Alternative approaches to entertainment distribution/consumption

Started by Sleepless, September 06, 2013, 02:08:09 PM

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More changes coming in the landscape of physical media production and distribution:

Quote from: Shout Factory circa 2018As you may already know from social media or our newsletters, over the summer, there was an industry-wide upheaval in the disc manufacturing process, due to the closure of the last major U.S. disc manufacturing plant. All disc manufacturing is now moved to one plant in Mexico and that's led to delayed shipments for most of our releases.

From this Wall Street Journal article from December '21 about the Paramount Presents line of disc releases:

Quote from: WSJNow the last of those is making up for that with Paramount Presents, a continuing series of Blu-rays begun last year that currently stands at nearly 30 titles, each from a new transfer scanned in at least 4K. Even those movies previously on Blu-ray (about a third of the current roster) have received a marked upgrade in image quality. The latest, Hal Ashby's beloved "Harold and Maude" (1971), arrived Tuesday.

Each release is limited to between 5,000 and 10,000 copies, so those with affection for the titles in this series should act quickly. One of the best so far, William Wyler's "Roman Holiday" (1953), is already officially sold-out, though copies may still be available through certain third-party sellers.

Some commentary from Criterion Forum members:

Quote from: Michael B
Quote from: RibsMy prediction has always been that a collector's market for BDs/UHDs will continue to exist and as others have said the boutique labels are doing a great job (and even some of the majors) of putting out high quality editions of movies. At the same time I also feel that print runs are becoming smaller especially of releases with extras, with the UK having now gone the way of only offering booklets in first print editions across almost all labels and often reducing the typical first print to 2000 copies. I would not be surprised though if we will be seeing price increases in the future similar to the vinyl collector's market.

I think that's inevitable, because the gargantuan elephant in this particular living room revolves around the continuing operation of disc pressing plants. Small-run boutique-label orders alone won't be enough to keep them in business, so when the majors pull out en masse, they're going to have to significantly rethink how they operate - and if they don't shut down altogether the only viable alternative may well be to increase per-unit manufacturing costs.

Vinegar Syndrome limits their releases to between 2,000 units and 6,000 units, and their partner labels typically limit production to between 1,000 and 3,000. According to some reports, the major studios have plans to wind down their own physical media production by the end of this year:

Quote from: Jerry Beck, April 2021Jerry Beck revealed Warner Bros. plans to end or to phase out DVD and Blu-ray distribution by 2022.

"As of now, there are no plans to commemorate Daffy or Tweety's anniversaries next year, or ever. The company is slowly transitioning away from physical media. There are no plans for any classic cartoons on DVD or Blu-ray that I know of (except for one project we are in the middle of which may come out later this year...or not). Anything is possible...we'll just have to wait and see."

Elaborating further, he continued:

"It includes both Warner Archive and regular Warner Home Video. You'll still see some new releases from both during the rest of 2021, but those were planned out last year. Next year (2022) is when this year's changes will be felt. Yes, the Tex Avery sets sold well enough for the low overhead Archive Collection division. But in the big picture, it's peanuts...and the focus over there is now on streaming (HBO Max)."

And, small hope...

QuoteThey're most likely talking about Technicolor in Mexico. Most BDs in Europe come from Sony DADC Austria or Technicolor Poland.


QuoteSmall-run boutique-label orders alone won't be enough to keep them in business, so when the majors pull out en masse, they're going to have to significantly rethink how they operate - and if they don't shut down altogether the only viable alternative may well be to increase per-unit manufacturing costs.

" Yes, the Tex Avery sets sold well enough for the low overhead Archive Collection division. But in the big picture, it's peanuts...and the focus over there is now on streaming (HBO Max).""

Sheesh. Looking dire from the studio side of things. (From all sides?)
5k-8k units doesn't seem bad, to me, though. I feel like most of the market that's buying physical is already browsing pre-orders or blu ray dot com type communities. But maybe I'm wrong and that's still a low first press.


Is this the streaming thread? I sometimes forget

Warner Bros. Discovery Has Bigger Problems Than Its DC Search/

QuoteGiven the company's daunting challenges, it has become accepted wisdom at the highest levels of the industry that another deal waits in the wings for Warner Bros. Discovery. For reasons related to the complicated structure of that merger, no negotiations can happen until April 2024. But at that point, many industry observers believe that Comcast's Brian Roberts will make a long-awaited move, looking to combine NBCUniversal and Warner Bros. Discovery.

