I started thinking on this blog that, basically, if films are going to compete with themselves for free on the internet, that they need to lower their cost. But there’s a few parts of this argument that have come undone in my mind.
In the future, we are told, we will have VOD of everything, at home, at our convenience, whatever, whenever we want. Some would argue that it is already here, just not quite ready for primetime.
I used to take this goal as a given. Isn’t that what we all want? Just to push a button and get whatever we feel like watching at that given instant? But I’m not so sure that’s true anymore.
And not only that, I realized that there was a price to be paid for that: and that price is zero, or near zero. It’s very basic economics that scarcity will up your price. The reverse is also true: if you can get dirt anywhere, why pay for it? You can just go out and get a shovel full of it whenever you want for free. Try it now.
Think about a concert. If a concert sells out, the scalpers appear, selling tickets for more money. They can do this because there are limited seats for the concert, not because you can stay home and listen to it for free.
So, first, as a filmmaker, you need to have a certain amount of scarcity if you want your film to have value.
But, second, as an audience member, you also want this because you crave something special. Having it all on VOD might be great sometimes, but how many times are you just going to sit at home and channel surf? We need people to curate the films for us. We need to make an effort as an audience to make it worth our time. Two hours at home is not the same experience as two hours at a movie theater.
As I said in a previous post, Hollywood markets films as events, and maybe that’s what they are. We want to see something unique, something special, and we are willing to pay for it provided we are getting something for our money.
So, this idea that convenience is our God-given American right is bullshit, because I’m not sure we even want that, even if we think we do. We want something special, and we want to pay for it somehow, because that’s our way of showing ourselves that something is special.