Have Your Say: What Is the Future of Movie Watching?

U.S. Editor; Los Angeles, California (@benumstead)
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Have Your Say: What Is the Future of Movie Watching?

Last week, when speaking with indieWIRE, Dunkirk director Christopher Nolan shared his disdain for the way Netflix presents their original feature content, namely their lack of any theatrical window for films such as Bong Joon-Ho's Okja -- a big screen adventure in the most classic sense.

The director made the following statement: "I think the investment that Netflix is putting into interesting filmmakers and interesting projects would be more admirable if it weren’t being used as some kind of bizarre leverage against shutting down theaters,” he said. “It’s so pointless. I don’t really get it."

Nolan went on to make a point that Amazon had a stronger sense in the matter, allowing their films like The Handmaiden, Manchester by the Sea and Paterson, at least 90-day windows in the cinema before streaming on their Prime platform. When asked if he would ever consider making a film for Netfllix under the current model of distribution, Nolan gave a very resounding "No."

When it comes to the stuff of celluloid, it is no secret to film fans that Nolan is an absolute purist. He has long been an advocate for theatrical exhibition first, and above all else, so nothing he stated in regards to his feelings towards Netflix is surprising. In the weeks leading up to the filmmaker's much-praised WWII epic there were mighty declarations made across the web that the only way to view his latest work was in 70mm or 70mm IMAX.

Looking at Dunkirk's global box office debut, we find that IMAX showings accounted for $19 million of the film 's overall $105.9 million weekend haul (that's from 634 IMAX screens, with 402 of those being in the U.S.) .It's clear then that if they could, people made it a point to see the film in the best theatrical format available. But outside of big cities or regions that feature an IMAX theater adjacent to a museum, most of us don't have such an option and are left with our local multiplex. 

Christopher-Nolans-Dunkirk-IMAX-poster.jpgPerhaps that multiplex has been slacking as of late. Maybe the sound is cranked up well past an appropriate decibel level. Or even worse, the projector bulb is dim beyond belief, presenting a muddy and blackened image of an otherwise bright and bouncy film. Or the screen is just scratched. There's little doubt in my mind that most of you reading this article feel that theatrical presentation is important, and in this age of DCP, a dying art.

And when factoring in family, work, travel, and the sheer cost of movie tickets (+ babysitter, food etc.), partaking in an outing to the theater these days can sometimes feel less like the best past time ever and more like a harrowing gauntlet into a froth of noise and over-stimulation. 

If one has the money for it, a home theater system can be a blessed experience, where each individual picture and sound setting can be under your control to the umpteenth degree.

As the likes of Amazon and Netlfix climb the rungs of a ladder once traversed by studios alone, the appeal of film watching changes. Convenience gains ground on "the experience of it". We don't dress up and go to Church as often. We pray at home, under the dim glow of our LCDs. And yet there is nothing as magical or as cathartic as sitting in an auditorium with a group of strangers, in collective awe of a great work of cinema, let alone just something to pass the time. But what happens when our desire for convenience finds us shackled to a wall? By the end of the year you will be able to see Will Smith as a cop in a Los Angeles populated by fantasy creatures likes orcs and elves. This film is called Bright. It is directed by Suicide Squad's David Ayer, and its budget is estimated to be $100 million. You will only be able to watch it on Netflix.

With today's Have Your Say we ask you what the future of movie watching is. Do we as consumers/viewers have the right to ask for a film in a particular format? Is home viewing really a lesser experience than an outing to the theater? Is Nolan's rhetoric in fact far closer to Netflix's own kind of gatekeeping than he could ever realize?

These are not easy questions to ask, dear reader, and thus, there are no easy answers. Indeed, for us cinephiles, this is one of the most complex topics of our day.

A great example of just how nuanced and strange this time of ours is lies in the fact that while I was fortunate enough to see Okja in a movie theater I also chose to watch the first season of Stranger Things on my phone, huddled under the covers late at night. Does adhering to a certain quality of presentation and format always come before the deep personal experience one may have with the work that is being watched?

I personally find such principles suspect. Is it not the job of great cinema to transcend the format one sees it on? Let's say you watch your new favorite movie for the first time on a DVD as opposed to a Blu-ray, a laptop vs. a 4k TV. That does not make it any less impactful for you. The movie has done its job. It has touched your soul. You have gained some empathy on the larger tapestry that is humanity. And if that's the case, then shouldn't leveling the playing field and allowing access to cinema of all kinds be our top priority... that is, along with better media literacy and education.
   
Nolan may sound elitist in his steadfast beliefs on how one views cinema. But we all have our own personal convictions on this matter. It's tricky to gauge a right or wrong here because cinema, by its very nature, is mutable in practice and presentation. That's the genius of it. At least, that's my say. Now what about yours?

Chime in, in the comments below, and HAVE YOUR SAY!

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ZetobeltJuly 25, 2017 11:48 AM

I'm sorry. I don't like Nolan films.
About the future of movie watching, no one can't tell you that.
Someone can try to guest what will happen in 20 or 30 years from now. But, who knows what will happen in 100 years. Or 1000 years.
I'll try to do some futurology. Big studios and theatre owners will keep trying to get viewers into cinemas. I see a future with no "pre-rendered" sfx, but "live" generated cgi. Moreover, with 3D scan cameras, the computer-projector will put into the movie to the present audience as extras or even supporting cast. I also see famous dead actors or singers resurrected as digital actors, also the use of historical figures, totally believable digital "live versions" of comic or game characters and even totally original digital actors.

William JohnsonJuly 25, 2017 12:54 PM

Prolog is epilog, technology will continue to improve as it
did from the jumping poor quality Kinetoscope, then talkies, increases in
screen size then adding color then digital sound and images. (IMHO) The next progressions will be curved
screens that don’t distort the image due to digital projectors being able to
target each pixel which will give a much more immersive experience. Sound quality will continue to improve such
as speakers in the floor and backrest of each seat for specific tailored
sounds. 3d will continue to improve in
fits as starts as it always has, better images, smaller/lighter glasses. Not everyone in the audience may even see the
same film due to selectively feeding different images to different glasses, which
would drive a lot of post viewing social media discussion. Movies that becomes more interactive with the
audience, adjusting based upon scenes, characters, lighting, sound levels, even
plot lines based upon reading the reactions of the audience to the film so
far.
Theatres will put more money into the experience rather than
just rely on the film itself, Alamo Draft house was one of the pioneers in this
trend, and many have followed. Personally
my wife and I go out to the movies as a special event, half the films we see
are over a decade old, theatres can screen classic and nostalgia films that are
cheaper to rent and still but buts in seats.
Here in Austin several places choose venues outside of theatres to
screen movies. Before we saw Flash Gordon,
they had a Queen cover band play. They
screen Jaws on the lake with the audience in inner tubes and kayaks.

