Thursday, April 17, 2003
Somebody not only read the site, but responded to a series of my posts. I feel like the guy who's playing with himself in the bushes outside your teenage daughter's window when she catches him, which, of course, is what he was hoping for. Twisted similes complete, let's go to his response on the digital theatres:
I like the idea about indie films at movie theatres. The problem is the same as the problem in modern radio. There's no incentive for the local station manager to play indie music, and even if there was Clearchannel would tell him to get over it...and fast. There's no place for creativity in this land of ours, damn it! We're making MONEY here!!!
I acknowledged some of this in my post through reference to the chains and any contracts the theatres have with them. However, I don't think the analogy quite fits. My understanding (probably wrong) is that the theatre chains enter rental agreements with the movie studios which guarantee a decreasing share of the box office receipts for the film. So, if you run a Regal Cinema and have 3 screens of X2, you'll agree to give the studio 90% of ticket sales for those screens the first weekend, 85% the second weekend, and so on. The terms vary with the size of the title and the power of the studio.
And this is where the analogy breaks down: Clear Channel has the record companies paying them for access to the airwaves; Carmike and Regal and so on have to pay for the content. I think if they had a reasonable expectation of putting butts in seats, they'd prefer to take a huge percentage of the box office on a film or collection of short films. The exception might be when the studio also owns the theatre chain (e.g., Sony).
Another place where it breaks down is that radio is on all the time and only FCC-licensed stations can broadcast. There is little to no substitute for radio airplay (though XM and Sirius satellite radio are changing that). Theatres, on the other hand, typically only run from maybe 6:00p-12:00a during the week and 11:00a-2:00p. There's room to get in at other times of the day, with the only cost being a minimum wage employee or two and one screen's worth of electricity.
Also, as theatres demonstrate at every viewing, there is room on the schedule to show things other than the feature presentation. One way to soften up audiences to the advertising glut is to provide some value added. Shorts and animation would be perfect for this. Pixar has been able to get a few shorts screened, but it looks like theatres and chains have extensive leeway to program anything between screenings of the feature presentation.
Don't get me wrong, I don't think my vision is a certainty, and it's not without obstacles. But, the economist in me says that if the entry costs are lowered and there is time to fill, then there is an opportunity to make money. And, I think somebody will find a way to do it using independently produced shorts, features, and animation.
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