Friday, September 14, 2007

hollywood: adapt or die

I was watching Evan Almighty a few weeks a go and I noticed that in one shot there’s a tv in a restaurant with a graphic that read “” on it that looked out of place and made no sense to the story.

A few days later I was watching die hard 4.0 and I saw the same thing. It was on a computer screen on the movie and I realised that this wasn’t a coincidence. I have to clarify here that the copies of these movies were all acquired through illegal downloads over the internet.

So I turned to the inter-tubes and found that it had been noticed by quite a few other peoples with it also being inserted into a copy of Spiderman three. So someone’s digitally dropped their website logo into a bunch of new movie torrents out there on the tubes for people to catch onto. They haven’t been obtrusive or in your face with it. They’ve been placed in the movie as though they were meant to be there (on computer / tv screen etc).

I went to the site but can’t work out what it’s for yet because my computer’s still down and I can’t download the torrent on their site.

But that’s not the point. The point is that someone’s worked out a way to exploit illegal downloads in this new frontier of cinema we’re facing. This opens up a whole new avenue for advertising, though more importantly; it opens up a Pandora’s Box of potential problems.

Hopefully this won’t encourage companies to release a bunch of torrents with ads burned into the corners of the frames or ads running before / during the movies - though the legal implications might deter them in the short term.

I personally believe that the first movie studio to find a way to leverage movie downloads for their own gain will dominate. They can’t stop people from downloading movies – they just need to find a way to exploit it for their benefit.

If I was a movie studio and losing the war on illegal downloads, here’s what I’d do:
1) flood the existing illegal download sites with bad, incomplete and corrupt copies of our movies to erode trust in these sites and make it very hard for people to download a decent, watchable illegal copy of our movie.
2) set up our own download site that’s accessible for novice and experienced users of p2p downloads.
3) stock this with our new movies, back catalogue, trailers, behind the scenes documentaries, and anything else we have to make it a definitive resource.
4) make it fast. Have tons of ‘seeders’ so there’s never any problems with speed of the downloads. If it’s easier to get it from the studio site, why would you go to an illegal torrent site?
5) as the sit gets busier and traffic increases, sell and collect advertising revenue.

Problems with this:
- No studio is going to give away their product for free. Not yet anyway.
- Ad revenue wouldn’t cover the cost of the movies (or big star’s pay cheques)
- You couldn’t charge a membership because people would just download the movies and put them on other torrent sites anyway.
- Studios make money from dvd rentals, so they’d be cannibalising their own future revenues

There’s going to be a fundamental shift in Hollywood in the future. It’s happening now, but the industry is resisting it because it means such a massive change. And let’s face it; people are naturally resistant to change. DRM, anti-copyright lawsuits and a ‘business as usual’ attitude will be the eventual downfall for them. Studios’ won’t be able to sustain the same revenues as they always have because of the digital revolution so they had best adapt or they will be left behind.

The movies of the future won’t have big celebrities that are paid massive amounts to appear in films. We’re going to see the rise of smaller, independent film houses. And we’re going to see a change in the movies we watch too. We’re going to see films that are shot on HD handycams with ‘no-name’ actors.

Films will be distributed via the net for free. You will be able to download a movie onto your iPod while you wait for a bus and send it to a friend without fear of being prosecuted. Far from it, it will be encouraged.

I’m in two minds about how I feel about this new age for film though. On the one hand, we will be rid of the old predictable, formulaic, boring movies, but we will also face the prospect of losing the big budgets that can sometimes give us breathtaking cinematic vistas.

But that’s the point though, it’s only really ‘sometimes’ that we really do get bang for our buck. Of all the big budgets spent on movies, they only sometimes deliver.

So I say bring on the movie revolution. Give us something new, embrace change and engage us, or you’ll lose out to some young punks like netgraffiti who can.

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