Author Topic: Alternative approaches to entertainment distribution/consumption  (Read 15233 times)

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jenkins

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Re: Alternative approaches to entertainment distribution/consumption
« Reply #30 on: September 30, 2015, 04:34:53 PM »
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JB, to whom i've said before we could have a romance that's a Todd Haynes movie, here we are now in that such romance.

as i've time and time again demonstrated, to my own detriment, owing to my abrasive introductions of ideologies, i'll hear the other side and talk things out to the end. i must concede that i use abrasive conversational methods, as indeed people should be listened to now and then, and that appears to be a subject agreed upon by many.

but what i want to denigrate is your fundamental perspective, not you as a person, though of course your philosophy is mixed with you as a person, that is tricky. i hope this is a conversationally cleansing moment because my adoration for you JB has been publicly stated.

you're an American. bless. me too. we live in a country aware of the powerful and damaging effects culture by numbers creates. we're a nation painfully aware of injuries caused by popular opinion. there is always, yes, the bigger picture, but it must also be remembered that the bigger picture can be ugly. the bigger picture can want to stomp the little picture, and that's not a very 2015 philosophy. there's a lot of personal decision that comes with life.

i don't have anything against tv, in fact i've been apologetic about criticisms i've made against it. and this was literally a post about a hat and a man being cute, which turned into a conversation where obviously tv is better than movies. that's politics. that's cultural electricity. about a man and his hat that says movies. nah come on. a bit of this fight is personal choice.

movies make me happy and help me find happiness in life. i adore movies. i have a bias. it's not against tv shows. it's toward movies.

sorry if we got steamy but, again, Todd Haynes romance and kisses.

Jeremy Blackman

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Re: Alternative approaches to entertainment distribution/consumption
« Reply #31 on: September 30, 2015, 05:22:33 PM »
+2
this was literally a post about a hat and a man being cute

It very clearly was not that. I know I'm taking the bait here, but... you did open your initial post with a quote that started this conversation.

which turned into a conversation where obviously tv is better than movies

I'm not sure if you're teasing me here, but I hope that's not actually what you got out of my posts.

I sincerely regret that we can't have conversations.
"Hunger is the purest sin"

jenkins

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Re: Alternative approaches to entertainment distribution/consumption
« Reply #32 on: September 30, 2015, 05:32:51 PM »
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you just made me a Luciferian torch of the US shadow government about tv shows. sorry if it wasn't clearly about the hat, with facts about its color, how it brings facial shade to women, numbers about people wearing it, and i brought up the personality of Audley.

i've taken the bait too. there could definitely be a conversation about the cultural electricity of television through its sternly self-proclaimed golden age. i mean tv is shining brighter, if that's what you're saying, and movies aren't enhancing their own glow. we gotta work on that and there could be a topic about it. oh i'd prefer a movie about it but [slaps knee]

stern conversational ends, is that an "atmosphere" you're reflecting? i'm a clear advocate of self-detriment but like i said, you gotta listen to the people now and then and JB, Todd Haynes romance, this post, what do i gotta say here?

ok i'll say it: i love movies, and that was obvious in the initial post, which made a reference to tv, but threw down on Diner and American graffiti.

wilder

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Re: Alternative approaches to entertainment distribution/consumption
« Reply #33 on: January 21, 2016, 06:39:09 PM »
+1
Peter Bart: Is There Life After Sundance? Billionaire Charles Cohen Builds Art House Empire
via Deadline



It’s called the “now what” moment. It’s that moment of truth for filmmakers who, having won applause at the Sundance Film Festival and perhaps even secured distribution, now have to ask themselves that dreaded question: How will their film avoid instant oblivion? How will it find an audience?

For Charles Cohen, the “now what” moment at the 2008 Sundance prompted, not defeat, but an ambitious business plan — one involving not only his film, Frozen River, but also scores of others searching for a home in the art film universe. Fortunately, Cohen, a billionaire real estate maven, had the resources, and the taste, to implement his grand design. And since I love “grand designs,” I decided to track down Cohen and ask him about it.

Cohen told me he’d concluded that his passion for art films would make financial sense if he could essentially resurrect the vertical business model of Hollywood’s founders. That meant controlling the intellectual property, the film rights, the distribution and even the theaters where they will exhibited. To that end, the 63-year-old realtor set about to acquire libraries embracing over 800 vintage movies, plus producing a dozen or so new movies. In addition, he is soon to open several new or totally renovated art house theaters where he can proudly show his product.

And he’s having success within his confined universe. One of the scores of French films that Cohen controls, Mustang, has just earned an Academy Award nomination for best foreign language film, his second nom in a row (last year’s nomination was for Timbuktu.)

When I first heard about Cohen and his ambitions, I wondered if he was yet another billionaire searching for a new playground. But when I met him I realized his passion for art films was downright contagious. Under his plan, when a filmgoer visits a new Cohen art house, he will see a foreign-language film along with a curated array of vintage shorts, docs or even newsreels – and the place may even smell good. In short, the experience should actually be fun.

By buying libraries like those of Rohauer or Merchant-Ivory, Cohen now controls over 850 rare and vintage movies – old Buster Keaton, W.C. Fields and D.W. Griffith films as well as memorable works like Howard’s End or Shakespeare Wallah. Cohen either owns or licenses over 100 foreign-language (mostly French) films which he intends to showcase. (Mustang has played for eight weeks in New York and Los Angeles and how has some 56 additional playdates.)

In terms of exhibition, Cohen plans by summer to open a completely renovated Quad Cinema on New York’s West 13th Street and is rebuilding the Carefree Theater in West Palm Beach. In Los Angeles, Cohen owns the sprawling Blue and Green Whale structures in West Hollywood, each of which will have formidable screening facilities.

“I want to make it a fun adventure again to see an art film,” he explains. “Movie theaters of this sort are going the way of bowling alleys. But why shouldn’t people be able to enjoy seeing a fine movie and also experience different generations and different nationalities of filmmaking talent?”

Again, does Cohen have the muscle to bring this off? A second generation realtor, Cohen Brothers has vast holdings – perhaps 12 million square feet of real estate. He has hired an infrastructure of executives to implement his scheme, led by Daniel Battsek, who once headed Miramax under the Weinsteins. He’s developing a small slate of films for U.S. production, to follow up Hitchcock-Truffaut, a doc, and My Old Lady, released last year. He plans to release Rams, the Icelandic film, on February 2 and six other films later in the year.

But he’s not going to Sundance this year. “Sales agents have bid up the prices to such an extent that it’s all but impossible to make acquisitions,” he observes. “I’ll save my festival adventures for Cannes.”

Can his venture ever become profitable?

“I’m not doing this as a non-profit,” he tells me. “But as I bring this off I won’t have much competition. I’m investing in quality. I collect art. I collect art films. It’s a lot more fun than trying to make a tentpole.”

wilder

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Re: Alternative approaches to entertainment distribution/consumption
« Reply #34 on: July 17, 2016, 11:08:07 PM »
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It's now up to $432 million worldwide. And only $47 million of that is domestic.


Thought Warcraft Tanked? Nope — It Changed Blockbusters Forever

OVER THE WEEKEND, Legendary Pictures’ Warcraft opened in the United States with just over $24 million at the box office. For a summer blockbuster that cost an estimated $160 million to make, that’s a flop any way you look at it; in fact, it made less in its opening weekend than recent summer flops Battleship, The Lone Ranger, even Fantastic Four.

But in China, Warcraft isn’t just doing better than it did in the U.S.—it’s breaking records. In five days, the film raked in $156 million, beating out last year’s Furious 7 to become the country’s highest-grossing opening for a foreign-produced film. To put that in the context of last year’s undisputed global hit: in China, Warcraft made more in five days than Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens did in its entire theatrical run ($124 million).

http://www.wired.com/2016/06/warcraft-and-the-future-of-blockbusters/

wilder

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Re: Alternative approaches to entertainment distribution/consumption
« Reply #35 on: July 20, 2016, 06:46:26 AM »
+2
In keeping with the above Warcraft article…

In the video interview embedded below, from January, Ted Sarandos talks about Netflix’s content becoming progressively more uniform globally, with the continued goal of releasing original and licensed content day-and-date on the platform in every single country (now 190 countries, 130 of which were added in January of 2016), as old contracts and old deals expire.

Right now the US market for Netflix content is still bigger than its international counterpart, but in the final minute of the interview Sarandos predicts that in a couple of years the split between US and foreign subscriber numbers will flip to be 20/80. 

Quote
(re: “Making a Murderer”)

Is that something that was data-driven - you saw that people were watching a lot of true crime, they were watching a lot of murder mysteries and you said: Hey, we know that our audience will like this, let’s make this documentary, or, are you making more decisions now based on your gut, what seems like good creative, the meetings that you take?

It’s a little bit of both. I really look at it as informed hunches. So you have a hunch and you either use the data to confirm the hunch or dismiss the hunch, or the other way around, which is you start seeing patterns in the data…

Another interesting anecdote: He notes that "Better Call Saul" is able to be produced with such a high caliber of production value because even though the series first premieres on AMC, Netflix’s licensing dollars figure into its budget, and it ends up premiering as a Netflix Original in most other parts of the world.

Curious how this will influence what they produce down the line. Made me think about "Stranger Things", such a hybrid of US cultural icons (80s Spielberg, Stephen King), and how culturally specific programming will be affected once the whole world gains an appetite for Netflix's pipeline. The four 190 quadrant tentpolizing of serialized television seems to have begun (if it ends up getting that far)...



wilder

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Re: Alternative approaches to entertainment distribution/consumption
« Reply #36 on: July 25, 2016, 05:43:49 AM »
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Brexit, Part 2
7/23/16
via Film and Digital Times

Yasuaki Mitsuwa conducted two interviews from Japan about the impact of BREXIT on film production.