Movies and theatres will continue to change, adapt and
respond to what the consumer wants.
Some films are suited to a big screen and giant speakers, others are great on your TV at home. YMMV

Ben UmsteadJuly 25, 2017 2:36 PM

"Prolog is epilog" love that, William. You nailed it. My sense is that, yes, it's all mutable as I stated in the closing paragraph. Theaters will adapt. They may not be the main go, but they will be around and provide many of the things you talk about.

Back in the fall of 2001, I was taking my first community college class. Surprise, surprise it was a film class. The teacher was a guy who taught at a summer film camp I had gone to two summers prior, and in a discussion about what the best movie of the year was (Fellowship of the Ring or Mulholland Drive) he started to talk about the nature of movie watching, stating that within a few decades, cinema in the sense that we knew it (going to the theater) would become more like opera. It was around. You could go. It was an event. But it wasn't the main thing anymore. This is still the most simple argument around all this I have ever heard.

Ben UmsteadJuly 25, 2017 2:37 PM

Another question among so many! Have you seen Ari Folman's The Congress?

Ben UmsteadJuly 25, 2017 5:16 PM

And really, cinema is the seed for augmented reality. It's been staring at us in the face for so long, but that's where it starts. With cinema we recreate/create/capture.

This was something I just didn't have the bandwidth to include in the precursor article linked, but in a lot of ways, talking about movies and talking about watching movies in the classical sense is kind of silly thing to do these days. A strong segment of the population spends their "movie/tv watching" time on Instagram and Snapchat feeds of friends or celebrity types. Those use all those filters, the skins... an augmented reality. That's not the future, that is right now. It's only going to get more complex and complete from there because that part of the population, youth, will become the majority.

Niels MatthijsJuly 25, 2017 6:47 PM

The discussion about how best to enjoy cinema is a useless one. Just like film itself, different people will have different preferences. One isn't factually better than the other, we're all just different people who prefer different things.

Forcing one way over the other is silly, so in that regard I don't get Nolan's whining at all. I'm glad he's such a fan of the cinema experience, but when it comes to my personal favorites I prefer to watch them in the comfort and quiet of my personal home. I generally don't like watching movies with a large crowd when I expect to see a film what moves me, there's too much stuff bothering me when watching films with others (from people talking to people eating to ill-directed reactions when they don't understand a certain scene). There's not a single argument Nolan can give me that can sway me to his perspective. And it's not that I don't like the movie theater as such. I appreciate it as a nice evening out. Dinner beforehand and a dumb popcorn flick afterwards. The film doesn't even have to be very good.

Just give people the choice and let them decide. If that means the theater experience isn't profitable anymore, that just means most people just don't care enough and it's not a viable, economic option. Either improve the theater experience (and it's definitely not just technical problems, most of the audience probably doesn't even realize whether something is off with the projection) or deal with the fact that people are more interested in your film than the experience around your film.

And what I really don't get is how Nolan became such a front-runner of the cinematic experience, since his films offer very little extra value in a movie theater. If you talk the talk, walk the walk.

Edgardo EspinozaJuly 25, 2017 7:30 PM

I totally agree with you. And there is no necessary a negative competition between presentation or distribution platforms. They may even be complemenetary to each other. Or just coexist in a positive way.

KurtJuly 25, 2017 8:49 PM

Yea, I wish that film were better, considering the magnitude of its ideas.

John WJuly 25, 2017 11:21 PM

I think the answer is all of the above. I prefer to watch movies at home but I have a decent home theater set up. But I also like going to the theater for the big blockbusters. I think there's room for every possibility.

Ben UmsteadJuly 25, 2017 11:30 PM

I've always appreciated your straight talk, Niels. Very direct, very on point for your personal preferences but looking at the bigger picture how things fit. I very much agree with your assessment and said as such in the hand-off/sum-up at the end there.

I will mention that I talked about the theater experience in a technical sense only because I felt it was catering to this site's audience. I didn't see this article as some kind of initiation but the middle of a conversation we've all been having in some way or another.

Ben UmsteadJuly 25, 2017 11:30 PM

Indeed. Like I said, cinema, by its very nature, is mutable in practice and presentation. That's the genius of it.

Ben UmsteadJuly 25, 2017 11:31 PM

It loses itself pretty quickly, but still an interesting one to consider.

Allan KoayJuly 26, 2017 12:05 AM

no lah, Contra-- ... i mean, Niels, you cannot generalise that everything is about taste. taste plays a part only up to a certain extent. beyond that, it's being informed, and knowing what you're watching/talking about.

millions of people love superhero movies. does that mean superhero movies are better than, say, Malick's movies that dont make much money? of course not! does it mean i have to shut up about how crap superhero movies are becos different people have different tastes? of course, not! if everything were about taste, then why have film criticism, film school, etc?

anyway, to the question how Nolan became a front-runner of the cinematic experience, it's becos he built his fame on fanboy-ism/fangirl-ism. he made the Batman movies (which i think are good superhero movies – except TDKR – but are far from masterpieces) and won over the fanboys/fangirls. and we all know, once you are on their good side, you can never ever do wrong again in the eyes of the fanboys/fangirls. and they are the demographic with the purchasing power now. those superhero/spectacle fans who would never watch a "war/historical movie" are rushing to the cinemas to see Dunkirk becos, in their own words, "it's a Christopher Nolan movie."

Allan KoayJuly 26, 2017 12:10 AM

David Lynch is also quite anal about this whole "films should be seen in cinemas" issue, as we already know.

Ben UmsteadJuly 26, 2017 12:54 AM

Heh. He just made an 18 hour film and put it on TV, so who knows what that head of hair is up to.

Niels MatthijsJuly 26, 2017 5:28 AM

Well, I never equated popularity with quality, nor did I say people can't voice their opinions or argument their own taste. But these discussions are rarely (if ever) about convincing others of your point of view, rather they're about sharing experiences so people can get an idea of how others look at or experience certain things. In the end, it does boil down to personal taste and preference.

Film criticism has its place, but it never convinced me a film was better or worse than what I myself made of it. It can place a film in a certain context, give a broader idea of how it was conceived and add some interesting faits divers, but to me a film is a stand-alone work (of art or of entertainment) that should be strong enough to speak for itself. When film criticism becomes too literary or poetic, it loses a lot of its value for me. The same goes for film school. It has its use when it comes to the craft of making cinema, but creatively I think there's very little to teach. And a lot of what they teach I consider boring cinema.

As for Nolan, I wish he'd be more pretentious in his own work and less about the actions of others. I mean, I don't mind a pretentious director when it comes to him making films (like Malick), going against the grain and against common sense to end up with something distinct and unique. That's basically what I feel a good artist needs to do. But believing you know people better than they know themselves is the kind of pretentiousness I don't really appreciate.