That deal would face some interesting antitrust issues but would give his company scale and a viable streaming service. "Obviously Peacock sucks," says one exec with knowledge of both companies. "There are some good synergies. I'm sure [Roberts] is licking his chops because the [WBD] stock is so low. And I think that's Zaslav's endgame. Get the place sold." (Roberts and NBCU CEO Jeff Shell met with Zaslav and board member John Malone during the Allen & Co. gathering in Sun Valley last July, but given the rules against plotting any combination, that was no doubt just a friendly get-together.) A WBD spokesperson responds: "We are building Warner Bros. Discovery for the long term."

Many top industry execs are so convinced a deal will happen that some are pre-mourning an event that may never happen. "People feel like it's Comcast for sure," says the head of one company. "It's going to be so depressing to lose another major studio [after Disney bought Fox]. And Warners was the Tiffany studio."


Aight so sometime last year I realized Wilder had been posting Brian Newman for a whiiiile, and I signed onto the Newsletter - which has been fantastic. Here is another dispatch, a Soapbox for the Future Speech transcribed from a talk at MountainFilm in Telluride.

A rally cry toward defending our stake, carving our spaces the advocate for independent filmmaking and creativity outside of the mainstream marketplace. Any Bold Emphasis iz mine.

QuoteImagine a world just a few years from now. You're a (documentary) filmmaker, and you've just made a film about something really important, that everyone needs to know. Maybe it's a new human rights doc, or one about serious climate change issues, or maybe the seedier sides of AI and tech, where people are sex-trafficking underage robots perhaps (an actual phenomenon which came up during the panel on AI), or maybe it's some other subject none of us can guess right now, because the filmmaker has been keeping it under wraps as they expose new truths.
While it's always a struggle to finance films, let's imagine you've been lucky, and you've raised some mix of grants, donations, and other financing, and are now ready to bring the film to the world. But you find that there are now just four big studios remaining – Amazon, Apple, Disney, and (because they are my client, and I've helped them make this transition) REI Co-Op Studios. Everyone else has been merged, closed or bundled. And none of them want to buy and distribute your film. Because your film is not pure entertainment, or a docu-soap, celebrity-driven, reality-TV-esque, or some (soft) political scandal. Your film is hard-hitting, and the remaining distributors are afraid to buy it because it might piss off China, or India, or President Tucker Carlson.
So, your film plays the festival circuit. It gets a great response, and great reviews. But you are preaching to the converted, alongside a bunch of other filmmakers doing the same. The actual impact is small, because you aren't getting distributed the way you should – and neither are they. But no one in the audience is complaining, because they think they're getting a full diet of media, with multiple options on these streamers – there's a lot to choose from.
Oh wait. This sounds a lot like today, doesn't it? Because this is the situation we're already kinda in now, with only a few differences, and we're definitely headed down this path. Because – with few exceptions - none of the streamers are buying the films I've been seeing this weekend at MountainFilm, or other festivals I've attended recently. They want entertainment, and nothing too serious.
But something else has become apparent while I've been here at MountainFilm – we can't afford to amuse ourselves to death (per Neil Postman); we don't have the time.  David Hanson, of Hanson Robotics who created Sophia, the AI powered robot that wowed us this weekend, told us he believes we have eighty years left as a human civilization unless we figure out how to make a better, more empathetic (to us humans) AI system. And that might be optimistic, as Bill McKibben told us the day before that he thinks we have 6.5 years to make a difference on climate change You don't have to agree with these two specific prognoses, but you'd have to be an idiot not to see the myriad challenges facing humanity and not think that things are just a little bit urgent.
The stakes are high. We need action. We need artists telling the stories not just of "reality" TV, but of reality, and of possibility (-ies). But we can tell these stories all damned day; if they aren't heard and seen, they are meaningless. Art can only lead the way if it's not bound (solely) by the means of commerce and entertainment.
And the only way to force these stories to be heard is going to be through collective action around policy. It's unlikely that we can go so far as to break up the monopolies that are entertaining us to death, but we can force them to fund and carry our stories. And this is not some crazy pipe dream. As others said in Telluride – we can do better, America. Canada just passed C-11, which is forcing any streamer that operates in Canada to fund a certain amount of Canadian independent content. The EU and the UK both have similar rules in place, and in some cases require a 30% quota of localized content. Australia is now considering the same.
As an audience member in Telluride reminded me during my Soapbox speech – most of these rules have been made to preserve local culture and voices versus the dominance of American content – and we might have a hard time fighting for American independent voices, when America, well, dominates. While I agree, the fact remains – important stories are not being told, and we must try. And here's where I get more controversial – because I think we can only win this battle if we join forces with the many voices on the Right who also feel left behind by the dominant media. There are many chances for strange bedfellows here – because in reality, none of us are being served.
This has also been done before. We wouldn't have things like PBS and ITVS if a small group of people hadn't gotten together and forced change. They said – these are our airwaves, and we need a diversity of voices and stories, and real news, and quality content. It worked before, and we have a better case now – this is our internet, our future, and we need – demand – to shape the future we deserve. To learn about the possible futures most of us can't even imagine, and that aren't just being shaped by the dominant commercial narrative.
But we can only do it if we join together and make it happen. Our film organizations and film festivals are letting us down – no offense, as I know they are just trying to keep the doors open – but they are too focused on exhibition, audiences and sponsors, and not on the advocacy we need. We don't have things like AIVF anymore. In their absence, we have one another. We have to force the field to get together and help us take action for our future. Let's force that to happen.