Ronan Girre
-Chief Executive & Head of Studies of ace (ateliers du cinema european) in Paris, France. Ace is a center for training and development to help independent European producers.
-IMDb Credits

Yasuaki Mitsuwa: What do you think about Brexit?

Ronan Girre: Brexiters apparently did not expect to win and were probably the first ones to be surprised by the result of the poll. French observers think that the pro-Brexit campaign was mostly a political marketing campaign by some politicians who wanted to get more visibility but did not actually plan to leave the EU so fast. Maybe for that reason they had not really prepared a plan for the “day after.” Now, apparently, no one knows exactly what to do with this new situation in the UK. To me, it looks like there is no strategy.

How do you think Brexit will influence film production in the UK, Europe and Hollywood?

I believe it will have an impact mostly in the UK. In a way, the film business in the UK has gradually withdrawn from the European game for a number of years.

Over the last 10 years, the UK has withdrawn from the main EU film organizations. Eurimages (European Cinema Support Fund) is an example. The UK system is rather co-production unfriendly: private funds are reluctant to invest in continental productions as they are focused on Hollywood big business. Public funds (BFI) are focused on British films as they have very little money available (about the same as a medium-sized German region like NRW (North Rhine-Westphalia). The Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) tax shelter excludes international coproduction as it requires full control of the film by British companies. The shooting incentive requires 1 million sterling minimum spending in the UK and is targeted mostly at big Hollywood productions shot in Pinewood … and maybe a few French ones shot in town.

According to observers, the UK might have less money available for films — and for everything else.

Service companies and studios may have fewer US customers. Being labelled British may not provide the same advantages they do today to access the EU market (as “Harry Potter” has). Cheaper studios may become the new favorite venues for US projects. (Czechs? Bulgarians? Germans? They are all potential alternatives.)

British films are not performing very well in their own domestic market compared to their US competitors. However they might lose the European market (as they probably will not be eligible for  EU distribution support and other helpful EU devices any more. Furthermore, they might be submitted to TV quotas as other non EU films are.)

On the other hand, UK distributors do not buy many EU films  now (except Curzon and smaller companies releasing them in one or two theaters). Most multiplexes in the mainstream market are already owned by US companies who do not exhibit EU films. Before Brexit and after Brexit may make very little difference for  EU films in the UK market.

In summary, we could almost say that, in a way, Brexit already happened 10 years ago in the film business.

Any comments on Brexit and future prospects of the motion picture industry in a borderless world?

The UK commercial cinema cannot really compete with Hollywood big productions for budgetary and cast reasons (except a few films like “The King’s Speech.”)  They have the same problem as  Canadian English speaking films, Australian films and films in New Zealand: they keep a very small share of their domestic market compared to other non-English speaking countries whose market is naturally protected by their native language.

On the other hand, the UK’s main art house cinema market happens to be France, and to a lesser degree, the EU. This market may become more difficult to reach. Therefore, my UK friends are very pessimistic at the moment.

Another important element to keep in mind is that Canada is joining Eurimages in 2017 and will almost be considered as an EU country in regards to film production. For French companies, shooting in English will be easier in Toronto than in the UK when they will need to. (As a reminder, French law gives access to all kinds of advantages when the film is shot in the language of the producer or in the language of the co-producer. French companies need to raise money in an English-speaking country when they want to shoot in English).

However let us not be too pessimistic. The new British government has apparently decided to wait a very long time before actually implementing Brexit. They might wait years and years—and not only for cinema’s sake—because they have many other more important problems to solve.


Adam Torel

-British producer living in Japan.
-CEO of Third Window Films,  distributing Japanese and other Asian films in the UK. 
-Third Window Films: http://thirdwindowfilms.com/
-IMDb credits

Yasuaki Mitsuwa: What do you think about Brexit?

Adam Torel: I think that many people obviously did not understand the facts and what impact leaving Europe would actually have on their individual lives. I don’t even believe that many of the people who promoted the movement expected that it would actually happen (as proven by the resignation of Farage) and for sure they have no plan about how to stop the sinking ship of a country they are left with. Personally I think that it will be looked upon as one of the biggest mistakes in history that a country has ever made.

How do you think Brexit will influence film production in UK, Europe and Hollywood?

Personally, as a distributor of Japanese films in the UK, it will be much harder to acquire titles for the UK due to the weakness of the UK’s Pound Sterling against the Japanese Yen. Also, if the UK plunges quickly into a bottomless pit of economic recession and general depression, the younger population (our target audience) will have less free cash to spend on niche entertainment. In terms of production, with the UK’s film production market being so closely linked (both financially as well as in terms of staff/talent) with Europe and the US, I’d imagine that making films in the UK will be much less appealing to investors and creators.

Any comments on Brexit and future prospect of the motion picture industry in a borderless world?

You say borderless world, though England has now made very sturdy borders—so they may find it very hard to continue being part of the global industry.

wilder

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Re: Alternative approaches to entertainment distribution/consumption
« Reply #37 on: July 28, 2016, 04:22:53 AM »
+1
Just Withnail shared this link, and it’s a doozy. Go upvote him

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Box Office Meltdown: Hollywood Races to Win Back Summer Crowds
7/26/16
via Variety

From “Jaws” to “Jurassic Park,” few directors can rival Steven Spielberg in the blockbuster arena. But even Spielberg’s magic touch couldn’t save “The BFG” at the box office.

On paper, the film, a $140 million adaptation of a beloved children’s book with a script by “ET” writer Melissa Mathison, had all the makings of a hit. Instead, the movie collapsed at the multiplexes, eking out less than $20 million in its opening weekend.

It’s a stunning fall for one of cinema’s highest-flying talents — a director whose finger was affixed to the pulse of mainstream tastes for decades. Yet “The BFG” is only the latest high-profile casualty in a summer that’s seen a slew of big-budget domestic bombs. Indeed, red ink has spilled out from such misses as “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” “Warcraft,” “The Legend of Tarzan,” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows,” each of which had production budgets north of $130 million, along with steep global marketing and distribution costs. The failures could cost their studios tens of millions of dollars.

More troubling is what the downturn may portend for the future of the film business and moviegoing overall.

“The theater business has weaker prospects going forward than at any time in the last 30 years,” says media analyst Hal Vogel. “It’s encountering visible strain this summer. It’s a superhero, mega-blockbuster, tentpole strategy run amuck. There’s too much of it, and it’s not working.”

Those weak prospects will likely affect financing. Chris Spicer, Akin Gump entertainment and media partner, says investors may move away from film into other media, such as gaming or virtual reality. “They will look at financing opportunities in the broader media context,” he argues.

There have been hits, particularly for Disney, with Pixar’s “Finding Dory” and Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” together racking up $1.8 billion worldwide.

Year to date, receipts are up 2%, thanks largely to winter hits such as “Deadpool” and “Zootopia.” Blockbuster season is a different story. Ticket sales are down roughly 10% this summer, but the slide is more precipitous than those numbers suggest. Rising ticket prices, fueled by 3D, Imax, and other premium formats, have enabled the industry to paper over a huge gulf in attendance. On a per-capita basis, the moviegoing audience is at its lowest levels in nearly a century. Most disturbing, millennials are avoiding theaters.

The audience of 18- to 39-year-olds has declined over the past five years, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.

“There are pockets of age groups and demographics that have not been inspired by what they’re seeing in movie theaters,” says Bud Mayo, president of Carmike Cinemas’ alternative programming and distribution division. “With social media, the reaction time is instantaneous. If kids don’t like it, word spreads.”

“Repeating the same kind of content over and over doesn’t really make sense. If you don’t give people something that’s fresh and new, they’re not going to show up.”
MIKE MEDAVOY, PRODUCER

As studios cater to fanboys, flooding theaters with superhero films and diving deeper into the comic-book canon, the business becomes more niche. Frequent moviegoers, defined as those who go to theaters at least once a month, are responsible for nearly half of domestic revenue. In 2015, total tickets purchased by this group increased by 2.9 million, but the ranks of these habitual consumers fell by 3.7 million.

At the same time, TV and online content continues to be compelling, with production values that rival those on the big screen. For a new generation of cinephiles, Ned Stark being separated from his head on “Game of Thrones,” or Walter White cooking meth in his underwear in “Breaking Bad,” are pop-culture totems. Little of what’s in the cineplex has that kind of impact.

“There has been a shift in the way that people are consuming content, and it’s moving away from the big screen,” says Bruce Nash, founder of the box-office tracking site The Numbers.

Producer Mike Medavoy says the box-office malaise is symptomatic of the larger problem of engaging moviegoers who have a wide variety of alternatives, from Netflix to Pokémon Go. “I’ve been deeply concerned for a long time by the fact that there are so many other options besides movies,” he says. “Millennials can play games or watch movies at home on a big screen, so repeating the same kind of content over and over [at the movie theater] doesn’t really make sense. If you don’t give people something that’s fresh and new, they’re not going to show up.”

It’s a looming disaster that’s been more than a decade in the making. Some of it is self-inflicted, brought about by a mixture of greed and fear, aided by a profound and troubling lack of imagination. The consequences add up to a business that feels increasingly irrelevant.

What’s lacking is originality. So far, only one new blockbuster franchise has emerged out of the summer — Illumination’s “The Secret Life of Pets.” Warner Bros.’ big-budget bet, “Suicide Squad,” a hotly anticipated superhero movie, is tracking well, but it’s not entirely new, springing from the DC Comics cinematic universe.


FEWER SALES PER PERSON


As ticket prices have soared, per-capita annual purchases in the domestic theatrical market have plummeted






FADING FRANCHISES


Today, it’s hard to predict which movies will resonate with audiences and which will be spurned. To safeguard against the vagaries of popular taste, studios have banked increasingly on sequels and spinoffs, with diminishing returns. That hasn’t meant just cooking up new chapters in popular franchises; it means raiding the pop-culture waste bin to revive moldy, dimly remembered pieces of intellectual property.