What I think it boils down to is that Nolan fears that, when people are left to choose for themselves, they'll go for the home experience rather than the theater experience and in some way the theater experience will fade away (much like rental stores did). The popular argument is that people are generally too lazy and can't decide for themselves what's best for them is something that rubs me the wrong way and to me is just an excuse to keep something alive that Nolan himself likes, at the expense of the pleasure of others.

Niels MatthijsJuly 26, 2017 5:30 AM

Well, I noticed the technical angle because I've seen a couple of articles pop up on my Facebook wall that took a very similar approach. When it comes down to popular opinion and mainstream cinema though, I don't think people care as much about the technical aspect as they do about just seeing a good film and having a nice evening out.

Personally, I'd take a mediocrely projected film over a stinky, nacho-eating loud-mouth or a nervously laughing scaredy-cat (every horror flick I watched has one of those in the audience) next to me any day.

D_userJuly 26, 2017 7:09 AM

Oh. My comment reply isn't appearing here...its not getting through , not sure why...checking with this one..

D_userJuly 26, 2017 7:12 AM

" I think the investment that Netflix is putting into interesting filmmakers and interesting projects would be more admirable if it weren’t being used as some kind of bizarre leverage against shutting down theaters,” he said. “It’s so pointless. I don’t really get it." "

Is this Nolan saying? If it were not him (or a filmmaker with critical repute) I'd say WTH.

Does he know that Netflix was the only one that offered to make Bong's film as Bong wanted it? No other American studio wanted to touch this script finding it a little off and weird for American audiences. (Bong hasn't spoken to me personally, atleast no yet, but from what some I've read on this).

Here Netflix becomes an important differentiating factor because we are talking about a filmmaker who belongs to a very different cinematic tradition, belongs to another far out film industry of S Korea who wants to make a blockbuster action film in Hollywood on his own terms. Is this even possible that it will be studio backed?
So Netflix's entry into this market is not just to wage up a debate of home screen or theatres but more of an opportunity for brilliant filmmakers from abroad to make their mark in a very very different industry.

The terms of the debate are very different here and are not simply about watching a film home or in the theatre. Bong, filmmakers like him need a platform like Netflix (not Amazon , because Amazon is a very different beast).

Nolan's talk is bizarre.

If one still needs to take the debate of theatre vs home, then one has to specifically look at S Korea's take on Okja. They rightfully want a theatrical screening first as its a Bong film foremost for them. Their own. Hence Netflix immediately obliged and the film did have a short theatrical run. Was this enough? I haven't checked on these details yet.

The point is Netflix is a boon to not American high flying filmmakers like Nolan but outsiders who want to make bigger films in Hollywood. Not the artsie indie ones which have been the case since quite some time. Nolan doesn't even need to look at Netflix because he is American his films will always be backed by major Hollywood studios. So why even ask him, although asking him, well, if it elicits such responses one needs to think if is it actually so. It's good in a way.

Okja is a superb first (irrespective of how the film) for Netflix, for a foreign talent like Bong and for us viewers whether we see the film in the theatre or on a giant homescreen at home.

Ben UmsteadJuly 26, 2017 12:31 PM

Indeed!

ZetobeltJuly 26, 2017 3:38 PM

Not yet. But I know about it.
In Japan one of the biggest singer acts is a computer generated hologram.

Tad AllagashJuly 27, 2017 5:21 AM

I look at it like this, people complain about convenience, about going to the theater, and that's fine, don't go, it will come to you, eventually... Most people will watch it at home, 90 days from now... But for the people who want to go to the theater to see the director's vision and preferred format, what's the harm? The people that want to watch the movie, that didn't go to the theater, are still going to watch it 90 days from now, on TV or Netflix or DVD, right? And if they don't, will it be only out of spite?

Destroying the theatrical window is pointless, because people still go to the movies, in fact, even if 2016 is considered a "down" year, there were still more tickets sold last year than any of the fifteen years between 1980 and 1995, and film and theaters survived that era...

I saw someone respond on Deadline to it like this, yes, Netflix is $10 a month for everything and IMAX is $15+ for one film, but I drive a Toyota, and some people prefer Mercedes... People spend their money the way they want to, and some people care about going to the theaters, everyone else can watch it when it comes out later... It just seems to be people complaining about not having everything at their fingertips, all of the time, for Walmart prices...

If it's still at least profitable and people are showing up, why take that away from people who love going to the theater? Just for the people who can't make it to the theater? Why do they get preference over people who love going to the theater, if the theater-goers are still bringing in money? Theaters survived TV, cable TV, VHS and DVD days, they'll survive this too, especially the way Netflix is burning through cash every year...

People love listening to bands on Spotify for free too, but some of those people like to pay to see their favorite band live as well, it's a different, more exceptional experience to them... For the record, I'm just a middle-class guy who shelled out $15 to see Dunkirk in IMAX and it was amazing and worth every penny to me, and to others, it seems, after the decent opening weekend it had...

And think about Bright... Is Netflix really going to get $100 million worth of publicity and subscriptions for Bright? Most likely, no... Which is why small indie films without wide releases and lower-budget prestige flicks (like Beasts of No Nation with a $6 million budget) will probably be the only films they finance in the future... They've already taken a bath on War Machine ($60 million budget) and most likely will with Okja ($50 million) too... They're just too expensive of an investment for an unsubstantial return... It's simple business, TV is lucrative to Netflix and big films aren't... It won't work in their business model in the long run... $100 million for two hours (Bright) or $4 million an hour for something like Orange is the New Black, or $5 to 7 million an hour for House of Cards?

Niels MatthijsJuly 27, 2017 9:27 AM

I don't see a single argument here why the theatrical window should be kept though. Why let people wait 90 days when it's futile to begin with?

Tad AllagashJuly 27, 2017 10:47 AM

Because Netflix is eventually going to stop making movies, and then who is going to make them? Who would pay for something like Dunkirk to get made if there are no studios? Which is what will happen if you eliminate theatrical windows... Movies still make a lot of money for studios, which keeps them in business...

Did you even read what I wrote? If you like film, you should want to keep theatrical windows... I don't know if you know much about capitalism, but it consumes itself eventually... If theatrical windows die, and then studios follow suit, all we're left with are the streaming sites, and if they decide they don't want to waste money for small returns on producing films, then we don't get films any longer...

For someone who says they love films, how are you not seeing the big picture on this? Theaters survived the VHS and DVD era by keeping the window and getting in on the VHS/DVD sales game... How would they make enough money to keep making films by eliminating the window and getting pennies on the dollar for licensing fees from Netflix/Amazon, who will be able to negotiate whatever they want because they'll be the only major players in town?

