What Are You Missing? Mar 28-Apr 10

April 11, 2010
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Ten (or more) media industry stories you might have missed recently:

[Note: This is an iPad news-free edition. If you wanted info on the iPad last week, you found it, and if you didn’t want it, it found you, so I doubt anyone missed any of it.]

1. Decency, piracy, and copyright: R-rated red-band trailers are getting more controversial, while the head of the MPPA’s ratings board speaks (a bit) about the board’s job and makeup. Piracy is getting worse in Europe; it’s on the rise in France, and running rampant in Spain, to the point where Hollywood might refuse to distribute DVDs there. The MPAA can cheer up a bit at winning a piracy-related lawsuit against a search engine, and (torrenters beware!) the industry is going after tens of thousands of individual downloaders. Related, The Economist offers an intriguing questioning of copyright protection, coinciding with the 300th birthday of modern copyright law.

2. Apologies, failures, and hedged bets: Battlefield Earth’s original screenwriter apologized for the film’s awfulness, while scribe Dan Harmon very thoughtfully responded to a parent’s Monster House issue. Uma Thurman’s Motherhood sold a grand total of eleven tickets on its opening weekend Britain; here are 10 reasons why that might have happened. Hot Tub Time Machine drew more than eleven bodies on its opening weekend, but still fewer than anticipated, so here are 5 reasons for that (plus some inside info on its financials from Nikki Finke). A new study claims that Twitter can predict these failures. If so, that would sure make it easy for the Twitterati to rack up dough on the proposed box office futures market. But it’s the potential impact on a film’s box office dough that makes the film industry hate the futures market idea pretty much across the board. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission has delayed its ruling on whether to let this go forth until next week, so we’ll have to wait and see if anyone ends up having to apologize for causing a film to sell only eleven tickets on its opening week because of futures frenzy.

3. Audiences seem willing to pay for 3D movies, but some think Hollywood could be overestimating 3D’s appeal, foisting a gimmick on us, and buying into the “Avatar fallacy”, which could result in 3D fading away yet again or just being a niche, not a standard. Cinematical’s Scott Weinberg would be fine with that end result, seeing as he thinks 3D is ruining movies, while Wired’s Dave Banks is simply tired of seeing 3D suddenly appear in every medium, and even James Cameron is questioning the direction of 3D. Clash of the Titans doesn’t really put us any closer to figuring out where 3D could head, and it also leaves open the question of if we should be told whether we’re getting “real” or “fake” 3D in a film (we apparently need to be warned about subtitles, so why not this?). Finally, we can look forward to Bollywood in 3D.

4. Ah, the rites of spring: the snow melts, the trees bud, the birds return, and film critics announce that movie stars aren’t needed anymore (a pronouncement we’ll see again in summer, fall, and winter). To wit, Anne Thompson points to Matt Damon as one of the few remaining true stars, and Patrick Goldstein says that (if it sticks around) 3D could doom stars. After all, Sam Worthington’s not a star, he’s just a no-risk franchise occupant, like a seat filler at the Oscars. A.O. Scott assures us that Greta Gerwig is a star, though.

5. Sony and 20th Century Fox joined with Warner Bros. to help stave off Blockbuster’s demise by offering DVDs to the rental outfit on the same day they become available for sale. Conversely, Netflix agreed to a 28-day rental delay with a few studios in exchange for getting greater access to studio titles for streaming. David Poland sees this as a smart move for the immediate future of theatrical and rental health. Long-term, some industry analysts see Netflix’s video-on-demand model as the future due to higher profit margins,  and due to the possibility that another dinosaur, the United States Postal Service, could put a crimp in the mailing option by ceasing Saturday delivery. Redbox is thus shrewdly sussing out the possibility of streaming films.

6. The indie film world has a few successes to point to, such as Breaking Upwards, which cost only $15,000 and made that back in one theater opening (Motherhood: take note!). And the future value of online distribution was on display with Hulu’s In the Darkness. Whether it’s screening at a brick-and-mortar theater or online, word of mouth is crucial for indie film, though digital raises the very question of what is a filmmaker. The studio world has a few embarrassments to ignore, such as the three less-than-hoped-for bids for Miramax, including one from the Weinstein brothers, with the low bids likely due to the questionable value of the Miramax library (in fact, Variety says the values of all studio libraries are declining). Meanwhile, the bidding for MGM drags on, and it seems as if nobody really wants either Miramax or MGM in the end. Nobody wants to be head of the MPAA either.

7. Quentin Tarantino’s apparently not much for video games. But has he heard about the Tactile Gaming Vest that lets you feel like your body is being riddled with bullets? Eye-tracking systems also sound very cool. Tarantino at least might want to consider producing some form of transmedia content for his films, since he can now win an award from the Producers Guild for it. This institutionalization of transmedia looks like a good thing, according to most.

8. Facebook and Google are in a battle for a billion of our social profile dollars. Facebook at least appears to be leading in the category of wicked cool infographics generated to summarize it: Exhibit A and Exhibit B. YouTube doesn’t need infographics to prop it up when it’s got “David After Dentist” going for it. Wired goes one better than an infographic anyway with this great exposition of the five secrets of YouTube success, while Mashable takes us inside the YouTube war room.

9. Random good links I have left (hey, they don’t always all fit together neatly, but how could I not include news of the Big Lebowski porn parody?): The Big Lebowski porn parody; Surviving in the Music 2.0 world; The latest music sales stats; Are puppet movies doomed by CGI?; Top ten works of journalism of the decade; This American Life infographics.

10. Links to the best News for TV Majors links of the fortnight: Human Planet; Beck, Politics & Money; FX Mainstreaming; Behavior Placement; Comcast Net Win; Simon and Treme Profiled; Friday Night Ratings Fight; A Simpler Future; David Mills, 1961-2010; Peabody Awards; Cable in Congloms; Rebranding Guide.


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2 Responses to “ What Are You Missing? Mar 28-Apr 10 ”

  1. Christine Becker on April 24, 2010 at 8:35 AM

    David Poland on why the box office futures market idea is so bad, even potentially destructive: http://www.mcnblogs.com/thehotblog/archives/2010/04/watching_cspan.html