Internet Distribution of Movies
Mark Tapscott notes that, despite incredible publicity and critical acclaim, neither gay cowboy movie “Brokeback Mountain” nor George Clooney’s “”Blood for Oil” did well at the box office. Indeed, the lousy remake of the lousy 1970s flick “Fun with Dick and Jane” swamped them both.
He then asks an interesting question:
And how long before we see genuinely independent film makers who are much more in tune with the general public’s tastes going around the existing distribution system by showing their products only on pay-per-view Internet sites?
Just think how much cheaper tickets would be and how much more convenient “going to the movies” would become with Internet-only distribution. And most important, can you imagine how much artistic creativity would be unleashed among movie makers by their being freed of Hollywood’s conventions?
Let us, for the sake of argument, fiat away concerns about piracy and any technical issues. Would this be a good idea?
It would, certainly, challenge Netflix and other movie rental outlets as well as the pay-per-view options offered by cable and satellite providers. For those who simply want to watch movies qua movies, this might be quite attactive. There is, however, another aspect to movie-going: Getting out of the house.
Mark Cuban, who in addition to having founded Broadcast.com and owning the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks owns Landmark Theaters, HDNet Films, and a movie production and distribution company. Responding to remarks by John Fithian, the head of the National Association of Theatre Owners, about the threat of changing distribution mechanisms to his industry, Cuban scoffs,
Guess what John, I can whip up a mean steak, but I still like to go to restaurants. Because I enjoy it. I enjoy getting out of the house with family, friends, who ever.
Every single Mavs game is on TV. It wasnt that long ago that some people in the sports business thought that having games on TV would reduce attendance. After all, why go to the game when you can watch it for free on TV ? Then someone decided to do some research and as it turns out, the more games you broadcast on TV, the more people who go to your games. At the NBA, when we do our analysis to determine the revenue opportunity in any given market, the number of games broadcast is one of the criteria analyzed.
Hey John, you can get just about anything you want onlineÃ¢€¦.. but people still go shopping.
Going to a restaurant. Going to a sporting event. Going shopping. Cabin Fever is alive and well. Wanting to get away from your parents, your kids, your job, your apartment, your house, your problems will never, ever go out of style. For the next thousand years the question will be askedÃ¢€¦
What do you want to do tonight ? For the next thousand years, people will want to get the heck out of the house. The question is where to and why.
Quite right. As Cuban has demonstrated over and over, creative businessmen will figure out how to get people to choose their venues when answering the “where to and why” questions.
Satellite radio and mp3 players haven’t killed the music industry, especially live concerts, and Netflix hasn’t killed the theater business. It’s highly unlikely that anything coming down the pike will do that.
I agree with Tapscott that finding ways around the Hollywood Establishment will likely be a good thing for many filmmakers. Ironically, though, it will almost surely result in a lot more films like “Brokeback Mountain,” since the main obstacle to putting out films with niche appeal is the costs of marketing and distributing them.
Update: Glenn Reynolds has some related thoughts on whether podcasting will kill talk radio…or blogging over at TCS.