The problem is everyone complaining about the death of the film industry because they want convenience... But yet people are still showing up to the theaters, still buying tickets, still making money for studios to produce more films, some hits, some misses, but they're still trying... If you don't want to watch it at the theater, fine, wait 90 days and watch it at home... It's definitely NOT futile, the theatrical window is the only thing that is keeping film afloat right now... Netflix definitely isn't and won't be in the future... For every Bright, War Machine and Okja, there are two Adam Sandler movies on the slate...

Niels MatthijsJuly 27, 2017 11:08 AM

If people continue to show up at the cinema, then the theatrical window doesn't matter. If they don't, then movies just aren't a viable business (or based on a viable business model).

If that means we won't get films like Dunkirk anymore ... I don't even care.

Tad AllagashJuly 27, 2017 11:57 AM

I'm not exactly sure why you write for a film website if you don't care about film... Seems counter-intuitive...

Just because YOU don't want to go to the theater, doesn't mean all films outside of $150 million blockbusters and sub-$5 million Indies have to disappear...

Business is based on leverage, and the studios have the leverage because the people who make great films work for them and they want audiences to watch their films at theaters... You take away the leverage that the studios have over Netflix and the film industry dies...

If you take away the theatrical window people WILL NOT show up to the theater, they'll take easy, lazy, slovenly convenience in their sweatpants instead, and then the film industry will die, and then we'll all say, man, what happened to those great movies that studios used to make, instead of Netflix originals (99% are horrendous, have you seen one?), or Zack Snyder DC trash that costs $200 million for dark shading...

People don't know what they want until it's gone... Thank god people like Nolan and Cameron still care about the theatrical window...

I'll give you an example of why the theatrical window is needed...

Music... After Napster, when people started using streaming like Spotify, you see how many artists are against it, because they don't get paid anything from it, because Spotify controls the market... Streaming has eliminated physical album/CD sales because of its convenience... So this is no longer a revenue stream for bands, you know, artists who create, like writers and directors... But bands can rely on TOURING because they can go on the road more and make up for losing all of the album sales money, and yeah, they still get a little kick of cash from Spotify here and there, but not much and they're not happy about it as it's ruined their former secondary revenue source...

Film... If you take away the theatrical window, you take away a film's ability to tour, per se, in this example's terms... So filmmakers/studios have already lost their secondary revenue stream, DVD sales, to Netflix, an unaffiliated company, for pennies on the dollar, just like music has lost their album sales to Spotify, an unaffiliated company, for pennies on the dollar...

If you take away theatrical windows, you take away a studio's ability to make films (tour), therefore taking away a filmmaker/writer/actor's ability to make a living... If you care, at all, about keeping motion pictures alive, you should be less on the side of your own demand for convenience, and more on the side of giving artists the ability to earn enough of a living to keep creating...

This isn't about impeding inevitable progress, it's about keeping an art form alive because humanity is too lazy to realize they are destroying it in the name of convenience... Kind of, in a way, like Earth... Nobody gives a shit about global warming until it starts effecting them... Nobody will give a shit about film until it disappears, and by then it's too late...

Niels MatthijsJuly 27, 2017 1:04 PM

Myea, that's exactly the kind of pretentiousness I referenced in an earlier post here.

The music example is weird because albums are in fact released before album tours start. The thing about concerts is that they give actual addition value to people. If you fear that people won't go to the theater anymore, apparently people don't see much additional value in seeing movies at the theater.

One of the reasons why films are expensive to make is because the fact that they can make that money back. Actors can earn a million dollar for a single role because they represent that value in ticket sales. But since those ticket sales are artificial, so is their wage.

Last year I watched III (on Netflix btw), a 6000 dollar indie film I liked better than anything Nolan ever made. For me the film industry simply can't justify their artificially expensive movies when those movies themselves can't earn back their money without putting up extra boundaries for consumers. If that means we'll lose these insanely expensive blockbusters ... good riddance. If people think that's a big shame, they should make sure their money actually funds these films.

I'm really not worried about films disappearing, just as I was never worried about music disappearing. In this post-Napster era, there's never been such a crazy amount of awesome music to listen to, so if you love to push the music analogy killing theaters may even be good for the film industry.

(and to reiterate a previous post, I actually like going to the theater, though not to see quality films)

Tad AllagashJuly 27, 2017 8:08 PM

I don't really consider it pretentious to care about an art form dying, but I digress... The music example works because two or three people can go to a pawn shop and buy guitars, bass, drums, amps and mics and record in a living room for $500... Films are not this easy to make...

For every III (per your example), there are 10,000 terrible films that someone shot on their iPhone with untrained actors, untrained cinematographers, etc., etc., that end up on youtube or other services that nobody watches... Why? Because good films cost money to make... Music has a much, much less prohibitive barrier to entry, as far as quality is concerned, because it takes far fewer people to achieve what is instrumental in producing a seminal work...

As for films, the cost of entry could go down, you're right, but it won't, or, if it does, to the amount you are suggesting it does, you'll see people with the behind-the-scenes talents head off to more fruitful ventures like advertising and commercials to make a living, because of your beloved free-market capitalism and market dictation... I agree with you, actors salaries are off of the charts and a lot of the cost of film, involves inflated production values because of that, but that era is coming to a quick end, since stars don't sell movies any longer...

That is not what I'm worried about, it's the behind-the-scenes talent, making more than they would make elsewhere by selling us products, using their skills and vision to give us something inspired, something that changes our perspective on the world, as opposed to getting us to buy organic toilet paper to wipe our asses or edible marijuana products for our dogs...

Free market capitalism and business models are going the way of a David Foster Wallace novel, pretty soon Bezos and Hastings are going to own everything, and they'll simply decide, for ALL film and TV, what we get to watch with an algorithm, instead of us having choices... Our entire society is going to look like the fat people on the hover-scooters in WALL-E...

As far as concerts giving an actual additional value to people, that is patently false... The ability to watch a band play the songs you hear on Spotify with a group of other people, is exactly what the theater produces... Most people don't want to watch a song being made, most people don't want to watch a film being made... A lot of people like to experience a song or film being played in a room, with other people though...

For every Clerks, Pusher, Tangerine, El Mariachi, or Primer, there have been probably near a million bad films pushed out into existence... Is that what we want the film industry to become? Just a bunch of terrible, micro-budget films we have to sort through ourselves? Or do we trust Hastings' algorithm to make our life better so we don't have to make any choices at all?

The theatrical window provides studios the capital to make mid-budget films like Sicario, Hell or High Water, Drive, Nightcrawler, etc., films that will not be made without the studios backing... If you think the world is better off without films like these because of unfettered free market capitalism, and letting the market dictate everything because you hold a business school rumination near and dear to your heart, I'm never going to change your mind... But I, for one, do not think the world is better off watching iPhone films...

