[ Digital cinema, democratization, and other trends remaking the movies ]

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

News Items: Movies on iTunes, Netflix set-top box, Other set-tops, Bill Gates on innovation, Brando returns, Sonnefeld on digital movie-making

- Not surprisingly, price is a sticking point in the talks between Apple and movie studios over offering movies on iTunes. Steve Jobs seems to be lobbying for one flat price - $9.99 - for movies, while the studios would like to sell movies for a range of prices, some of them perhaps twice as high as that. One other issue: the studios may not want iTunes pricing to undercut prices for physical DVDs at Wal-Mart, their biggest retail outlet.

Here's what I expect to happen: at least two prices on iTunes, one for new releases (say, movies released on DVD within the last 60 or 90 days) and another for older library titles.

- Netflix says it is still considering how it might deliver movies via the Net...perhaps using a set-top box. (Just like TiVo, Akimbo, Moviebeam, etc. etc.) I think that Netflix's consumers think of it primarily as a subscription service, and that trying to market a set-top box would be a disaster for the company.

- The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) has a good report on other efforts to link Net video to the television using a set-top box. (The headline is `YouTube on the Boob Tube.') One device from RCA, out this September, will supply content from Akimbo Systems and Movielink. Bobby White writes:

    About 43.9 million U.S. households have the broadband Internet connections necessary to watch online video, according to Jupiter Research. But in a March survey, Jupiter found that only about 57% of adults with broadband watched online video regularly, and nearly all of that viewership was on a PC.

- The Journal also has this interview with Bill Gates in which he explains why his company can't do innovative stuff like YouTube.

- From DV Guru and HD for Indies, here's a cool video that shows how Marlon Brando was digitally returned to life for `Superman Returns.'

- Also from the Journal, another interview with director and cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld on why he's not shooting digitally (but why he does support all sorts of digital processes in filmmaking). Sonnenfeld says:

    ...[U]p until recently, even though you would shoot it on film, you would still make film dailies, and transfer the film dailies to the computer. Now, "RV" was the first movie where we didn't even do that. We just shot the film, took the negative and immediately transferred the negative to a hard drive. And the first time I saw a print of "RV," or even dailies shot on film, was when we finished the entire movie.

    I still don't love the way [movies shot digitally] look. I still think they look a little too immediate. One of the things about film -- if you originate on film -- is it still has a certain grain to it that the mind is used to having. Video still looks a little bit like reportage. It still feels a little bit like you're watching the six o'clock news. Now that's changing very quickly, and now we're going to get to digital projection, which is going to be the biggest change for moviegoers. In the next five years, every theater in America or most theaters in America, maybe five or six years, will have digital projectors. You will no longer be seeing a movie projected on film.