Limey for that matter. He's a prolific, talented stylist who understands that experimentation is key in any art form. Shyamalan is a poster-child for Hollywood conformity - the wunderkind who burned out on his own hype. I don't believe for a second that day-and-date releasing would send cinemas the way of the Dodo and, even if they did, look on the brightside: at least M. Night Shyamalan couldn't sell you another ride on his one-trick pony.

    By Blogger j.fairbrother, at 10:50 PM  

  • By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:39 AM  

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