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Monday, July 24, 2006

`Studios Shift to Digital Movies' ... YouTube and `Web Auteurs' ... Mark Cuban Seeks Your Help on Movie Marketing

- Two pieces from the NY Times, one from today and one from yesterday.

Today's piece, `Studios Shift to Digital Movies, but Not Without Resistance,' is by your humble blogger. Here's the opener:

    Every weekend through the summer, big-budget movies compete for dominance at the box office. On movie sets, a quieter sort of contest is taking place as a handful of companies are angling to have their digital movie cameras used to capture the action, supplanting the traditional 35-millimeter film camera.

    Many of this summer’s most prominent releases have relied on digital movie cameras, including “Superman Returns” from Warner Brothers, “Click” from Sony Pictures and “Miami Vice,” a Universal Pictures offering that opens Friday.

Cinematographer Curtis Clark, who shot some of the recent doc `An Inconvenient Truth,' and chairs the tech committee of the American Society of Cinematographers, tells me, "We’ve reached what may be looked at, five years from now, as a tipping point in the use of digital cameras." And Panavision's CEO, Bob Beitcher, says, "We don’t envision developing or building a new film camera." But the bottom line is that the majority of major features ($20 million and up, let's say) are being shot on film.

I'll try to post some supplemental material later today, if I can...

Yesterday, John Clark had a piece headlined `Hollywood Clicks on the Work of Web Auteurs.' Clark writes:

    ...If the Net begins spawning films — and not simply helping to market or deliver them, as has happened to date — studios’ grip on the business of putting pictures on screens may be challenged.

    “Their nightmare is a direct feed from moviemaker to audience,” said Walter Kirn, a frequent contributor to The New York Times who has been serializing his novel “The Unbinding” on and saw one of his other novels, “Thumbsucker,” adapted to the big screen. “Their only trump cards are that they are pools of capital for making expensive things. Otherwise they are cut out of the action.”

    Geoffrey Gilmore, director of the Sundance Film Festival, said: “We are probably at a period of greater change than we have had in the past 50 years. The industry is scared about what they should make and how they should deliver it. What’s the next step? Where’s the development coming from?”

    “MySpace: The Movie” first appeared on YouTube on Jan. 31 and since then has had millions of hits, enough viewers to rival big-budget films or TV shows. [David] Lehre, who is 21 and lived at his parents’ home in Washington, Mich., when he created the video, shot it there with friends. He scored the music himself so he wouldn’t have to deal with copyright issues, designed the graphics and Googled any technical questions he had. This development and distribution process makes even independent films, with their retinue of maxed-out credit cards and frenzied film festivals, look positively mainstream in comparison.

- Mark Cuban sounds like he's getting a little frustrated with the problem of trying to get people to come to the movies that his 2929 Entertainment produces, without spendinng an imprudent amount of marketing dollars on mainstream ads. He writes:

    Its not unusual to spend 8, 10 , 12 dollars PER PERSON that goes to a movie in the opening weekend. Shoot, its not unusual for studios to spend that much per person to get people to go to the theater through a movies entire run !

    How crazy is it to spend more on marketing than the revenue recieved when they go to the movie ? Its double crazy because that revenue is split with the theater. So if a studio spends 12 bucks to get someone to go to the theater, they might only be getting 4 dollars back in return.

And he poses a challenge:

    if you want a job, and have a great idea on how to market movies in a completely different way. If your idea works for any and all kinds of movies. If it changes the dynamics and the economics of promoting movies, email it or post it. If its new and unique, i want to hear about it. If its a different way of doing the same thing you have seen before, it probably wont get you a job, but feel free to try.

The comments that follow his post are worth a read.