If you take the power away from the people who make films by shortening the theatrical window, just like in right-to-work states in the US, as they've taken away the power of the unions, under the guise of "the rich need the power to decide what's best for their workers," the middle-class erodes... Just as it will in film... You're on one side, I'm on the other... Agree to disagree...

Tad AllagashJuly 27, 2017 10:15 PM

I hear that as an argument a lot, that the youth use snapchat, Instagram etc., and THEY are going to be the future of film audiences... But have you ever considered that the youth will eventually grow and mature and want more adult-driven fare as they age?

Tastes change... What movies did you like in high-school? Have your tastes changed since then? I remember being able to quote Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore back then, films I probably haven't watched in ten years now, semi-embarrassed for ever enjoying them, now that I realize how easily amused I was as a youth... Are today's young moviegoers going to still want Marvel and DC movies when they hit their 60's? Doubtful, because tastes change...

That's why catering to the young is such a risky endeavor, you have no idea what kind of influences these kids will have as they age... Nostalgia is big right now in the US because everyone is broke and we yearn for the glory years of our youth, but if the recession turns into a boom economy, who's to say what kind of complex films these kids will yearn for later on when they have money to burn?

Niels MatthijsJuly 28, 2017 12:55 AM

The pretentiousness lies in thinking you can and should decide for others what's best for them because they aren't capable to.

If film is or would be dying (a point on which I still absolutely disagree) and its cultural value needs to be preserved in same way or anything, it's really up to the state to offer financial support. It's not up to the industry to squeeze pennies out of its consumers, trying to uphold some financial grandeur that's not sustainable otherwise.

When I see a film like III cost 6000 dollars to make, it's proof that a good film doesn't need a lot money to get made. It just needs talented people. Music isn't that different. There are a million garage bands and attic producers making lifeless music for under a 1000 dollar, just like there are a million crappy films by directors who couldn't get past their budgetary limitations.

Expecting others to pay for you hobby is just something I don't support. If you think there's too much artistic value in film for it to go lost, you really shouldn't be looking at the +5 million dollar films because there isn't much art there, if you think film has big cultural value for society, then society should really decide that for itself. And if you think going to a theater is exactly like going to a concert (which it really isn't, as the live performance aspect is completely missing), you really shouldn't be worried because concerts and festivals are more popular than ever before.

The only thing I get is the fear that something you like might stop existing in its current form. That's not a nice feeling and people tend to get rather defensive when that happens, but it's really your personal problem, not that of every consumer on the planet.

Tad AllagashJuly 28, 2017 1:40 AM

I think you are using the word pretentious to describe something that isn't quite so black and white... I'm not saying I know what's best for people... Global warming is bad, are we forcing people into electric cars? Not yet, the consumer still decides... Parts of the world are filled with obese people dying from eating too much, while other parts are filled with people starving to death from not getting enough food... Are we telling people what to eat? Not yet, the consumer still decides... Are both of these things saying that people need decisions to be made for them because they aren't capable? I'll let you decide...

I'm not telling people what to watch, I'm arguing to them, that if they like what they're watching, it's important to support the theatrical window, or you'll no longer get to watch the things you enjoy, like films of a moderate budget... Those are the consumer's options... The studios (using what little leverage they have left) are never going to just say, "oh, OK Netflix, we'll lose the theatrical window so you can make more money, and we can make less," which, I'm surprised you aren't picking up on, because you seem so hell-bent on this being a capitalist issue...

I'm just a consumer, and I can see that holding on to the theatrical window is the only thing keeping the film industry alive, from being consumed by these "disruptors," who have become the new Robber Barons of our century... Your argument is for free-market capitalism, mine is against it, it's fine... I'm not defensive because I love the theater, I'm defensive because I see what the disruptors are doing to the US, and it is just capitalism consuming itself, buying up everything they can get their hands on, with no remorse for the job losses and decline in industry they are creating...

They've come for taxis, hotels, newspapers, books, etc., flooding the market with inferior product, and they're not replacing these industries with jobs and employment, the jobs just no longer exist... When Ford and the other industrialists transformed the US economy from agricultural to industrial, they brought jobs with them... People had to transition to the cities, which was a big change but there was a living wage component attached to it, what are Bezos and Hastings going to provide for the people of the creative industries they destroy in the name of $10 a month entertainment?

Now, if you want to argue for or against universal basic incomes or Milton Friedman's negative income-tax, that can be an entirely different issue, because THAT could actually work in favor of the film industry rebooting... But as our political system stands now, in the US, where we make a majority of the films we're talking about, that won't happen anytime soon, so I'm standing firmly on the side of keeping the theatrical window, to keep the industry alive... Like I said, agree to disagree... You're saying we go full free-market capitalism, I'm saying we stay socialist...

Ben UmsteadJuly 28, 2017 2:04 AM

I'd just like to state that this kind of discourse that is happening between the both of you is the kind of stuff I was hoping the prompt article would wind up in folks. Instead of two people with different views basically shifting gears into a shouting match you both continue to bring up salient points, enriching the conversation. In other words, despite any frustration this may have caused either of you, I think I've done my job.

Niels MatthijsJuly 28, 2017 3:44 AM

Well, in the case of health and ecology, these are science-backed issues that don't leave much room for personal interpretation. It's quite different from 2 hour-entertainment costing 100+ million dollars to make. When venturing into taste-territory, I think people have to decide for themselves what matters, what deserves their money and what should fade out. Artificial boundaries just don't make much sense.

The bigger problem with the industry is that they let a service like Netflix swoop in simply because they were complacent and happily spending they money they got from us on their own wealth. I really can't be sorry for an industry that behaved in such a way, even though I love part of what they output.

Ultimately, my argument isn't so much about free-market capitalism, it's an argument based on the belief that art thrives regardless of commerce. There are plenty of arguments to be made that money destroys art, be it companies trying to set up cinematic universes (The Mummy reboot really wasn't about the mummy), buying up and creatively stifling great directors (why again is Taika Waititi directing the new Thor) or just providing too much money, leaving no room for creativity (yeah, we'll just throw 50 mil of CG against that scene and it'll work out). In the end, when film becomes too commercial, a new movement of underground alternatives will rise and reinvent the industry. It happens in film, it happens in music, it happens in the gaming industry.

Maybe it's a bit easier for me because I tend to prefer smaller, more niche films. Even so I'd really miss being able to go to the theater for a nice evening out. But expecting 6 billion people to wait for 90 days before they can see a film in their homes (and really, those 90 days are really optimistic if you don't live in the US) just because I like going to the movies is a bit much.

