The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

10 September 2007

Black Hawk downsized

The cell phone: the enemy of cinema, says director Ridley Scott, and not because people are texting each other during the fight scenes, either:

People sit there watching a movie on a tiny screen. You can't beat it, you've got to join it and deal with it, and also get competitive with it. We try to do films which are in support of cinema, in a large room with good sound and a big picture. I'm sure we're on a losing wicket but we're fighting technology. Whilst it is wonderful in many aspects, it also has some big negative downsides.

One of which, perhaps, is that no one is going to pay $9 for a 320 x 240 download.

On the other hand, how likely is it that iPod-sized devices will become the favored medium for watching films? Aren't the people with the portable-video boxes pretty much the same people with the monstrously-large television and/or monitor screens?

Posted at 10:10 AM to Almost Yogurt

"One of which, perhaps, is that no one is going to pay $9 for a 320 x 240 download."

Right, but you hit upon the upside in your next paragraph: A cell phone or iPod download probably does NOT kill theater sales. Remember when the VCR was going to kill movie theaters? Not only didn't that happen, but more theaters exist today than before the advent of the VCR. (What the device DID accelerate was the demise of porno theaters. Pee Wee Herman aside, we all know why.)

The cell phone shifts the paradigm (I know... sorry, but sometimes no other word but the tired, pretentious one seems to do the job). The VCR and DVD shifted the paradigm by extending the marketplace. Options and features could be added to the film, justifying (sort of) a higher price, or at least an additional purchase after seeing the movie in a theater. (Or, for those who can hold out, INSTEAD of going to a theater.)

The cell phone does not do that. What it does is keep the film top of mind, and whet the appetite for the 'real thing'. Therefore it can and should sell for a steep discount.

The cell is a great place to experiment with different ways to release and promote movies. Lengthy scenes of a film might be released free at cell-phone size as a viral way to promote a film prior to its release, for example. Miniature versions of games based on the film might also be given away as promos for both the game and the film.

Ridley Scott's films (Blade Runner, Gladiator) won't satisfy at cell phone size. I don't see tiny versions of these films harming DVD sales. INdeed, with BR special edition now out, this would have been a great time to give away much or most of the film away, free, for cell phones. Most people have seen the film free on TV by now anyway. The giveaway could only call attention to the film once again, in time for sales of the newer version.

Posted by: Mister Snitch! at 11:28 AM on 10 September 2007

It may become the favored medium for much the same reason as the digital camera has. It's quick, cheap and easy. Not unlike my high school sweetheart.

Quality don't enter into it (mostly), for the busy overworked masses. additionally, after a steady diet of mass advertising people begin to believe that higher quality is the inherent product of higher technology. Of course if you give pause, you can figure out that's not always true at all.

But quick and easy is not necessarily a bad thing. I had a great time with my high school sweetheart. I did eventually find out that EVERYBODY likes quick and easy.

Posted by: Jeff Shaw at 11:37 AM on 10 September 2007

I have a Pocket PC that can play videos. I listen to TV shows while I work but I can also watch movies on a roughly 3x2" screen. I gotta disagree with Jeff Shaw. It is definitely portable and may be convenient, but it isn't comfortable. It's perfectly fine for some things (sitcoms and other comedies) but it's not as engaging as a traditional TV set.

Posted by: trumwill at 10:53 PM on 10 September 2007

"But quick and easy is not necessarily a bad thing. I had a great time with my high school sweetheart."

Yeah, everybody likes quick and easy. But did ya marry her? Well, that's why there'll always be movie houses.

Posted by: Mister Snitch! at 12:13 AM on 11 September 2007