Saturday, December 19, 2015

Under Wraps

As the new Star Wars movie is reminding us, big-budget motion pictures can be a big deal. But there are other ways of distributing them than to big theaters. While it's unlikely that the theater experience is going away anytime soon, changes in the overall technology landscape may push moviemakers into exploring new ways to put their stories in front of audiences.

A large part of the general hubbub concerning The Force Awakens has to do with people not wanting to be exposed to anything that might be considered a spoiler. While The Force Awakens doesn't strike me as a movie that would be in that category, there are films for which a good portion of the dramatic and/or emotional punch comes from keeping the audience in the dark as to some important detail. But given that someone can now Tweet: "OMG, I can't believe that Kylo Rem is the secret love child of Princess Leia and Greedo!" to a worldwide audience seconds after exiting the theater, building a theatrical release around a big reveal seems less and less like a viable strategy and more like a recipe for trouble.

But audience misdirection and hidden information are too good to simply give up on, and so it seems that studios will have to start experimenting with ways of putting movies in front of audiences that don't require everyone to go to the theater. In-home streaming seems to be the obvious choice, although how this would work in practice remains to be seen - the current model allows for revenue on a per-person basis - something that will be difficult to make work with a streaming model. But new advances bring new opportunities, and so it will be interesting to see how movies continue to adapt to the changes.

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