Monday, May 10, 2010

Middleman to be cut out, middleman not happy

Movie theaters come in two flavors (I obviously use that word loosely, as nobody would eat anything entitled "overpriced sticky floor): You have your locally owned, small guys and your enormous big chains. The former are usually incredibly awesome, and the latter is usually finding new and awesome ways to charge you per kernel of popcorn or how to exploit their practically preteen workforce. The FCC's ruling this week that movie studios can, in fact, directly beam their product into homes starting day of release if they want is causing the latter theaters sphincters to telescopically retract into their brains (we all know that due to their unique anatomy, the sphincter is right next to their gray matter). However, although the little theaters are panicked too, they probably have less to worry about. Actually, all parties have little to worry about, except the American people. I'm rambling. It goes like this:

Little theaters tend to give a better "experience" and have more personality (again, this is a general trait, not a hard-and-fast rule). The chain theaters are like assembly lines in a factory, designed to poop out as many moderately entertained, significantly more broke patrons as possible. If movies start being available AT HOME the same day as in theaters, which I have my serious doubts will ever occur, the big change from the theaters will have to be giving you a reason to come to them as opposed to watching it at home from your theater system. It's tempting to be able to watch Iron Man 2 in my undies with as many people as I want (that didn't come out right). I'm imagining that the pricing will go from something like regular ticket prices to "Boxing Pay-Per-View" pricing, which will deter the individual ticket buyer from getting in on it, but may convince mom and dad who have kids to buy popcorn for to give it a try. Are we likely to see a big switch from this ruling? My gut says no. With box office tallies as high as they are, it isn't like the system is broke. Hell, they just figured out we're willing to part with a kidney to watch some crappy movie that has a few scenes where there's extra dimensionality. There are interesting implications though. It can help indie films, which won't have the cost of distribution to hurt them. It may prove to be a pirating nightmare, even though the technology to scramble any attempt to record supposedly exists. It would certainly give people all over the country the option to find movies that may not be playing in their regional theaters. It may also truly hurt theaters and shut them down.

There can be no question that something like this is the future of movie distribution. Whether or not this is the first major step has yet to be seen. I for one love going to movies more than watching them at home, provided I'm not in a theater that smells like the Iron Man 2 midnight audience every time.

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