The Oscars are changing the rules for best picture. Here's what it could mean

In its latest effort to grapple with a changing exhibition landscape, the motion picture academy announced new rules on Wednesday that will expand the theatrical requirement for films to qualify for best picture at the 97th Academy Awards.

Under the new rules, which were approved by the group's 54-member board of governors, a film will need to continue its run beyond the current requirement — a one-week theatrical release in one of six U.S. qualifying cities — to be eligible to compete for best picture. Films now will need to add an additional theatrical run of seven days, consecutive or nonconsecutive, in 10 of the top 50 U.S. markets, no later than 45 days after the initial release in 2024. (Non-U.S. territory releases can count toward two of the 10 markets.)

This expanded theatrical run for best picture contenders must be completed no later than Jan. 24. Eligibility for other categories will not be affected by this requirement. The move follows the academy's earlier adoption of new inclusion standards for best picture contenders that also are set to go into effect next year.

"As we do every year, we have been reviewing and assessing our theatrical eligibility requirements for the Oscars," academy chief executive Bill Kramer and academy president Janet Yang said in a joint statement. "In support of our mission to celebrate and honor the arts and sciences of moviemaking, it is our hope that this expanded theatrical footprint will increase the visibility of films worldwide and encourage audiences to experience our artform in a theatrical setting. Based on many conversations with industry partners, we feel that this evolution benefits film artists and movie lovers alike."

The change marks the academy's latest attempt to address audiences' shift toward streaming, as companies like Netflix, Amazon and Apple continue to flex their muscle in awards campaigns. But while the expanded theatrical requirement should be a relatively easy lift for the deep-pocketed streamers, it could end up being more onerous for smaller independent and international films that now will need to fight for extra space in a shrinking art-house landscape.

Indie filmmakers will suddenly find themselves in the expanded theatrical business (in January, no less), and while big streamers may be able to afford to purchase runs in the required number of additional markets, traditional independent distributors may be the ones to suffer.

"My heart goes out to young filmmakers who might find it hard to get to 10 markets," said veteran publicity executive Melody Korenbrot. "They're going to need someone to help them navigate these new rules — or else they're going to need a lot of credit cards."

Korenbrot, whose company handles release and awards campaigns for a number of independent distributors, including Sony Pictures Classics, also sees a potential crunch in being able to book a theater in a top-50 market at a time of year when so many high-profile titles from studios are arriving.

"That fight for space is going to be difficult," she says.

One publicist, when informed of the new rules, asked, "Is this another response to the whole Andrea Riseborough thing?" referring to the surprise lead actress Oscar nomination for Riseborough this year for "To Leslie," a low-budget indie that would not have qualified for best picture consideration under the revised guidelines. Riseborough, though, still would have been eligible for consideration, as the standards apply only to the best picture category.