Fox resurrected “Independence Day,” only to find that audiences had little interest in revisiting the alien-invasion yarn 20 years after it took the box office by storm. Likewise, Sony is trying to reinvigorate “Ghostbusters” three decades after the paranormal investigators hung up their proton packs. But, as Variety critic Peter Debruge noted in his review of the new film, which debuted to middling receipts, Sony’s female-driven relaunch “suffers from a disappointingly strong case of déjà vu” and lacks its own identity.

And that’s not all: Studios have other pricey redos in the works, including another “Blade Runner,” a remake of “Ben-Hur,” the umpteenth “Spider-Man” reboot, more “XXX” adventures, and a fourth “Beverly Hills Cop.” Spielberg also will return to the well, reuniting with a 73-year-old Harrison Ford on a fifth “Indiana Jones” film, despite the fact that the last one, “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” represented a nadir for the series. Depending on your perspective, having Indy crack his bullwhip once more is either cinematic validation that seniors today lead longer, more active lives, or an indication of Spielberg and Ford’s refusal to leave the stage gracefully.

“X-Men: Apocalypse,” “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2,” and “London Has Fallen” are just a few of the high-profile sequels that performed worse than previous installments in their franchises.

In 2010, Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland” topped $1 billion globally, but six years later, the follow-up “Alice Through the Looking Glass” has made barely a quarter of that, and could result in a $100 million writedown. Other flops, such as “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising,” “Ride Along 2,” and “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” raise questions about the knee-jerk impulse to sequelize: Were these characters so beloved, and were their stories so rich, that audiences demanded part two?

“It may be a fantasy of mine as a creative producer, but I hope this will remind the studios that you could make five really good movies for the cost of one sequel to a movie that didn’t merit a sequel,” says Matt Baer, producer of “Unbroken.”





The sequels that have the most trouble are those that try to hew too closely to the style and format of the originals, says one Hollywood producer. The second “Independence Day,” which merely upped the size of the alien invasion, left audiences cold. But Marvel/Disney’s “Captain America” franchise — which morphed over three episodes from war movie to paranoid conspiracy thriller to “Fast and Furious”-style buddy movie — kept viewers craving more.

The last “Star Wars” installment signaled to audiences months in advance that it would not just roll out Han Solo and Princess Leia again and hope for the best. This fresh take was announced in the trailer when a Storm Trooper not only pulled off his mask (itself a novelty), but also revealed a new character, played by John Boyega, showing the franchise’s commitment to more diversity in casting.

Yet such new thinking has been the exception. Instead of pulling back with their sequels, studios are plowing ahead, announcing follow-ups even before a first film hits theaters. Lionsgate, for instance, plans to make seven “Power Rangers” movies — never mind that audiences won’t get a peek at the rebooted version of the Mighty Morphin team until 2017.

After coming down with a case of Marvel envy, Warner Bros. unveiled a sprawling DC Comics cinematic universe, scheduled to deliver up to two superhero films a year through 2020. But things got off to a rocky start after “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” bowed to withering reviews and tepid fan reception. (The film did gross $873 million worldwide, though some say it needed to do more to justify the creation of sequels.) Now, the studio must retune the engine in midflight, promising to fix tonal issues on “Justice League,” its 2017 answer to “The Avengers.”

Universal has been deeply engaged in its own universe-building. The studio has tapped Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan to oversee the creation of intersecting monster movies featuring the likes of the Mummy and Dracula. Those films will begin rolling out next year.

As Disney proved with Marvel, the rewards for getting it right can be limitless.

Hits spawn toy lines, theme-park rides, stage shows, and the untold riches that come with success. However, the costs associated with launching these franchises is ever escalating, and the dangers of making a false move can be cataclysmic.


INCOME INEQUALITY


All is not equal at the box office. Fewer movies now account for a greater proportion of ticket sales. In 2015, five films were responsible for a staggering 25% of ticket sales. As media analyst Doug Creutz noted in a recent report, the top five films from 2000 to 2014 averaged 16% of grosses.

This year, the trend of a higher concentration of box-office wealth is continuing. When a film hits, the rewards are huge. Halfway through 2016, six films have topped $300 million domestically; that’s double the number that hit that milestone in all of 2014.

But as the highs get higher, the lows get lower. Though 2015 saw the two biggest domestic openings in history — the $248 million bow of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and the $209 million debut by “Jurassic World” — it also included some of the lowest-grossing wide-release bows in history. “Victor Frankenstein,” “Burnt,” “We Are Your Friends,” “Jem and the Holograms,” and “Rock the Kasbah” rank among the worst debuts for films released on more than 2,000 screens. This year, “Hardcore Henry,” a point-of-view thriller that sparked a bidding war at the Toronto Film Festival, joined their ranks.

The income gap is being felt in another way. Disney spent more than $15 billion to snap up Pixar, Lucasfilm, and Marvel, giving the company the rights to Iron Man, “The Incredibles,” Luke Skywalker, and scores of other iconic characters. That pop culture arsenal has allowed Disney to dwarf its rivals.

“They’ve had hit after hit this year,” says Eric Handler, an analyst with MKM Partners. “It’s incumbent on the other studios to up their game.”

Disney is responsible for four of the year’s five highest-grossing films. It has crossed the $5 billion mark at the box office at a record clip. And the Burbank studio’s revenues tower over those of its big studio brethren: The company has gobbled up 31.3% of domestic market share. Its closest competitor, 20th Century Fox, commands roughly half that, with 16.9% of ticket sales.

If Disney were to rename its animated classic after the current studio scene, it would be “Snow White and the Six Dwarfs,” Creutz quips, counting Lionsgate with the five other major studios.

That raises questions about whether the business can continue to sustain this many studios. At the Sun Valley media conference earlier this month, Barry Diller, the former Fox and Paramount Pictures chief, predicted that the movie industry will soon experience consolidation. “It will contract,” he said.

“With social media, the reaction time is instantaneous. If kids don’t like it, word spreads.”
BUD MAYO, CARMIKE CINEMAS

Each studio has the incentive to follow the formula of making sequels and tentpole films like Disney, even though, collectively, the strategy means further cannibalization, since audiences won’t support the surfeit of big films coming to the cineplex, Creutz says.

He argues that by making a narrow range of films, the studios “have gotten themselves in the position that they are in, and really constrained the interest of the audience to go to the movies at all. They are essentially wrecking their own economics.”


SHRINKING MOVIE STARS


It’s lonely on the A-list. As the business focuses on comic-book movies featuring masked avengers, the clout of the men and women who save the planet on screen has diminished. The club of actors and actresses who can open a movie with their name above the title has plunged in recent years. It’s a group in the single digits, one whose members include Jennifer Lawrence, Robert Downey Jr., and, maybe, Tom Cruise and Will Smith. With the exception of Lawrence, these actors are middle-aged and have been in the public eye since the 1980s or ’90s.

The bloodletting has continued in recent months. Johnny Depp’s days of commanding $20 million a picture evaporated when “Alice Through the Looking Glass” flatlined. Pairing Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling in “The Nice Guys” and sending them on an extensive media tour failed to excite people about the R-rated comedy. And Matthew McConaughey’s McConaissance wasn’t powerful enough to rescue “Free State of Jones.”

From “Dances With Wolves” to “Reds” to “The Passion of the Christ,” the history of the movie business is rich with instances of stars using their box-office prowess to bankroll challenging films that wouldn’t otherwise see the light of day. Without star clout to get passion projects made, studios aren’t taking big swings. That means many of the types of movies that have been held in the highest regard are nearly impossible to will into existence.

“Studios aren’t making the kinds of films they made a decade ago, the ones that skewed toward adults,” says Celine Rattray, an executive producer on “American Honey” and a producer on “The Kids Are Alright.”

Rattray cites “Eye in the Sky,” the drone thriller with Helen Mirren that became an art-house hit, as an example of a business in transition. “I could have seen a studio making that 10 years ago,” she says. “Now it has to be financed independently.”


CHINA RISING?


The Chinese movie business has been a source of comfort within the industry’s challenges. New theater construction and a burgeoning middle class have fueled explosive growth in the country, pushing ticket sales up nearly 50% last year. At some point in 2017, China is expected to pass the U.S. as the world’s largest market for film.

That’s a sign of the increasingly globalized nature of the business. But studios are ambivalent about China’s rise. After all, Hollywood companies are getting only a small cut of the riches. Last year, China’s ticket sales hit $6.8 billion, but that was driven largely by local productions. Even though foreign films — including those that Hollywood exports to China — racked up $2.6 billion, the Chinese government maintains such tight restrictions on outside content that studios received only 25% of receipts (half of what they get in the United States). That means their share of that record-shattering year was just $650 million.


THE SKY MAY NOT BE FALLING (YET)

But there is hope. After a bruising start to summer, ticket sales have begun to rebound. “The Secret Life of Pets” soared to a $104.4 million debut, and “Suicide Squad” and “Jason Bourne” could yet lift revenues, ending the popcorn season on a high note.

Their success will lift spirits, but the movie industry’s issues are more systemic. It faces shifting tastes, increased competition, and a business model that seems to have been built for a different age. Breaking out of the rut will require bold, persistent experimentation, and a willingness to embrace fresh ideas. Of course, that’s only possible with a wider range of films.

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Re: Alternative approaches to entertainment distribution/consumption
« Reply #38 on: September 01, 2016, 03:37:02 AM »
+1
There's been a scary amount of these "do movies matter" articles going around the last months, and here's another one anyway. To counterweight, I'll post Richard Brody's great rebuttal.


Could This Be the Year Movies Stopped Mattering?

