Howell: Preparing for a world beyond movie theatres
The movies have always been in crisis.
From the moment Thomas Edison began the world’s first public film showings in 1894, using his projector precursor the Kinetoscope, there have been doubts about how best to draw an audience with the new medium.
The fretting continued through cinema’s first century and beyond, as purists and innovators debated the merits (and profits) of silent vs. sound, monochrome vs. colour and 2-D vs. 3-D. Whatever happens, we still keep going out to the movies.
Lately, though, it seems as if we really are on the brink of a major change in how we experience film. Judging by recent comments by two notable producers/distributors, Harvey Weinstein of The Weinstein Co. and Christine Vachon of Killer Films, we should all brace ourselves for a fast-approaching world beyond the theatrical release model that has defined cinema for much of its existence.
They spoke at separate events themed to independent film: Weinstein at TheWrap.com’s inaugural TheGrill@Tribeca conference and Vachon in her keynote State of Cinema address at the San Francisco International Film Festival. (Both are viewable online; I found Vachon’s via indieWIRE.com.)
They were asked to comment on recent trends in movie releasing, which lately has been all about “windows.” That’s the industry term for a film’s staged release pattern of theatrical followed by video on demand (VOD), DVD, pay TV and finally free TV.