Tad AllagashJuly 28, 2017 4:15 AM

Agreed. The complacency of the studios have led to Netflix and Amazon swooping in with massive cash spends, stealing away auteurs like Woody Allen, Kenny Lonergan, Spike Lee, Noah Baumbach and Bong Joon Ho, simply because the studios had always bullied around independents for so long with wads of cash, and were arrogantly unprepared when someone who they didn't take seriously, did it to them...

I fear the day, if the studio system collapses, where we have to rely on Jeffrey Katzenberg's ridiculous, high budget, full-story-arc-in-6-to-10-minute, phone-consumable entertainment...

But I agree, the studios have no one to blame but themselves... I'm only defending the theatrical window because it seems to be the only way to keep theaters on the table... It's probably selfish, but man, if theatrical windows disappear, theaters will be out of business in a year or less, studios will be nickel-and-dimed by Bezos and Hastings, and the business, as we've known it for nearly the last 100 years, will cease to exist in any recognizable form...

The way the US economy is allowing mergers though, and actually ALLOWING companies like Amazon and Netflix to consume everything in their path, I wonder if there is the possibility of the old Hollywood system coming back, via a new argument for the reversal of the 1948 anti-trust case, US vs Paramount Pictures (or some kind of loophole around it, the way Open Road films is owned by AMC and Regal)... That was when they ruled that studios couldn't own their own theaters, nor hold exclusive rights on which theaters could exhibit their films...

I can imagine theaters surviving in major metropolises with something like this, but as far as the middle of the country, or wide foreign distribution, I doubt it... But at least we could still go to the movies if we wanted to, it'll just be a bit of a drive for the majority of folks...

Niels MatthijsJuly 28, 2017 6:54 AM

Well, things always come and go in waves. When there is too much freedom, people yearn for structure, when there is too much structure, people will fight for more freedom.

When/if Netflix and/or Amazon dominate the industry and start serving phone-focused entertainment only, some director somewhere will rebel and find a way to produce slower, more thoughtful films. When cinema becomes too highbrow and serious, people will flock to more entertaining films. When horror films turned into a parody/twist-fest in the late 90s, the French answered with a series of gruesome and shocking films that took the 00s by storm. With horror back in fashion Hollywood started to remake the old 80s classics hoping to make a quick buck, effectively signaling the death of the 00 horror wave. Things just come and go :)

Personally I've seen several of my preferred niches die ... only to comes back several years later, stronger and with renewed energy. Luckily theaters are already reinventing themselves, finding ways to make film more of an experience. With 3D, IMAX, those 3-panel screens and whatnot, theaters are looking for ways to give the theater experience some additional value over couch binging. In that sense, they are trying to mimic the concert experience in order to keep people interested. But from what I understand, business has been pretty great for movie theaters, so sustaining some consumer-hostile window will just come to bite them back in the ass.

D_userJuly 28, 2017 9:22 AM

Again comment isnt gettin in...checking..

Todd BrownJuly 28, 2017 10:20 AM

One basic error here is that you're assuming theatrical release is cheap, or free. It's not. Theatrically releasing a film is PHENOMENALLY expensive and a VERY inefficient way to reach an audience. P&A costs - the expense of releasing and advertising a film theatrically - are typically significantly higher than the costs of actually making the film. That's true across the board, whether you're talking about a low budget indie or a massive budget studio blockbuster. And when you release that way the theaters take a significatn portion of the revenue without sharing in any of the risk at all.

Another basic error is that you're assuming that theatrical release of indie film is profitable. Not only is that not true now, it NEVER has been. I got into this conversation with an exec who was highly placed at Miramax in the Indiewood boom of the nineties, when indie film was more profitable than it has ever been. And he told me that in his entire time there Miramax - the absolute kings of indie film - released maybe three films that actually turned a profit at the box office. Every other title lost money in release. Theatrical was never a profit center, it was a loss leader meant to drive the home video revenue and secure major orders of rental copies from all of the video store chains, which is where the money ACTUALLY was. You could lose ten or twenty million on your production and theatrical release costs but turn around 50 or so from the video rental revenues and so still end up well in profit. When piracy destroyed the rental market it also gutted the actual financial model for indie film.

So, what's the harm in theatrical release? It's too expensive, doesn't net a return, and bankrupts the companies that go down that road consistently.

Ben UmsteadJuly 28, 2017 12:35 PM

If you are referring to your "Nolan's talk is bizarre" comment then it has been public on this thread for two days. If you are unable to see it, not sure what to say. Unfortunately that stuff is out of our jurisdiction and more on Disqus.

Ben UmsteadJuly 28, 2017 12:54 PM

In a lot of ways, theaters/exhibitors hold the studios hostage. In Todd's comment he bring up some practical things, the gears of the machine really, that have yet to be discussed directly. It's good stuff from a guy who knows stuff.

With indie film what it gets down to these days is visibility. Despite the fears from filmmakers about their films getting lost in the algorithm, getting on Netflix gets your films on a lot of eyeballs. Way more than a 10 city theatrical roll out can offer.

Imagine this. An indie flick that cost 200k, had a nice fest run, a few awards, pays 8k to screen in a theater in NYC just so they can try and snag a review with the Times or Richard Brody. They can maybe get 30-50 friends to show up to a cool Friday night screening and that's it. The rest of the week sees a pretty empty house. And this is with a distributor. That distributor will make a few hundred bucks, maybe a few thousand (if they are really lucky they will make back that 8k), but what they are really gunning for is that Amazon or Netflix deal that can put say 75k straight in their pockets. Still, they paid the filmmakers 50k up front so that means they're only netting 25k... or less if they ate the costs of that theatrical week.

Todd BrownJuly 28, 2017 1:44 PM

"In a lot of ways, theaters/exhibitors hold the studios hostage."

A THOUSAND TIMES THIS.

We are locked in an exhibition model that has existed in its current state, largely untouched, since the 1930's. The only significant change came in the 80s with the rise of home video, but that amounted only to video distributors being told they had to protect the theaters. And that's what windowing is really about: Protecting cinema owners. It's not about reaching audiences. It's not about supporting filmmakers. It's economic protectionism for cinema owners.

This all boils down to the original court ruling to break up the early studios that makes it illegal for studios to own their own cinemas and direct means of exhibition. Which means we now have an industry where people spend anywhere from 10 to 250 million dollars making something, then that much again marketing it, and then ARE NOT LEGALLY ALLOWED to control their own supply chain.

You can talk all you want about what studios SHOULD do, but the reality is that they CAN'T actually do ANYTHING because they're not legally allowed to. They are barred from controlling their own pipeline. So when the business model for the mid-budget movie collapses and everyone stops making them, everyone is quick to blame the studios but they can't actually do ANYTHING differently to find a working model because the exhibitors that they are legally forced to rely upon won't allow them to.