By Brian Raftery (WIRED)

IF YOU WANTED to pinpoint the moment this year when it became clear that moviegoing had devolved from Culture-Conquering Pastime to merely Something to Do When the Wi-Fi’s Down, consider the weekend of April 22 to April 24. On that Friday, with no other major new films opening in theaters, Universal Pictures released The Huntsman: Something Something Swordfart, a $115 million sequel to a movie that made nearly $400 million worldwide. The new Huntsman was accompanied by an omnipresent marketing campaign featuring four well-known stars (including Oscar winner Charlize Theron), not to mention a seemingly ceaseless cascade of ads like this one, in which Chris Hemsworth appears to have just won the gold medal for Confused Axe-Posing. It was impossible not to know The Huntsman was coming out, and that combination of wide-scale awareness and sheer star power—not to mention the relative lack of competition—made the movie look like a sure thing.

But by late Saturday night, The Huntsman was all but dead, having been slayed by two women: Beyoncé—who’d just sorta-surprise-released Lemonade, her new album—and “Becky with the good hair,” an anonymous, Jay-zoomin’ interloper who’d been called out on the Beyoncé song “Sorry,” and whose identity caused a weekend-long guessing-game online. And even if people weren’t trying to figure out who Beyoncé was talking about, they were spending the weekend watching a clip of Bruce Springsteen covering a song by the dearly beloved, recently departed Prince; or checking out Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Earth Day freestyle; or debating whether or not Jon Snow—the blokey with the good hair—would still be dead by the end of that Sunday night’s Game of Thrones premiere. They were doing anything but watching, discussing, or caring about the mega-sequel with the big stars and the impossible-to-miss marketing.

Like so many high-pedigree films released this year, Huntsman was quickly reduced to just another loud, expensive, desperate thingee hovering noisily and anxiously in the background of your digital life, hoping it could tear you away from Twitter or Snapchat or Spotify.
Granted, these kinds of apples-to-Lemonade comparisons are a bit unfair, especially when you consider that Huntsman made almost $20 million in its opening weekend. And, sure—it was much easier to watch Lemonade on your phone then head out to a theater and get your Ther-on. But, really: No one cared about this movie—including, I’m guessing, most of the people who actually saw it. Like so many high-pedigree films released this year, Huntsman was pushed out of the pop-cultural conversation quickly and fiercely. It was reduced to just another loud, expensive, desperate thingee hovering noisily and anxiously in the background of your digital life, hoping it could tear you away from Twitter or Snapchat or Spotify. And it ended up in an ambivalence-borne limbo, one that now includes several other recent oof-inducing films, including Warcraft, Ben-Hur, X-Men: Apocalypse, The BFG, and Zoolander 2.


Pastime Paradise
These movies didn’t just fail; they almost seemed to never exist in the first place, having been dismissed or disposed of almost immediately upon impact. And even if they did do OK for a weekend or two, they never reached beyond their predictable (and increasingly stratified) core audiences. Instead, they were dumbo-dropped into our ever-expanding cauldron of content, where they played to their bases, while everyone else turned to the newest videogame, or the latest Drake video, or some random “Damn, Daniel” parody.

Movies bomb every weekend, of course. And the studios have been caulking their calendars with mediocre films for decades, resulting in lackluster blockbusters that were gently forced upon us, and to which we responded with a collective, “Fine, whatever, it’s not like there’s anything better to do this weekend.” Twenty years ago, you went out to see a movie starring Keanu Reeves as a physicist named Eddie Kasalivich not because it looked good, but because you kind of had no other choice. Even the worst film had a respectable half-life, and seemed to linger for years afterward.

Nowadays, though, there’s likely something way more exciting than the latest alleged blockbuster waiting for you on your phone, whether it’s a Frank Ocean record, a cornered Charmeleon, or some dank memes. And with social media providing us real-time updates of our passions and consumption, it’s become clear that, in 2016, people are less passionate about films than ever before. Movies are still making tons of money, obviously, and still inspire giddy fandemonium (both good and bad) among the faithful. But it’s hard to think of a year in which movies have felt quite as ephemeral, and so easy to ignore. It feels as though they’ve been pushed further on down our pop-culture hierarchy of needs. And this is disturbing news, whether you’re a studio head looking to make money, a balcony brat looking for a few communal cinematic thrills, or a sword-farter looking for an audience.


Bootopia
Part of the problem with film culture in 2016, of course, is the films themselves. Despite the critical success of hits like Zootopia and The Jungle Book, or the superheroic hauls of Deadpool and Captain America: Civil War, it’s hard to shake off (or rebut) the Worst. Year. Ever. grumblings that have been circulating among cinephiles all summer, thanks to movies like Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice—two of the worst–reviewed chart-toppers of the year—not to mention Independence Day: Resurgence, Alice Through the Looking Glass, and this spring’s Divergent: Allegiant. Contrast that line-up with that of 2015, when by late-summer we’d already had Ex Machina, Inside Out, Mad Max: Fury Road, Straight Outta Compton, Amy, and the dumb, fun Furious 7. (Ah, 2015! It’s been a long day without you, my friend!)

But we’ve experienced long stretches of mediocrity before (Remember 2011? A few unpleasant reminders: Cowboys & Aliens, Tower Heist, We Bought a Zoo, Green Lantern.) What’s further diminished the power of movies in 2016 is the fact that while your local marquee was being programmed by de Sade, nearly every single other art form was experiencing a commercial and creative summit—starting with television, cinema’s long-time rival for our affections (and our screen time). You could spend 10,000 hours watching TV this year, and still not be caught up on all the good stuff: There’s the multi-faceted melodrama of American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson; the deft and funny prime-time politics of black-ish; the Spielberg-spelunking throwback-thrills of Stranger Things; the layered legal proceedings of The Night Of; the creative-class squabbling of Difficult People; and the uncomfortably relatable real-talk of Girls (hardly the biggest comedy on TV, but maybe the best). Not all of these shows earned huge ratings, but they certainly won the impossible to quantify—yet equally hard to deny—metrics of online chatter, where they spawned countless essays and arguments for weeks and months on end.

And, of course, there’s Game of Thrones, which recovered from an occasionally wandering (and certainly way-overstuffed) year with two back-to-back season-ending installments that were full of palace intrigue and immolations and gore-throated battle cries. Each new episode was a weekly event that drowned out any other cultural discussions. As of today, if you were to ask a stranger what his/her favorite movie of the year was, I’m guessing he/she would say, “That Game of Thrones where even the horses looked like they were gonna start stabbing each other.”

But hold the door: For once, it’s not just television usurping film’s glory. Who would have predicted, for example, that a Broadway musical that 99 percent of the population hasn’t even been able to see (Hamilton) would cause such a worldwide stir, sir? Or that the summer’s biggest franchise hit would play out not in movie theaters, but among the sidewalks and city parks, where the Pokémon Go faithful congregate like so many Squirtles? Or that a four-minute clip of a woman putting on a Chewbacca mask in a parking lot would be greeted with nearly as much hysteria as the trailer for a new Star Wars movie?

And certainly, no one expected 2016 to be such a buoyant, maybe even epochal, year for music. Music! Remember that stuff? Not so long ago, no one wanted to buy it, and not a lot of people wanted to read about it, either. But it’s hard to remember a recent period in which so much of our chatter—both online and IRL—has been about music, partly because of all the great artists who unexpectedly faded away this year (especially David Bowie and Prince, whose deaths are still undealwithable), and partly because there have been so many oversized, must-hear-now albums (Bowie, Rihanna, Kendrick, Kanye, Beyoncé, Radiohead, Drake, Chance the Rapper, etc.) squeezed into an eight-month stretch. August is never the kindest month for movie-lovers, so this is kind of a loaded question, but still: What were you doing last Friday night—waiting in line for a movie, or waiting online for Frank Ocean?


Screen Gems
By now, I imagine, there’s a large number of movie lovers who are angrily scanning the remaining sections, looking for any mention of the great movies of 2016. I haven’t forgotten about you—nor have I forgotten about the many films that prompted me to walk out of the theater this year with the glazed, guilty smile of an overfed sea lion. In addition to the overstock of great documentaries, from Weiner to Gleason to De Palma, we’ve had the laconic, sun-starched neo-Western Hell or High Water; the moving, humane The Lobster; the river-of-dreams drama Embrace of the Serpent; the unsettling cult-classic The Invitation; the perceptive improv-world comedy Don’t Think Twice; and the grody punk-rock escape-thriller Green Room.

There have been smaller-scale surprises, as well, from a Hall & Oates-indebted musical-drama (Sing Street) to a Spielberg-indebted sci-fi chase-flick (Midnight Special) to a lively little shark movie (The Shallows). Also encouraging? The arrival of some much-needed new-star power, with breakout turns by Hail, Caesar!’s dandy cowpoke Alden Ehrenreich (now better known as the next Han Solo); The Fits’ sparkle-motioned dance-champ Royalty Hightower; and pretty much the entire cast of Richard Linklater’s happily shambolic Everybody Wants Some!!

And, before you mistake me for someone who puts on their fancy-pants one leg at a time, I’ll also note that I rocked back and forth happily in my chair during Civil War, laughed continuously at the messy but good-hearted Ghostbusters, and was apparently the only person who legit loved Jason Bourne.

Yet I’d argue that, save for Winter Soldier, pretty much none of these movies reached the people who weren’t already inclined to see them. Movie fandom in 2016 feels increasingly niche-driven and tribal, no matter what kind of movies you watch, or how big they are: The indie-produced dramas, docs, and suspense thrillers will always pull in their loyalists, with mainstream viewers taking years to catch up, if at all (unless, of course, said indies were released by A24, which got people into theaters for potential tough-sells like The Witch and The Lobster). Meanwhile, many of the year’s big-budget sequels made just enough money to justify a future follow-up, as evidenced by the grosses for Star Trek Beyond ($147 million), X-Men: Apocalypse ($155 million), and Bourne ($141 million)—all drop-offs from their previous entries. In 2016, a movie’s considered a success, barely, if it manages to reach the already-converted.


Something to Talk About—Or Not
It wasn’t always like this. For the past couple of years, even as TV’s dominance loomed, there were still a few zeitgeist-igniting movies that all but broke into your living room, kicked you in the Roku, and demanded that you run to a theater: beyond the aforementioned Mad Max: Fury Road and Straight Outta Compton, we had Boyhood. The Lego Movie. Inside Out. Gone Girl. Gravity. Guardians of the Galaxy. The Martian. Creed.

