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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

On the Web, no 'Seinfeld' yet ... Paul Schrader on What Happens Next ... More 3-D Screens at Small Theater Chains

- The New York Times ran a story Sunday and another this morning about original Web video content. The message of both, when read together, is that there hasn't yet been a 'Seinfeld'-like hit on the Web yet, but lots of people are trying.

On Sunday, Brian Stelter wrote:

    ...[P]roducing Web content may be easy but profiting from it is hard. While a small number of writers, producers and actors are making a living with webisodes, they are still a long way from establishing the form alongside television and feature films. The newfound industry lacks clear business models and standardized formats.

    And so far, it also lacks audiences. Ask most average media consumers what Web shows they watch, and the reaction is likely to be a blank stare. If they have heard of webisodes at all, it is probably in the context of “Quarterlife,” a Web series that leapt to TV and flopped spectacularly in the ratings in February, or “Prom Queen,” an online drama backed by Michael Eisner, the former chief of Walt Disney.

Then today, Mike Hale reviews several Web series, including 'Gemini Division' with Rosario Dawson, and Stephen King's N., which exists to promote a new book. About 'Gemini,' he writes:

    ...[P]erhaps because of the cost of hiring a known actress like Ms. Dawson, the execution is lacking. The actors are pasted on top of static photo images of hotel rooms and Paris landmarks, and very little animation has been done beyond the annoying use of graphics to indicate that we’re actually watching video transmissions from Ms. Dawson to a friend back home. It’s like watching “Sin City” or “300” without the digital effects, which — need I say? — were just about the only reasons to watch those movies.

So what do you think, will the hits come from the big guys, or the independents?

Someone from Gen247 Media e-mailed me last week to point me to 'Deleted: The Game', a "Web TV show that promises to blur the lines between fantasy and reality by drawing viewers into an interactive game." Their budget is "next to nothing," I'm told, and they shoot act-by-act, which allows them to incorporate audience input. Characters are available for viewer interaction on sites like MySpace, Facebook, or via chat. Viewers can win prizes, or a chance to do a cameo on the show.

- Karina Longworth has the world's best job. She was out at Telluride this past week, and offered up some notes from a panel called "Snip Snip: Are Cutbacks in Film Distribution and Criticism Affecting Quality Filmmaking?" Here was the section I found interesting:

    “Technology is leaving behind much that we are fond of,” [screenwriter & dirctor Paul] Schrader warned. “I personally believe that movies are a 20th century art form, and they’re basically over.” Several times over the course of the session, Schrader expressed enthusiasm for short-form episodic work made on low budgets for small screens. Referencing the rise number of “professional” media makers who have jumped to the webseries format, Schrader announced that he’s currently planning a film that would exist in a couple of different versions: one feature designed for arthouses, and one “X-rated” version, cut into 12, 5-minute episodes, for viewing on cellphones and/or on the web. Schrader’s not planning to go this route because it’s lucrative, but because it’s what he sees as our inevitable future. “There’s [currently] no money in it, but it’s much better to gore the ox than to hold the ox that’s being gored.”

- RealD and the Cinema Buying Group, which represents smaller theater chains looking to transition to digital cinema, announced that they're going to bring 3-D to about 1,000 screens. Sarah McBride explains:

    The independent-theater owners "want to remain competitive, and they want to accrue the benefits" that come with 3D, said Michael Lewis, chairman and chief executive of RealD.

    ...Theaters tend to charge a premium for 3D tickets, often $2 to $5 more than regular tickets. That means movies that run on 3D screens can boost theaters' and studios' bottom lines. During opening weekend for this summer's "Journey to the Center of the Earth," 3D screens took in almost four times the revenue of 2D screens showing the movie.

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