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Monday, August 28, 2006

Monday reads: Film Journal on D-Cinema ... NY Times on Star Power ... `Long Tail' response

- Film Journal International has two good pieces on digital cinema, both by Andreas Fuchs. One deals with digital projection at the drive-in, and the other supplies an update on the Cinema Buying Group, a collective of independent theater owners who aim to negotiate better prices on digital cinema gear by banding together.

- The New York Times talks to economists and discovers that stars may not help a movie's performance at the box office as much as studio execs would like to believe. Eduardo Porter and Geraldine Fabrikant write:

    Hollywood, where the star system was invented, is not wholly dependent on celebrities: the list of biggest-grossing movies in history is dominated by movies like “Shrek 2,” “ET: The Extra-Terrestrial” and the “Star Wars” series, which were not star-driven. But the industry still places an enormous importance on superstar power based on a straightforward fact: On average, movies that have big names starring in them make more money at the box office than movies that do not.

    Movie industry specialists argue that, in the complicated world of Hollywood economics, stars bring many different kinds of benefits. They are easier to market, they help sell more tickets at home and overseas and they help drive home-video sales, which are a bigger and bigger slice of studio revenue. “If the stars’ job is to increase output, by drawing crowds into the theaters or selling DVD’s, it is not working as well as it had worked in the past,” said Harold L. Vogel, author of a book called “Entertainment Industry Economics: A Guide for Financial Analysis.” But, he added: “This is a hiatus. We have gone through 25 years where new distribution for films — videocassettes, cable and DVD’s — added new revenue potential. That meant less resistance to stars’ salary demands.”

- It's ironic, of course, that `The Long Tail,' Chris Anderson's book about the importance of niches, should wind up on the big kahuna NY Times business best-sellers list -- but that's where it is. (And kudos to Chris, a sometime editor of mine.) In the LA Times, Marc Fisher reminds us that hits aren't going to vanish, in a response to Anderson's book. A snippet:

    Anderson dismisses the power of songs, movies and TV shows that speak to a mass audience, deriding them as a superficial form of connection. Human beings are "rather more tribal," he writes. "We're deeply connected with a few people."

    True enough, the digital revolution has demonstrated the allure of thousands of tiny online affinity groups, many with real emotional meaning. In the music world, blogs and sharing sites are creating their own mini-communities of like-minded listeners. But that is happening underneath a continuing longing for a mass culture. The desire to listen to what the other kids are listening to, even when it's lousy stuff, is as fundamental as speech and song themselves.