Some of these were late-in-the-year Oscar-contenders, but many of them arrived in spring or summer, and all of them were culturally crucial—the kinds of films you needed to see, even if you had to sneak in, just to understand what everyone else was talking about. They stuck around for months after their release, spurring spoofs and endless memes. But, more importantly, they spurred the kind of uncomfortable but essential conversations that movies have the power to provoke on a grand scale. Straight Outta Compton dovetailed with, and amplified, a still-ongoing re-examination of how black Americans view the police. Inside Out confronted depression and anxiety in a way most grown-up movies would never attempt. And Wolf of Wall Street, depending on how you looked at it, was either a celebration of or a condemnation of the excess and hubris that’s become all but expected of modern money-making culture.

There’s been no such reach-across-the-aisle movie in 2016, at least not yet (Star Wars: The Force Awakens doesn’t count, as it came out last December). A few movies come very close, like Deadpool, a naughty superhero flick with a knotty history—it was all but dead before some leaked test footage came along—a fan-stoking marketing campaign that gave it a riotous, grass-roots vibe, and the kind of positive reviews most other superhero flicks couldn’t muster. And we also had Zootopia and Finding Dory, two socially conscious animated comedies from Disney that broke records and won over critics. But despite their wide reaches, they were all constrained from true cultural-crossover success: Deadpool was a hard-R kill-’em-all sexcapade, while Zootopia and Dory were animated movies largely marketed toward families; fairly or not, such elements were likely a turn-off for a sizable number of adult moviegoers. All three were hits, but they felt cordoned-off from the culture as a whole.

Of course, there have been a handful of widespread, weeks-long conversations about movies this year—conversations in which everyone seemed to want to speak up. But for the most part, those talks have tended to focus less on the films themselves, and more about the various social and pop-cultural quandaries they represent: Does the gloomy reception for Batman v Superman mean we’re tiring of sad-sack superheroes? Are the #OscarsSoWhite? Should women be allowed to fight ghosts? (Sigh.) How could anyone possibly watch The Birth of a Nation, given Nate Parker’s recently revisited past?

Such heated back-and-forths speak to the soft power of cinema in 2016: It can still occasionally energize and irk us, and prod us into debate, but often for reasons that have nothing to do with what’s on the actual screen. In 2016, movies are too often just a product-turned-talking-point—something to be added to the queue and watched after the argument winds down, or simply never watched at all.


2016’s Shot at Redemption
Still, I hold out hope that movies will make a fourth-quarter resurgence this year—a strong possibility, given that the studios increasingly hoard their better films for the fall and winter. The next few months will see new films from such directors as Martin Scorsese (Silence), Ang Lee (Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk), Ava DuVernay (The 13th), Andrea Arnold (American Honey), Adam Wingard (Blair Witch), Mira Nair (Queen of Katwe), Antoine Fuqua (The Magnificent Seven), Steve James (Abacus: Small Enough to Jail), Kenneth Longergan (Manchester By the Sea), and Damien Chazelle (La La Land). There will also be a new Star Wars movie, a Tupac biopic, and even a Western with John Travolta and Ethan Hawke.

All of these have the potential to be great, or at least make for goony good fun; a few might even help define the year, recalibrate the culture, and remind people that they love movies. Because they still do—they’re just ingesting them and appreciating them in as many non-movie mediums as possible. Look at how much of modern television is informed by film: Stranger Things is a slavish cinephile mishmash of everything from The Goonies to The Thing to The Breakfast Club. HBO’s The Night Of, with its outer-borough strivers and cop-land politics, is the kind of TV drama Sidney Lumet would have killed to direct, while Mr. Robot nods to everyone from Stanley Kubrick to Carol Reed. And the best episode of Girls this season (and maybe my favorite episode of TV this year) was “The Panic in Central Park,” a downbeat tale of rekindled affections that takes place over the course of a single night; it was inspired by the great, grim 1971 junkie-drama Panic in Needle Park, probably the most depressing non-Gigli movie Al Pacino ever made.

Even musicians have been absorbing the DNA of Hollywood, whether it’s in terms of aesthetics—the sweeping, naturalistic, shot-in-secrecy visuals that accompanied Lemonade gave it the feel of a Terrence Malick project—or logistics: Big albums are now heralded by splashy trailers, and the shift of new-release days from Tuesdays to Fridays means a major record can dominate the weekend conversation the way films once did. And when Ocean released his much-anticipated Blonde over the weekend, it was accompanied by a ‘zine that included a list of his favorite movies, a deep-digging roundup that demonstrates that, to young artists, film is just as important as ever (somewhat tellingly, there weren’t any 2016 movies included—but then again, the guy’s been busy).

Clearly, film still has an impact—it’s just that, in 2016, that impact feels diffuse, and is certainly difficult to ascertain. Which is why we need one of those mass-audience, culture-shifting flicks more than ever: Not only do they bring us together, physically and emotionally, they supply us with images and ideas that trickle down and influence all art, even if takes years for that influence to be felt. Maybe, in the next few months, that kind of movie will arrive, and restore film back to its peak pop-culture powers. If so, it will give 2016 a cheer-worthy comeback story, one with big names, a killer third-act twist, and plenty of suspense. Who knows? Maybe they’ll even make an awesome TV series about it someday.

Just Withnail

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Re: Alternative approaches to entertainment distribution/consumption
« Reply #39 on: September 01, 2016, 03:39:00 AM »
+3
WHY MOVIES STILL MATTER

By Richard Brody (The New Yorker)


In  a new piece on Wired.com, “Could This Be the Year Movies Stopped Mattering?” Brian Raftery suggests that movies have “devolved from Culture-Conquering Pastime to merely Something to Do When the Wi-Fi’s Down,” and that their former centrality to the culture has been taken over by a diverse range of media events—serial television above all, but also Pokémon Go, “Hamilton,” YouTube memes, and visual albums such as Beyoncé’s “Lemonade.” The simplest refutation is that what matters is determined not by media discussion but by each person for herself; movies matter to me, therefore they matter.

But Raftery is on to something important, even if, as I think, he comes at it backward. He’s right that the kinds of work that capture widespread attention and find widespread favor have changed in recent years—and he’s right that these changes are inseparable from the realm of criticism, the very nature of which has changed drastically in the same period. Raftery’s fixation on “the pop-cultural conversation” and the “zeitgeist” is one that’s shared by the era, by the critical community at large, and this fixation yields its own predestined results. Modern cultural criticism gives rise to its own cultural artifacts, and the two fit together like a lock and key. As a work of criticism, Raftery’s essay is exemplary of the very phenomenon that he’s documenting—and that circularity, that self-fulfilling critical criterion, is the defining trait of the time.

The rise of so-called quality television has coincided with the advent of widespread access to the Internet, which is closely correlated with consumers’ level of education. The serial nature of serial television lent itself to online discussion—blogs, comments, e-mails, and then, a few years later, social-media postings—in a way that the one-time-only and freestanding experience of going to a movie doesn’t, at the same time that it also locked specifically into the new habits of the educated in a way that moviegoing didn’t.

The principal quality of quality TV has proven to be its ability to generate discourse—not just on the part of critics and viewers but on the part of journalists. As particular series, and television over all, became the subjects of widespread public discussion—discussion in the literal sense, of writers and viewers responding to each other—that discussion became news. Suddenly, television was propelled from the arts page to the front page, and that trend was accelerated by the nature of the shows. Their emphasis on stories and characters involving iconic phenomena in cultural history and hot-button issues of contemporary sociology and politics grabbed—and still grabs—hold of journalists’ nose for stories. Many series seem to exist only to present topics in ready-to-debate form; they are built to give rise to “think pieces,” which have become the dominant, if easily parodied, critical mode.

The experience that the watching and the critique of new serial television resemble above all is the college experience. Binge-watching is cramming, and the discussions that are sparked reproduce academic habits: What It Says About, What It Gets Right About, What It Gets Wrong About. There is a lot of aboutness but very little being; lots of puzzle-like assembling of information to pose particular kinds of questions (posing questions—sounds like a final exam), to explore particular issues (sounds like a term paper). For these reasons, television’s actual competition isn’t movies or museums or novels but nonfiction books, documentary films, journalism, radio discussions, and general online clicking. Serial television is designed to gratify the craving for facts to piece together and analyze. The medium seems created for the media buzz that’s generated by the media people who are its natural audience, and to whom the shows owe their acclaim, their prestige, and their success.

Even now, the way that Raftery underlines the importance of new television shows is with the assertion that “they certainly won the impossible to quantify—yet equally hard to deny—metrics of online chatter, where they spawned countless essays and arguments for weeks and months on end.” Just as the numbers matter for the TV business, the quantity of chatter matters for the culture business, because it’s what happens when the work of art extends beyond itself into other fields and makes its influence apparent. That’s why so much of the discourse generated by television is political—and why, in this moment that’s so rich in cultural discourse, the dominant way of discussing art is political.

Raftery displays the skewed results of this trend when he cites three recent movies that strike him as “culturally crucial”: “Straight Outta Compton,” a good movie; “Inside Out,” a mediocre one; and “The Wolf of Wall Street,” a great one. What makes them important, in his eyes, is that “they spurred uncomfortable but essential conversations.” Here, he’s practicing the echo-chamber mode of criticism: the movies are crucial because they spark “conversations,” they spark conversations because they address issues that are deemed crucial. He considers these movies—unlike those he’s seen this year—to be important, and his criterion for their importance is that they’re politically relevant, not that they’re of aesthetic value. What’s more, he measures political relevance by counting clicks.