The most sensible distribution model I've ever heard came from Jeffrey Katzenberg - former head of Dreamworks - whose argument went like this:

1. 80% of any film's theatrical revenue comes in the first two weeks of cinema release. Audiences who want to see films theatrically overwhelmingly do so in those two weeks. Therefore two weeks should be your exclusive cinema window.

2. After those two weeks are up, then the film becomes available globally across all digital transactional platform (the pay for play people) for a set block of time, say one year. The fee for viewing is based on the size of the screen you watch it on. i.e. watch on a phone for two bucks, watch on a tablet for five bucks, watch on your massive 4k TV for ten bucks.

3. After the transactional window is up it then slides on to the subscription services.

It's simple, it's elegant, it reflects the desires and viewing patterns both of the theatrical and digital audiences, and it's illegal for the studios to do on their own.

This whole situation is fucking stupid.

Todd BrownJuly 28, 2017 1:51 PM

Netflix is categorically NOT going to stop making movies. Unlike Amazon, which uses their service as a loss leader to get people to buy other stuff from their website using the cheap shipping that is the core of Prime, content is Netflix's ONLY business. They have literally nothing else to sell. The only circumstance in which Netflix stops making films and series is if they shut down.

Netflix spent six billion dollars on content last year. That's more than any studio, by a HUGE factor. If you're talking purely content creation, that may very well be more than ALL the studios combined. Then they spent more this year. And they'll spend more next year. Netflix is literally plowing more resources into film and filmmakers than anyone on the planet. And having produced films for them, I can say with absolute certainty that Bong Joon-ho's comments about Netflix being a strong creative partner that lets their filmmakers make the movies they want without interference is 100% true and not reserved only for the high budget projects. It's why I Don't Feel At Home In This World Any More exists.

Niels MatthijsJuly 28, 2017 4:14 PM

Not sure about the second point there though. I don't think films are "worth" enough anymore for people to pay such a substantial amount just to see them. I really don't mind paying 20-25 bucks to own the ones I like, but just 5 bucks to be part of the conversation is way overpriced.

Tad AllagashJuly 28, 2017 4:34 PM

If you read through my comments, I said mid-budget to expensive MOVIES are what Netflix will no longer make at some point... Netflix will stop making most movies EXCEPT low-budget indie films, like I Don't Feel At Home In This World Any More... There are eyes and subscriptions to be had from low-budget films, which are worth the cost for them... Series, obviously, are where the money is at as far as growing subscribers, again, like I said, at $4-6 million per hour, low-budget films fall right in line with their series costs... I never said anything about Netflix not making series or low-budget films, which, I believe, is ALL they will make in the near future...

As far as Amazon, THEY might actually continue to make movies, even semi-expensive ones, because, as you've said, it's a loss leader for them, it gets people to their site, so taking a hit for an expensive film isn't as big of a loss for them...

I'm saying Netflix is going to take a bath on War Machine, Bright and Okja as far as getting their money's worth for those films... I agree wholeheartedly that they are great partners for filmmakers, and I've read dozens of interviews with creators who say Netflix is the greatest company to work for as far as creative freedom goes... BUT, at some point, Netflix is going to have to start generating some cash... Have you read what money managers are comparing Netflix to? Here are a couple of examples:

--"We’ve mused that the current model is akin to a new restaurant serving the best filet mignon for $10 per steak and watching happy patrons fill every seat. At some point, the restaurant’s owners (and lenders) will start asking about a path to generating cash flow on that investment….we just don’t believe that Netflix is building an impenetrable moat that justifies its $80 billion in market cap."

--"It all sounds great, but at this price, Wall Street is valuing Netflix at $790 per subscriber," Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter told The Hollywood Reporter’s Paul Bond, "when the company really earns less than $120 per subscriber."

What I'm saying is, they are EVENTUALLY going to have to tighten in the reins... Of course right now they're blowing through cash, I understand that, they have to build, build, build... I read the trades, I'm not oblivious to what is going on... I'm saying, even though their stock is rising, they're not going to continue to lose money relative to what they're paying out for shows like Sense8 and films like War Machine... You've heard Sarandos say as much in press releases...

Tad AllagashJuly 28, 2017 4:48 PM

This is exactly what I was suggesting in regards to the 1948 US vs Paramount Pictures Supreme Court case I mentioned earlier, where the studios could no longer own their own theaters... With the amount of bold, almost flat-out blatant monopolistic corporate mergers happening in the US today, is there a possibility of a loophole opening up where studios would once again be able to own their own theaters and control the distribution model and would studios considering pursuing something like this? Or are they too wrapped up hand-in-hand with the theater owners right now, trying to fend off Bezos and Hastings to even consider making a move like this? What about a third party loophole like Wanda owning Legendary Pictures AND owning AMC theaters? Not saying Wanda specifically, given what has happened to them over in the motherland in the last month, but a loophole LIKE what they're currently able to exploit...

Tad AllagashJuly 28, 2017 5:05 PM

No, no, I never assumed that the theatrical release of indie film is profitable, I absolutely KNOW that it is not... I remember reading about, I believe, but I could be mistaken, Robert Eggers, talking about how when he sold The Witch to A24, it was a monumental day for him and for the cast being able to pay everyone back and get out of debt, among hundreds of other articles regarding independent film... I am absolutely aware that independent films are a rarely-break-even enterprise, that isn't really the crux of the argument we get into...

Eventually in this thread, we come around to the real argument, which is the possible disappearance of mid-budget, or even high-budget, but not blockbuster, films... Like Dunkirk, like Sicario, like Arrival, like Birdman, like Deadpool... Films that will be too expensive for Netflix to take a chance on when they have to pull back from a profit-margin perspective, and film studios, if they are to end or shorten theatrical windows, will never take chances on either... And this goes well with what you suggested initially, that distribution is EXPENSIVE, which is why a mid-budget film with low potential, doesn't look so appetizing to studios, or won't, any longer, and Netflix eventually won't take a loss on something like that...

Todd BrownJuly 28, 2017 5:06 PM

I think we'd have a much more competitive situation if that 1948 ruling was struck. The entire advantage that the Netflix's and Amazons of the world have is that they are NOT bound by it. They're tech companies, not studios, and have a direct line to their audience with HUGE layers of cost cut out throughout the chain. How does a traditional studio compete with that? Unlike the scenario in the 40's we're no longer in a monopoly - we now have a legit fight between very different models and the best outcomes for everyone would be to let them fight it out. Let both points of view scrap it out to service their respective audiences. We'd probably end up with a range of hybrid options that served everybody way better than what we have now.

