A Brief Digression

Finding an Audience: Distribution Notes for 1/26/09

movie-ticket-and-popcornMark Cuban acquired a bit more of a stake in the theater chain Carmike Cinemas. Comments from Cuban, who also owns Landmark Theaters, Magnolia Pictures and 2929 Entertainment, show that he’s not just thinking about movies but about using these screens in a way that enhances the out-of-home entertainment experience.

Paul Sweeting at ContentAgenda rightly states that Blu-ray isn’t going to be seen as a revolutionary home video format for long and the studios would do well to start positioning it more reasonably quickly. That’s especially true since consumer spending is falling and they’re not going to be likely to pop for something that, in reality, isn’t all that much better than the DVD player they already have. Of course now that Blu-ray is the only next-gen format in the room it may find itself out-dated before it has a chance to take advantage of that. But it does have many advantages that might help it survive, so decide for yourself what you think.

And the studios better figure out Blu-ray sales plans soon since standard DVD sales are off significantly – even among new releases – in 2008.

Stephen Wildstrom at BusinessWeek revisits the issue of why some classic movies continue to languish without home video releases and looks at some of the tangled business relationships that contribute to those omissions.

Roku’s set-top box is about to connect to Amazon’s Video on Demand service, giving users access to a host of additional movie titles. Roku was previously only partnering with Netflix, and that will continue. If the box is gaining actual consumer momentum look for more functionality/partnership announcements in the future.

Speaking of Netflix, LG has said it will make an HDTV that will stream Netflix’s Watch Now titles diretly to the TV. The added functionality could add a significant chunk of change to the price, though, one that might not be worth it for customers who decide Netflix’s wider DVD selection is worth $16.99 a month for a couple years. Vizio-connected HDTVs will have similar capabilities.

My best guess right now is that Disney’s announcement that they’ll start including standard DVDs in Blu-ray editions is meant to be some sort of “slowly turning up the heat on the frog” tactic. Meaning they might – might – start phasing out standard DVD editions and saying if you want to buy that then you’ll have to buy the Blu-ray, which comes with a DVD.

DVD sales slipped in 2008 but, considering the larger economic climate, it could have been a lot worse.

Meanwhile Warner Bros. and Paramount are joining a handful of smaller studios in making some of their titles available on SD cards at retailer’s in-store kiosks. That will allow customers to grab the movie from the kiosk and play it back on their mobile or home-entertainment devices with SD card slots.

Aspiring filmmakers can enter Netflix’s “Find Your Voice” competition, which is being run as a partnership with Film Independent. You can read the full press release here.

Blockbuster is working more deeply with CinemaNow to make streaming and download-based rentals available on more set-top boxes, much the same strategy Netflix worked out about a year ago. Of course that’s interesting in light of Blockbuster’s purchase and use of MovieLink last year.

The sudden disappearance of “Always Sunny in Philadelphia” episodes from Hulu – all of them – coupled with the on/off availability of movies on other streaming services should serve as warning that this is all very new and that media companies are still looking at it as an experimental business model.

Brian Wallace guest-posts on Mashable with a bunch of good tips for those looking to survive the online entertainment world.

Video search engine Blinkx is partnering with British-based film site to bring full-length feature films to Blinkx’s site.

The current financial problems most companies are facing means 3D-ready theater expansion has stalled, potentially creating a glut of movies in that format that are lacking for a place to be exhibited.

Tech company B-Side is getting into the feature distribution market, which makes a lot of sense for it.

IFC is partnering with SXSW to simultaneously debut the new feature film from director Joe Swanberg, Alexander the Last” at the festival and via the IFC Festival Direct VOD platform.

One reply on “Finding an Audience: Distribution Notes for 1/26/09”

I watched the SUNNY debacle on Hulu with interest. We’re at a point when people are going to start investing in ways to get content from the internet to their TVs in the living room, which is the sign of mass acceptance- whether it be a Roku box or something else. But there needs to be some sort of consistency of content before this goes mainstream.

Am I willing to pay a subscription fee for a limited amount of movies that changes without notice? No, probably not. But would I pay a hefty subscription fee for IP access to the entire Netflix library at will? You bet I would. I’d even do a pay-per-watch- unlimited views of a film for 30 days for $3.99 would be a no-brainer (24 hours, not so much so).

The film industry is about 4-5 years behind the music industry. As broadband speeds up and file sizes slim down, we’re going to find ourselves in a similar situation- if anyone with Firefox can download a decent quality movie in 20 minutes, who’s going to choose to go through the hoops we as an industry set up for legal downloads unless we can get them a decent quality movie instantly?

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