Ultimately, democratic politics are a numbers game. Politics are what concern everyone, which is why “everyone” (i.e., those who create the “online chatter” and the “countless essays and arguments” by which Raftery measures importance) talks about politics. Art, by contrast, is what concerns one person, intimately. Culture is a matter of power; art is a matter of beauty. It’s also a matter of freedom—of spiritual freedom, of free-spiritedness—and so it’s also political, though not in any immediately recognizable way and, above all, not in any way that lends itself to the think-piece brand of discourse. The power of beauty, the impact of beauty on a single person, eludes discussion and invites silence, even as it incites something radically different from analysis: ecstasy. That’s the force behind the side of criticism that, if it’s any good at all, converges with the work of art by being itself a literary, poetic, philosophical inspiration.

This is why much of the best art has always been a niche phenomenon, and why, when great art is popular, it’s often due to a fortuitous accident, and the artist often punished the next time around (as happened when Terrence Malick followed “The Tree of Life” with “To the Wonder” and “Knight of Cups,” and as I hope won’t happen with Scorsese’s next movie, “Silence”). That’s all the truer now with movies, because the role of the studios and of wide releases has diminished. The possibility of making films independently and on a low budget is greater than ever, at exactly the moment that studios, following the lead of television, have turned their movies mainly into political allegories and statements precisely calculated to leap to the front pages and the op-ed section.

At the same time, the democratization of criticism online has had a crucial and positive effect on cinematic events. Today, there’s both more and better film criticism than ever; as a result, it’s less likely than ever that an extraordinary movie will go utterly unnoticed or be dismissed. But the breadth of a film’s distribution and its box-office take are no more measures of its merit than is the quantity of online discussion that it inspires. It’s common knowledge that, for “Lemonade,” Beyoncé derived inspiration from, and made reference to, Julie Dash’s great 1991 feature “Daughters of the Dust,” which, despite its generally favorable reception at the time of its release, is the only theatrical feature that Dash has made. “Lemonade” also alludes to Khalik Allah’s bold and inventive documentary “Field Niggas.” Allah is also one of the cinematographers on “Lemonade,” yet his feature film was hardly released at all; in New York, it only played for one week at the IFP Media Center, in Brooklyn. “Daughters of the Dust” has taken in only 1.6 million dollars at the box office during the past quarter century. (It will have a welcome and long-overdue rerelease in November.) Beyoncé’s allusions to “Daughters of the Dust” and “Field Niggas” don’t make them better or more important films—those of us who have seen and love those movies don’t need external confirmation of the experience. Rather, the references make “Lemonade” better and more important. Beyoncé didn’t need voluminous online chatter to be moved and inspired by Dash’s and Allah’s work; she had an experience of her own, and the intensity of that experience comes through in her own work.

Is this year in movies, as Raftery asserts, the “Worst. Year. Ever.”? I think it’s been a terrific year so far, with a long list of remarkable new movies already released. With the New York Film Festival coming up, along with the packed fall season and year-end releases, the list is likely to get much longer very soon. A year as a measure of film releases is an odd artifice—production and distribution are cyclical, and this is a year featuring no new releases by some of the best Hollywood or off-Hollywood directors, such as Wes Anderson, Sofia Coppola, Spike Lee, David Fincher, and Paul Thomas Anderson. But other luminaries, including Martin Scorsese and James Gray, have movies coming up; so do notable independent filmmakers, including Barry Jenkins and Matías Piñeiro. When, a quarter century from now, a pop-music visionary refers to “Men Go to Battle” or “For the Plasma” or “Krisha” or “Viktoria” or “Kate Plays Christine” or another under-the-radar low-budget film of imagination and ingenuity, woe unto the critics who were here at the time and didn’t pay attention.

wilder

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Re: Alternative approaches to entertainment distribution/consumption
« Reply #40 on: September 01, 2016, 04:21:01 AM »
+1
But hold the door: For once, it’s not just television usurping film’s glory. Who would have predicted, for example, that a Broadway musical that 99 percent of the population hasn’t even been able to see (Hamilton) would cause such a worldwide stir, sir? Or that the summer’s biggest franchise hit would play out not in movie theaters, but among the sidewalks and city parks, where the Pokémon Go faithful congregate like so many Squirtles? Or that a four-minute clip of a woman putting on a Chewbacca mask in a parking lot would be greeted with nearly as much hysteria as the trailer for a new Star Wars movie?

Okay hadn’t seen this



I agree, best movie 2016


The principal quality of quality TV has proven to be its ability to generate discourse—not just on the part of critics and viewers but on the part of journalists. As particular series, and television over all, became the subjects of widespread public discussion—discussion in the literal sense, of writers and viewers responding to each other—that discussion became news. Suddenly, television was propelled from the arts page to the front page, and that trend was accelerated by the nature of the shows. Their emphasis on stories and characters involving iconic phenomena in cultural history and hot-button issues of contemporary sociology and politics grabbed—and still grabs—hold of journalists’ nose for stories. Many series seem to exist only to present topics in ready-to-debate form; they are built to give rise to “think pieces,” which have become the dominant, if easily parodied, critical mode.

The experience that the watching and the critique of new serial television resemble above all is the college experience. Binge-watching is cramming, and the discussions that are sparked reproduce academic habits: What It Says About, What It Gets Right About, What It Gets Wrong About. There is a lot of aboutness but very little being; lots of puzzle-like assembling of information to pose particular kinds of questions (posing questions—sounds like a final exam), to explore particular issues (sounds like a term paper). For these reasons, television’s actual competition isn’t movies or museums or novels but nonfiction books, documentary films, journalism, radio discussions, and general online clicking. Serial television is designed to gratify the craving for facts to piece together and analyze. The medium seems created for the media buzz that’s generated by the media people who are its natural audience, and to whom the shows owe their acclaim, their prestige, and their success.

[...]

Raftery displays the skewed results of this trend when he cites three recent movies that strike him as “culturally crucial”: “Straight Outta Compton,” a good movie; “Inside Out,” a mediocre one; and “The Wolf of Wall Street,” a great one. What makes them important, in his eyes, is that “they spurred uncomfortable but essential conversations.” Here, he’s practicing the echo-chamber mode of criticism: the movies are crucial because they spark “conversations,” they spark conversations because they address issues that are deemed crucial. He considers these movies—unlike those he’s seen this year—to be important, and his criterion for their importance is that they’re politically relevant, not that they’re of aesthetic value.

Politics are what concern everyone, which is why “everyone” (i.e., those who create the “online chatter” and the “countless essays and arguments” by which Raftery measures importance) talks about politics. Art, by contrast, is what concerns one person, intimately.

This is so dead on. SO dead on. He said it. That's the meaningful distinction, right there. The mic drop.

wilder

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Re: Alternative approaches to entertainment distribution/consumption
« Reply #41 on: September 02, 2016, 06:24:25 PM »
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Stranger Things and the Problem of “Plotblocking”
By Andrew Matthews
via The Talk House

Writer-director Andrew Matthews on Netflix's smash hit series and a worrisome trait of that and a number of other binge-worthy shows.

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

Film is dead. You hear that a lot as an independent filmmaker. And of course, when people say that, what they mean is that a certain type of film is dead: mid-range budget, neither franchise nor arthouse — most of my favorite films and the films that started me (and probably a lot of other filmmakers) down this path, fall into that spectrum. So as the era of the mid-range movie fades away, the supposed rewards of the micro-budget struggle becomes increasingly unclear.

But as they say, when God closes a door, he opens a window, and that window is episodic content. Yes, television is the new promised land, and everyone’s making the pilgrimage: writers, actors, financiers. “So if you want a real career,” the current wisdom goes, “take that feature script you can’t get made and upcycle it into a series treatment.” Many of my filmmaker friends are doing just that — and why not? With so many new platforms looking for shows, they’re practically giving them away!

Yes, I’ve written a few treatments myself, but I’m still skeptical. The pessimist in me would like to point out that I can think of more indie directors helming tentpole blockbusters than TV shows, but mainly it’s because I don’t think the formats are all that closely related. A good TV show is successful for very different reasons than a good film, and taking a genre from one and applying it to the other can be like trying to stretch a twin sheet onto a king mattress.

Case in point: Stranger Things. Don’t get me wrong, I understand why the show has so many supporters. The cast and production design are terrific, and I confess the recreation of the early Spielbergian aesthetic is seductive. I’m not opposed to nostalgia per se, but like any audience bias, it can be exploited. Shows such as Stranger Things and FX’s Fargorecognize that there’s a reservoir of goodwill out there that can be tapped and transferred onto new properties. But there’s one huge aspect of Spielberg’s brilliance that Stranger Things doesn’t (or perhaps can’t) recreate: structure and pacing.

Spielberg’s classics are actually very simple stories. They’re emotionally broad and fiercely economic. Every shot moves the story forward and nothing goes to waste. If you’re staying loyal to the conventions, you can’t stretch that 90 minutes into more than 300 without some serious padding and repetition.

How many times do we have to see the cool guy seduce the nerdy girl? How many times will Eleven use a radio to prove Will is still alive, or guide the boys into the woods and back again, with no new information to show for it? Why do you think people complained that Winona Ryder’s weeping became tiresome? Because she was asked to perform the same emotion over and over again. Besides being frustrating, these repetitions actually dilute important moments. How much more exciting would it have been when the sheriff and Joyce infiltrate the evil government lab if we hadn’t already seen him do it before? He even makes a joke about using the same method.

Besides having a longer running time than a movie, episodic content has the additional challenge of a non-captive audience. There’s a freedom in delivering a whole story in one sitting. You know that short of walking out of the theatre in disgust, moviegoers will absorb everything you have to show them. Episodic creators don’t have that assurance, which can lead to all sorts of awkward tactics to keep them coming back.

When Jonathan finally finds proof that his mother isn’t crazy, he rushes home to have that emotional reunion we’ve been waiting for — but his dad stops him. “Don’t bother her right now. She’s been through a lot.” I call that “plotblocking.” (Jonathan’s dad is an expert plotblocker.) Jonathan doesn’t grow or change to overcome this obstacle. He just literally tells her later. What purpose can that serve other than to make us wait for what we want to see?

