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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Can the movie industry evolve? (Plus: inDplay, Current, TiVo, EchoStar, and Jason Reitman)

- Patrick Goldstein of the LA Times has a great column today that asks the question, can the movie industry evolve along with its audience?


Goldstein writes:


    Unfortunately, when it comes to embracing new technology, most people in showbiz are in deep denial. In his recent state of the industry speech at ShoWest, Motion Picture Assn. of America chief Dan Glickman offered the tired bromide of a "Got Milk"-style campaign to promote theater attendance. National Assn. of Theater Owners chief John Fithian gloated over the failure of "misguided experiments" in same-day release of movies on DVD and in theaters.


    But perhaps the worst combination of denial and hypocrisy was on display at the Oscars, when Academy President Sid Ganis touted the theater experience, saying, "I bet you that none of the artists nominated tonight have ever finished a shot in a movie, stood back and said, 'That's going to look great on DVD.' " Ganis is a genuinely decent man, but it's hard to imagine a more egregious instance of Hollywood's "Do as I say, not as I do" elitism. No institution has more fiercely protected its right to watch movies on DVD than the academy, whose members are treated to Oscar screeners every holiday season, while we get a lecture about how we should settle for endless pre-show ads and overpriced popcorn.


    As it turns out, the New Yorker magazine on the stands the week of the Oscars featured "Capote" director Bennett Miller (one of those "artists nominated tonight") in a big two-page ad for a new Intel system that pictures him in his "streamlined home theater/media room, which he uses to download and view movies."


He cites a survey from OTX that found that young males saw 25 percent fewer movies in 2005 than they did two years earlier. OTX also found that the average consumer's entertainment spending is up 500 percent over the past decade - but not much of that is going to movie tickets. Goldstein continues:

    Young people still love movies. But with the exception of a steadily shrinking number of Big Event films, they don't have an overriding desire to see them in a theater. And they aren't willing to wait until the studios have cashed in their DVD profits. If it takes months for a movie to come to their preferred medium, they'll find other content to absorb. Like it or not, this is a generation trained to access media when and how it wants it, not when it best fits the studio's profit picture.

Well worth a read.


- A start-up called inDplay launched its "online rights acquisition system" yesterday -- basically a way for filmmakers to sell various rights to their movies online. Here's the press release and here's the site. Will it work? The odds are stacked against marketplaces like these, since it's tough to attract quality product (films) and rights-buyers with money, in equal numbers.


- The LA Times also has a report that Current, the cable network co-founded by Al Gore, which airs user-submitted videos, is expanding its reach from 20 million to 28 million homes.


- The Hollywood Reporter notes that a suit over patent infringement between TiVo and EchoStar (operator of the DISH Network) starts today. The patent at issue involves the ability to watch one show while recording another. From the piece: "If TiVo wins, it could sue cable companies that offer other set-top boxes or at least force them to pay licensing fees. Defeat would probably relegate TiVo to a niche place in the market it created, analysts say."


- Finally got the chance to see `Thank You For Smoking' over the weekend (after missing it at Sundance and SXSW), and really enjoyed it. Director Jason Reitman has also been posting blog entries that seem as though they're actually written by him -- not his publicist. Cool precedent for other directors.