Next generation film watching

I was looking through my Netflix instant viewing queue and was pretty amazed at what I saw. There is a limit of 500 movies on the list, and half of it is stuff my kids put on, but the other half was an incredible mix of film classics, new foreign films and indie films that I’d heard of but never had the chance to see.

It was the classics that struck me first. Film after film of awesome films from LE CORBEAU to SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE. It’s the kind of library I had always wanted, and now, basically, I have it. I don’t need to buy it.

I bought a copy of DRAG ME TO HELL the other day on DVD, but this is probably just habit. I can see a future where the occasional DVD is bought, but mostly, I’m happy to let those films be, essentially, rentals.

There was a time, not that long ago, when rentals brought in enough revenue to fund films. Before DVDs, you rented VHS tapes for a couple bucks. Buying a tape was like 75 dollars, so there was only one or two that I actually owned. I had a small library I had taped off of cable, which was the equivalent of piracy today. As far as I know, it was legal then.

My point is that, as everyone keeps saying, the future of films will not include DVD sales. To me, it looks like it will go back to what it was in the 80’s, a rental model.

So what’s wrong with that? I don’t know. The rental model was a huge source of revenue back then. Beside the entire industry of B-films that it reinvented, there were quality films that got made solely on their prospects for rental.

There’s a few problems with this now, but it’s really not that different. Piracy is rampant, as it was in the 80’s. There’s a huge selection of films on the market, but that’s as it was then too. Budgets have gone up, but that’s not entirely true for indie films.

The other factor that I see changing is in the theaters. Exhibitors are beginning to chafe against the studios, who are trying to close their windows, so to speak. And studios are basically getting out of production, so they’ll need someone to make their films, albeit their usual crap films.

Remember, before VHS there was only theatrical. A film was put in the theaters and it had one shot to make its money back. This worked because more people went to the movies and because movies cost less. So, somewhere between the lower cost and the rental income, there is a way to get money back on a film.

Of course, a film still has to work with an audience, but there’s only so much control you have with that.


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