Delay of audience gratification has been a staple of episodic storytelling for a long time, but no show advanced the practice more than the grandfather of plotblocking, Lost. No matter how well-written the various flashbacks often were, the writers knew that what kept us hooked was the mystery of the island — and that storyline was illiberally meted out like capfuls of water to a thirsty man. Just enough to keep us alive. I’ve actually found that the shows that are the most “binge-worthy” are the most narratively stingy. You start each new episode almost out of frustration, hoping it will deliver a morsel of satisfaction, an inch of forward progress.

Near the finale of Breaking Bad, Walter White confesses that all the cruelty and criminality was selfish: “I did it for me. I liked it.” He may as well have been speaking for the audience, because a central draw of that show was seeing this character evolve into a ruthless badass. But for every two steps forward in his transformation, there was one step back. How many times did Walter swear off the meth business only to be cajoled or seduced back? Did any of us believe he ever meant it?

So well-stoked was that furnace of frustration that actress Anna Gunn received volumes of hate mail and even death threats for her portrayal of Walter’s disapproving spouse, Skyler. While there were surely some ugly gender politics at play, it can’t help that her character often functioned as a major agent of obstruction to the plot development the audience eagerly desired.

(It’s important to note that female characters have long been employed as “plotblockers” by both film and TV writers, whether it’s the scold who tries to stop the boys’ fun or the damsel in distress who just can’t see that the hero is well-intentioned and trying to help. But that’s a whole other essay in itself.)

Harrowing shows such as The Walking Dead often place transitions, commercials and episode breaks at the height of the action. Cliffhangers are nothing new, I know, and running seams through crests rather than troughs can have its own kind of impact, but at what cost? Two of the most memorable action sequences from recent TV, the “Red Wedding” from Game of Thrones and True Detective’s one-take escape from the projects, did not leave their locations once they started, and both had audiences completely riveted. Although, I will admit, those audiences were probably less inclined to immediately queue up the next episode.

Indeed, my favorite shows are hard to binge. After each episode of The People vs. O.J. Simpson, my wife and I had to talk for at least an hour about what we had just seen, the material was so dense, the social ramifications so fascinating, and each chapter’s structure so satisfyingly self-contained. A good show leaves you sated, even exhausted, with a lot to think about before you dive back in.

One of the rare complaints I hear against Stranger Things is that the mythology could have been more developed. After all, they certainly had the time to give us more detail about what the “upside-down” is, or what the monster wanted, or how telepathy works in this universe. But on the other hand, that might stray too far from the genre it imitates. We never learn E.T.’s real name, or the name of his planet, or what his people were doing on Earth in the first place. What we now call “world-building” was far less important to the genre than emotional arc.

This is where Stranger Things’ loyalty to its influence limits its use of one advantage episodic content has over film: language. If film is visual storytelling, television is verbal. As much cinematic spectacle has been poured into Game of Thrones, it’s still 99 percent people standing in rooms talking to one another. A silent film can make a poetic statement about the human condition, but if you want to delve into the intricacies of history or institutions (or extra-dimensional worlds), you need words, and a lot of them. That’s where television’s extra minutes pay off, and why the best examples of the format are usually about politics, law, media, and social order. It’s why Pride and Prejudice the miniseries beats the pants off the film adaptations, why a two-hour telling of the O.J. Simpson trial wouldn’t be worth making, and why even Oscar-winning dramas likeSpotlight feel like abridged versions of history compared to what TV can accomplish.

I marvel at what great showrunners are capable of. Writers such as David Chase and David Simon have upended expectations rather than pandering to them, created new genres rather than imitating old ones. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to manage so many moving parts, do justice to such volumes of detail, while remaining relevant to the audience of that moment in time. I’ve spent the better part of my life trying to figure out what makes a film work, and I still feel like I have a long way to go. I’m not ready to abandon that journey quite yet for a whole new toolset. Perhaps someday all our stories will be delivered episodically, but for now, I still think there’s an emotional experience that can only be had in a self-contained 90-minute form. After all, one from 30 years ago is still inspiring new generations of creators.

Jeremy Blackman

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Re: Alternative approaches to entertainment distribution/consumption
« Reply #42 on: September 02, 2016, 11:15:01 PM »
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Yes! I absolutely agree. This problem drove me crazy with Stranger Things, and I had no idea why everyone wasn't more frustrated by it.

The character contributes nothing to the story, except to cause perpetual delays.

And that's what I really struggled with. Throughout most of the middle episodes, especially 4 through 7, the writers find every possible way to halt the plot or even move it backwards. It is absolutely maddening at times.

The thing is, it still worked on me. I watched the whole thing in 2-3 days. This is a truly pernicious trend.

The Walking Dead completely stalled out in Season 2, and yet its popularity only exploded. Why? How?

I wonder if it has to do with the fallacy of sunk costs. It feels better to keep watching in hopes that the show will turn around (which TWD periodically does). It feels pretty terrible to cut your losses and get out, even when you know it's good for you.
"Hunger is the purest sin"

wilder

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Re: Alternative approaches to entertainment distribution/consumption
« Reply #43 on: September 15, 2016, 04:34:23 PM »
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Harvey Weinstein Isn’t Alone: Why Independent Film Distributors Are Taking a Beating
By Graham Winfrey
via IndieWire

The game has changed for distributors like The Weinstein Company and others that are scrambling to adapt to the turbulent times for indie film.

The Toronto International Film Festival is the starting gate for fall acquisitions, but for buyers the greatest challenge isn’t their competitors; it’s a target audience that can’t be roused from their couches. That means indie distributors must amend their strategies — if not rewrite them altogether.

“A movie that tests 75 doesn’t warrant a theatrical release in the current marketplace,” said one indie studio executive. “Filmmakers are going to have to be okay with going to Netflix, and only Netflix.”

To that point, Netflix bought SVOD rights to Ana Lily Amirpour’s “The Bad Batch” after its Venice Film Festival premiere — but theatrical remains available as it goes into TIFF. Netflix tends to reserve its theatrical platforms for awards titles. Without streaming rights, “The Bad Batch” would have to find a buyer who’s satisfied with only theatrical and DVD revenue.

That’s especially tough in a market where high-quality home entertainment is only one challenge among many. As mobile-loving millennials become consumers, arthouse interest dwindles. Deep-pocketed digital players like Amazon and Netflix outbid traditional distributors, making it even harder to acquire indie films that attract an audience.

For documentary distributor Abramorama, staying ahead means concentrating on films that have a passionate, built-in audience; when it comes to the marketing, they’ve already done much of the hard work.

“We say that we focus on ‘tribal’ films, hence our interest in music films and social issue films, where there are audiences that are identifiable and committed,” said president Richard Abramowitz, who recently acquired U.S. theatrical rights to Ron Howard’s “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years.” “For us it’s really been about [finding] films where we can readily define the audience and be as certain as one can be that we can motivate them and convert their interest into ticket sales.”

Broad Green Pictures will head the other way. Launched two years ago by Wall Street billionaires Gabriel and Daniel Hammond, the indie studio released small, well-reviewed titles like “I Smile Back” and “99 Houses” to underwhelming box office. Broad Green laid off five people in July, and head of distribution Travis Reid resigned shortly afterward. Now, they’re preparing for the release of in-house production “Bad Santa 2” and declaring a focus on commercial movies for broader audiences.

The Weinstein Company will attempt its own pivot, in yet another direction. They’ve done the indie studio route; from 2010-2015, they topped $200 million every year at the domestic box office. However, in the last 12 months they laid off 50 people and saw the departures of RADiUS founders Tom Quinn and Jason Janego, distribution president Erik Lomis, acquisitions head Dan Guando, publicity head Dani Weinstein, and senior VP marketing Spencer Peeples.

Meanwhile, TWC’s four 2016 releases — “Hands of Stone,” “Jane Got a Gun,” “Regression,” and “Sing Street” — generated just $9 million combined. The upcoming “Lion” starring Dev Patel, and “The Founder” starring Michael Keaton, have box-office and awards potential, but that’s not a business plan.

So, what now? A source with knowledge of the situation says TWC will relaunch the dormant RADiUS in the next 90 days as the company’s official VOD arm — a pigeonholing that Quinn fought when he ran the division — and will work with cable operators on geo-targeting to analyze consumer viewing habits. (TWC declined to comment.)

Beyond that, however, TWC will be cutting back on the movie business. Harvey Weinstein told Variety last year that he wants the company to earn roughly half of its revenue from TV, and will cut the theatrical release slate from 20 movies to about eight.

That’s a seismic shift for a company that helps drive the independent film industry, but the stakes are high. British independent distributor Metrodome, which released “Tangerine” last year and still has “Personal Shopper” on its 2016 slate, filed for bankruptcy protection in August. “It’s just a clear indication of the marketplace where those high-end, niche art films just aren’t working globally,” said Marcus Hu, co-founder of independent distributor Strand Releasing. “Territories aren’t buying those kinds of movies anymore.”

Strand’s strategy is similar to Abramorama’s, focusing on features where there is an identifiable audience, such as writer-director Catherine Corsini’s 2015 film “Summertime,” about a romance between two women in Paris in the 1970s. “We know that Francophiles will come out for it and we know a certain LGBT audience will turn out for it,” Hu said. “We know the marketplace from having done their previous films.”

Strand has adapted to market conditions by working closely with Netflix and iTunes to get its titles out digitally after completing a theatrical release. “I’m very much a believer in still trying to get things to go theatrical,” Hu said. “It’s still the best way to generate publicity and press for the films.”

However, VOD may be the best way for most people to see those films. As for the financial return, we still have to rely on iTunes charts and anecdotal reports to get a sense of how they perform. Still, IFC Films/Sundance Selects president Jonathan Sehring suggests “dumping a film on VOD” may be an unkind way to characterize a potentially lucrative strategy for generating ancillary revenue.

