Sunday, July 22, 2007

Theaters at a loss

Last Saturday I went to see 'Die Hard 4.0'. 'Went to see' encapsulates quite an effort - getting out of the house, driving to pick up my wife's friend, driving to the first theater only to find there are no tickets to the show we wanted, driving to a second theater and then waiting in the Tel Aviv hot afternoon until the doors were opened. Then we found out the movie is playing the smallest hall, with a screen not much larger than a plasma TV, at a slight right angle, and to cap it all the seats were smelling of wet rags and still dirty with previous shows popcorn bags.
For this dubious service, we had to pay 31 NIS each (approx. 8 bucks). We got up and left the theater, getting our money back.

This makes me wonder how can theaters complain the drop of their income on the one hand, and keep neglecting the service on the other hand. Another example of this is ticket ordering on the Web - the theaters are charging me an extra 4 NIS (1$) for it, even though it actually saves them the costs of cashiers!
Don't they realise they become less and less advantageous compared to my home TV\DVD? The same movies are available for 'almost' immidiate download, and many more are available as well. Why would I suffer the ordeal of going out?

On the same subject, I also went to see the 5th Harry Potter movie (alone, this time). While the expereince was much better (in spite of a flawed sound system), and although the movie is quite good IMHO, the original plot was so long that the director had to viciously cut scenes. With the 4th movie the same thing had a devestating affect, making it hardly comprehensible. And that is kind of another question about the future of cinema halls. DVD additional content gives the viewer the option to include more scenes (at the price of a lengthier movie, but what of it, when I'm at the comfort of my home and in full control of the movie flow). When DVD is offering tailor made movies, the theater forces both the director and the audience to settle for the common ground, usually not enough for any of them.

Could the movies industry handle these issues? I'd like to try and suggest some prespective by a different example. On Thursday night I've been to a rock concert by Yoni Bloch (yes, a busy weekend for me, happily). I have both his albums and know most of the songs. Yoni was 'discovered' when publishing his songs (not just the lyrics, actual home made recordings) on a public Web site. But once he had his place in the 'regualr' industry, he didn't stop publishing songs and drafts on the Web. A lot of these made their way to the P2P sharing networks. The result was that on his shows he performs songs that were not released on any of his LPs, and the crowd knows them and loves them, even if it's their first time at Yoni's concerts (or 2nd time, like mine).

Can this be a way for the movies industry as well?

I'm thinking of the follwoing:
  • The studios keep shooting and editing as they do, but instead of leaving a lot of scenes for the DVD release a year later, start pushing mini films into the net. They can directly publish the mini films on their sites and\or indirectly distribute them through the P2P networks. These mini films will be complete by themselvs (meaning you won't need to see the whole movie just to understand the specific min film), 5-15 minutes. These are not trailers! It's much closer to the kind of films you get on 'short film' festivals.
  • Mini films will cause audience to develop and attach itself to the movie. Free access to those mini-stories and mini-scenes will make excelent publicity and will likely make more people want to see the full movie. Sure, a lot of them will still download it, but hopefully good quality free content will make them want to see the same quality in the full content, and appriciate the effort, just like with Yoni Bloch's music.
  • Going to the theater now is much less 'adventerous' - I know the type and quality of the show I'm about to see, and can anjoy a shorter yet still more complete movie (completed in my mind by the scenes already released). They will still have to improve their service and cut down on prices, though.
This is of course just one suggestion as I'm sure there are plenty of other ideas. But it will be really cool to work out an appetite for a movie!

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