If it's crap ... We'll tell you
The times they are a-changin'. It's no secret that video-on-demand and online streaming video sites are the new big thing. Maybe it's due to skyrocketing ticket prices (thanks again 3D!), maybe it's just because we humans tend to be almost magpie-ish about new technology, snapping it up like crack fiends when something new comes out (*coughApplecough*). Maybe it's because people prefer to watch films in the comfort of their own home, on their own time, without having to cram into a fold-down seat next to a hideous-smelling fat guy and eat their stale $14 popcorn while a frayed single mother yells at her wailing human worm spawn throughout the entire film. Whatever the reasons for it's growth and sustained popularity, streaming video is going to stick around for the forseeable future, and it's causing a bit of a rift among Hollywood studios and celebrities.
In a recent announcement, Lionsgate CEO John Feltheimer has decided to embrace the new trend: "We view Google, Netflix, iTunes, Amazon and other new digital media players as partners, not adversaries”. Citing increased growth in Asia, Latin America, and Europe, as well as increasing demands for VOD and digital content delivery, Lionsgate films has signed a deal with Netflix to distribute their hit AMC series 'Mad Men' through the service, paving the way for future releases through the company or through other companies in foreign markets.
In another massive move, Miramax just unveiled a joint venture with online streaming site Hulu to showcase films from their vast library of titles, such as 'Pulp Fiction', 'Trainspotting', and 'The English Patient'. The deal will bring hundreds of classic films to Hulu's premium service (Hulu Plus), as well as rotate up to 15 of their titles a month through Hulu's ad-supported free site. CEO Mike Lang also recently spearheaded a similar deal with Netflix saying, "From day one, we’ve been very clear about the importance of digital and our desire to respond to the significant pent-up demand for our films - delivering to consumers whenever and wherever they want".
However, the new move towards digital content seems to be rubbing a lot of people the wrong way. While few would argue that allowing old films to be immediately available via digital streaming is a bad idea, the current trend may be extending out into actual theatrical releases, which has upset a large population of creative professionals. Christopher Nolan ('Inception') and Jon Favreau ('Iron Man') are the latest directors to openly oppose a new DirectTV VOD service that would allow people to download and view brand new movies only two months after their theatrical release for only $29.95. Joining forces with other Hollywood directors like James Cameron and Quentin Tarantino, they are arguing that shortening the theatrical lifespan of a film can be detrimental to the "moviegoing experience". Even theater chains are getting in on the argument - Regal Entertainment and AMC Entertainment have struck back by cutting down the number of trailers from companies who support DirectTV's new service including Disney, Fox, Universal, and Warner Bros.
It's not an argument that will be won, or even partially settled any time soon. As long as there's money to be made and a demographic to be taken advantage of, studios will continue to pursue new forms of revenue and promotion for their films. Likewise, Hollywood professionals and theater chains will not willingly choose to cannibalize their theatrical runs to chase a new digital market. Weigh in, Spillios! Would you rather see companies move away from theatrical releases towards a strictly digital market? Do you like the way things are now, where a movie is released in theaters, and then is released on Blu-ray at the same time as it's available on demand? Would you like it to be released earlier on one form of media or the other? Let us know!