“You’re going to look at the box office on ‘Pele’ and say, ‘That movie didn’t work,’ and we’re all going to be sitting here with huge grins on our faces saying, ‘That movie has worked extremely well,’” Sehring said, pointing to the performance of IFC title “Pele: Birth of a Legend.” The biopic earned $50,000 at the domestic box office.

For Zeitgeist Films co-founder Nancy Gerstman, staying alive in the independent distribution business may come down to managing expectations. Now approaching its 30th anniversary, Zeitgeist continues to distribute foreign-language films and documentaries, but limits its slate to just five films per year. “It’s very tough out there right now,” Gerstmann said, adding that controlling costs may be the most important strategy for any company trying to adapt. “That’s basically how we’ve been able to stay in business all these years–we’re able to spend appropriately.”

Starting Thursday, the same cast of characters from the distribution world will converge upon Toronto for the 41st year of TIFF, but the environment in which they’re trying to distribute films looks much different than in years past. The movies from the fest that manage to find a home, whether in theaters or on VOD or both, will serve as the first clue as to what the new normal looks like.

wilder

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Re: Alternative approaches to entertainment distribution/consumption
« Reply #44 on: November 21, 2016, 05:30:00 PM »
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Europe’s Digital Single Market: What You Need To Know & How It Could Kill The Indie Biz
By Diana Lodderhose
November 21, 2016
via Deadline



Independent film financing has never been a walk in the park and a lukewarm American Film Market earlier this month coupled with an age of political, digital and economic uncertainty mean the preselling game has become more challenging than ever.

But if there’s one thing that could kill off the entire indie business as we know it, it’s a series of regulations that are being mulled over in Europe right now with regard to the European Commission’s strategy for a Digital Single Market. Indeed, it’s a complex issue but at its beating heart lies a very dangerous prospect for the future of the entire audio-visual sector, which threatens to dismantle territory-by-territory licensing in Europe.

What is the Digital Single Market?

“Within Brussels, they think this is a wonderfully populist and popular announcement to make,” says David Garrett, founder and CEO of international sales company Mister Smith. “But this is Trumpism or Brexitism at its worst – selling the idea of freely available content across Europe without anyone understanding the repercussions of making that available is putting everything in the hands of large corporations that can control content across the board. It’s frankly insane.”

In November 2014, the European Commission announced plans to introduce a Digital Single Market for the continent which, on the surface, was painted as a utopian ideal that fell in line with the original purpose of the European Union: to encourage trade between member states, remove barriers and encourage free movement of goods, services and people. EC President Jean-Clause Junker said it was time to remove digital barriers, reform copyright and prevent “unjustified” geo-blocking. Junker, who has made DSM one of his main objectives for Europe’s 2020 Strategy, said last year: “I want to see pan-continental telecoms networks, digital services that cross borders and a wave of innovative European start-ups. I want to see every consumer getting the best deals and every business accessing the widest market – wherever they are in Europe.”

In May 2015, the EC published a 16-point policy plan under three pillars, which it had said it hoped to achieve by the end of 2016. Fortunately, it looks set to miss the mark on that timetable but things are still moving, and fast.

Specifically, proposals within the strategy that look to directly affect the audio-visual sector the most are:

  • Portability of legally acquired content (meaning a person who subscribes to Netflix in say, the UK, can access the UK version when he/she travels to France, etc)
  • Copyright in online transmissions, which looks to abolish geo-blocking with non-linear, catch-up TV, meaning if a company is licencing to a broadcaster and they have catch-up operations (like BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, etc) then the broadcasters are no longer subject to geo-blocking the catch up.

Parallel to DSM, in January 2014 the EC opened an investigation into restrictions affecting cross-border provision of pay-TV services, examining whether agreements between the six major Hollywood studios and pay-TV operators were anti-competitive and hindered the completion of the single market. The Commission argued that the companies’ licensing deals with Sky prevented unsolicited “passive sales” of Sky’s UK pay-TV services to customers beyond the broadcaster’s licensed territory. So, in a sense, if a person in Germany or France wants to access Sky content, Sky would be obliged to refuse them access to Hollywood titles as far as licensing materials.

But in July this year, without waiting for the outcome of the inquiry, Paramount was the first one to break rank and settled the EU allegations by signing an agreement that they would not enforce Sky from making passive sales. It dodged antitrust fines and committed to five years of concessions, meaning Paramount will not introduce broadcaster obligations that prevent or limit a pay-TV broadcaster from responding to unsolicited requests from consumers within the licensed territory.

Other studios have not entered into similar agreements but this move from Paramount is important because it sets a precedent. Many are concered that if the Commission has been successful in that case, it may feel emboldened to go further and say that any form of territorial exclusivity is contradictory to the single market.

What are the dangers?

Firstly, it’s important to note that regulations only have to be vetted by the Council and various members of state and European Parliament but, unlike a directive, which has to also go through national Parliaments for adoption, it goes straight to the bloodstream of the European legal system.

That said, most industry veterans agree that there is an argument to be had for portability of legally acquired content insomuch as if a consumer purchases Netflix, Amazon Prime or pays for Sky Sport, he or she should be able to watch that service (from its country of origin) when traveling around Europe. The EC’s Vice President Andrus Ansip, an Estonian who is spearheading DSM, has even expressed hatred of geo-blocking of programs because it prevents him from watching Estonian football in Brussels. The proposed portability regulation is currently being vetted and is expected to be adopted in Spring 2017.

But it’s the proposal to abolish geo-blocking broadcaster’s catch-up operations that looks set to become the most fatal to the business.

“It’s like Chinese water torture,” says Jean Prewitt, President and CEO of Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA). “When you look across the full spectrum of proposals, it’s terrifying. Each proposal has a lot of detail and it looks to me as if the Commission is attempting to do two different things, which operate together: Firstly, limit the ability of copyright holders to license content, whether it’s film or television, on a territorial exclusive basis, and secondly, which we are finding increasingly difficult to justify, is the persistent taking pieces of our rights, such as the ancillary online services of broadcast and catch-up rights.”

Today (Monday) Ministers of Culture from all 28 European Union Member States meet in Brussels to discuss the proposed regulation which seeks to remove territoriality of online broadcast services, such as simulcast and catch-up.

What this means, for example, is that if you are financing a British film and sold the free-TV rights to the BBC in the UK and their catch-up rights meant it would be available throughout all of Europe, selling the title to foreign buyers would become increasingly challenging because there would be no value in their TV rights. With indies having to dig deep to buy rights and release projects theatrically as is, only to take a small share on theatrical, and with DVD value dropping dramatically, TV often backs up the purchase. With this piece of the pie out of the equation, the international sales model would simply collapse.

“Film distributors invest millions of pounds, dollars and Euros in effectively adapting a film for their territory,” says Garrett. “They translate it, market it, and create vast amounts of advertising for titles and they deserve to reap the rewards of promoting a title in their territory if they can. If these regulations come into place, we can’t finance these independent titles and it would completely destroy our business and the business of companies such as ours. We bring a lot of revenue into the country by licensing American movies, and this would create, in effect, huge unemployment and huge loss of revenues.”

Prewitt adds: “It’s a redefinition of what we as rights holders can control and it’s taking a right that, as filmmakers, we need to be able to control to be able to understand how to best exploit existing programming and in order to get the most remuneration. We really find a lack of willingness from the Commission to understand the finance model and there is a lack of letting us, as an industry, find out how to adapt our historic ways of doing business.”

Bertrand Moullier, owner of Narval Media, a London-based firm that advises on competition strategies, says a regulation abolishing license rights for non-linear catch-up would undo a complex architecture in pre-licensing sales, creating havoc where the financing economy of film is concerned.

“How the hell do indies work out their windows and overheads if anyone’s iPlayer is open to the rest of Europe all the time?” he says. “You can’t control your exclusivity so the value of the rights goes down. The big studios may not care as much, because they can do day-and-date and, in their own way, the risk is minimal. But it does mean that the indies can’t make this work.”

Also, worryingly, the EC has yet to offer up estimates of the economic impact this regulation could have. Alice Enders, an analyst at Enders Analysis, says “there’s no doubt that there is an absence of any economic assessment impact and the fact that it sort of disturbs the core logic of financing and pre-financing model.”

Who stands to be affected the most?

Undoubtedly, it’s the indies who will suffer but Hollywood will also feel the burn of the proposals. English-language programs and films that premiere in the UK will be affected enormously because it will mean that the rising number of people who can access English-language content comfortably, are not going to wait.

“If someone knows the next episode of Downton Abbey is available on catch-up, why wouldn’t they watch it?” asks Moullier. “It would clip away the UK presales system unless they find a way for usable holdbacks.”

Additionally, the non-English language marketplace would be hugely disadvantaged in the short run. “English is the one language you can imagine being exploited throughout Europe but I would be concerned as to exactly how local broadcasters or distributors who are suddenly trying to meet demands for cross-border availability will be able to gear up their system,” says Prewitt. “Will broadcasters help them?”

Ultimately, however, it will mean an increase in market power of huge, multinational companies such as Google, Apple, Netflix, Amazon, Hollywood majors and the big broadcasters. “I always thought the promise of new technologies for independents was increased stability to find your own market place sweet spot and to be able to use the new technologies to find that market in a cost-effective way,” says Prewitt. “All these moves ultimately seem to lead to is increased market power to people doing mass distribution.”

The consumer also stands to lose big in this situation. Less ability to finance films equals less choice for the consumer. Films that relied heavily on pre-sales for financing like The King’s Speech and The Imitation Game and programs like The Night Manager and Poldark become increasingly difficult to get made.

“I think it will maintain very successful content for a very small amount of aristocracies that can afford to go day-and-date across Europe while rest of us will get squeezed out,” says Moullier. “We’re going to see a tremendous impoverishment on the offer of content and geo-blocking means we will see a concentration in the marketplace for the Palo Alto companies in the universe.”

 

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