Todd BrownJuly 28, 2017 5:10 PM

The exact opposite is happening, actually. I can say conclusively that their marching orders are skewing more to mid budget than small budget, though they continue to do both.

I'm incredibly unconcerned with stock valuations at Netflix and the ongoing conversations about whether their stock is overvalued. Because it doesn't matter. The valuation is irrelevant because they're an enormously cash positive company. They have 100+ million subscribers paying ten bucks a month. That's cash revenue of over a billion per month. Call it 12 billion per year. What do they spend it on? $6 billion in content in 2016, plus the costs of maintaining a relatively small workforce and whatever they have to cover for their end of bandwidth. And that's it. That's all. Netflix is fiiiiiiiiiiiiiine financially. In terms of day to day operations it doesn't matter if people invest or don't invest any more. As long as the subscriber base remains they can continue indefinitely.

There will absolutely be a correction to the valuation of their stocks. That's inevitable. But it won't matter because they can pay for everything with cash.

Todd BrownJuly 28, 2017 5:16 PM

Mid budget is already dead in theatrical distribution. Conclusively dead. The only people who can still do it are the directors that already made brands of themselves before the collapse of home video - people like Tarantino, Anderson, Jonze, etc - and even for them it's brutally hard. There is no generation behind them (literally) because you can no longer launch a filmmaker into this space.

Amazon - which Ted wants to run like Miramax of the 90s, because he can - and Netflix are the last bastions in this budget level to a very real extent. It works for them in a way it doesn't for others.

You're being a bit simplistic in what Netflix does and does not consider loss ... the film doesn't need to translate to subscriptions or views totalling up to their budget for it to work. The Netflix model isn't about specific eyes on specific titles, it's about satisfying multiple niches of subscribers so that they simply neglect to cancel their subscriptions. Everything that feels like 'prestige' is a win, because it makes people feel they're getting value whether they watch it or not. Every headline that these titles generate is PR money they're not spending. They're accelerating their move into this space, not slowing down.

And if you acknowledge that theatrical release of the mid budget film can't be profitable in the traditional model, then you're arguing for that model why, exactly? I'm confused here.

Tad AllagashJuly 28, 2017 5:20 PM

Fair enough, you have more insight on the internals of the business than I do... I'm just observing and replying based on what I can see from afar...

Tad AllagashJuly 28, 2017 5:43 PM

I absolutely agree with you, that some of the few who can make mid-budget films and keep them profitable are established filmmakers... I'm not arguing that the mid-budget film can't be profitable, I'm arguing that it's possible if you leave the windows open... And right now studios are still at least taking CHANCES on mid-budget films, with some of them succeeding wildly and some failing miserably... Are you saying we should just not take those chances because the market dictates that it isn't worth the risk, or are you saying the studios will probably bail out of this type of risk?

I'm don't really think I'm being simplistic about Netflix considering losses... They cancelled The Get Down, Sense8, Girlboss, they're still beholden to profit like everyone else, just less so right now, and apparently the numbers weren't adding up for them... Sense8 was costing nearly $110 million a season and the Get Down $120 million... Those were too expensive for what they were providing Netflix with in value... I understand what you're saying though, it's not about gaining, it's about maintaining the subscriber base, and I get you, I really do... But a bomb like War Machine isn't good because it gained no prestige, and I'm almost absolutely sure the numbers for that weren't good... Are you saying they will just plow ahead without taking into account a $60 million flop like that? Or are you saying that it doesn't matter if it flopped, they're still going ahead with a mass of mid-budget films because that's what they want to focus on?

I agree with you about Bezos though, running Amazon like Miramax of the 90's, that's a great analogy...

Tad AllagashJuly 28, 2017 7:38 PM

I'd like to add, that because this site asks difficult questions (I remember commenting on a Woody Allen post earlier regarding separating an artist from his personal life), it gives true film lovers an outlet to inform and become informed... This is easily the most interesting and informative discussion I have ever been in on the internet... This is exactly the type of conversation that makes this site so valuable to people like me... Thanks to Niels for the discussion, Todd for the information and Ben for writing this article...

Ben UmsteadJuly 29, 2017 2:34 AM

Indeed! Katzenberg's model starts to address the access issue I started to get at in the prompt article before I had to rein it in.

Ben UmsteadJuly 29, 2017 2:39 AM

An observation from here in America, most folks will pay $5-$10 bucks to try something, rent something. They think that's a deal. But beyond that they start to get a little suspect, especially north of $25. You tell someone they can watch Wonder Woman on their TV for $10 they'll be happy as a clam.

Ben UmsteadJuly 29, 2017 2:41 AM

And we are all invested in some way or another because we love cinema in a whole bunch of forms and formats... some more than others ;)

Ben UmsteadJuly 29, 2017 2:48 AM

If so, they'll mature and expand and adapt in those spaces and into the Netflixs and Amazons. It'll be hybrid of sorts. Most children browse Youtube instead of channel surf and as they grow older and get their first phone, sharing things they like and then making things that their friends can like is how it goes.

And when I say youth, yes, that's a big portion, but my feed is taken up by people in their 30s and 40s, so the appeal is there for people who are just on the other side of digital native. They'll keep using it, it will continue to adapt side by side with cinema proper and eventually they'll be augmented reality of various kinds, and neural networks that can take trillions of pieces from hundreds of thousands of films and make whole new works. I say this like I am excited by it. I am not. It's frightening and sad and a whole lot of other things.

Todd BrownJuly 29, 2017 10:37 AM

Oh, wow! Thanks for saying so! that's really meaningful and very much appreciated!

Todd BrownJuly 29, 2017 10:50 AM

I think the studios are bailing / have bailed on the mid budget with very few exceptions. The R rated comedy had been a holdover but even those are tanking consistently right now so even those are at risk. At a certain point it all becomes a numbers game and if a certain style of film is statistically under performing there are very few studios in a position to take the risk right now.

Netflix isn't going to spend stupid, no, and it's kind of surprising that people are seizing on these recent cancellations as a new thing. I mean, Hemlock Grove and Marco Polo were canned, too. There IS a threshold. And a string of War Machines would impact their evaluation process, yes, or at least who they have on staff to do those evaluations and greenlight films. I would assume that this is a big part of why they brought Scott Stuber in to run the film division in March ... I wouldn't go on record saying that War Machine was the absolute reason but, y'know, they would have seen it by then and known what they had.

Ted Hope was such a great hire at Amazon. Great producer with fantastic taste who legitimately loves film and wants to make films with lasting resonance. It's such a dream job there, too, being that unshackled from commercial concerns. I mean, at some point they're going to need a theatrical release to work if they're going to keep doing them, but the quality has been quite high and I assume Ted has a set budget that basically amounts to acceptable losses / sunk costs in the overall scheme o fthings at the company.