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By Felix Vasquez Jr. | May 29, 2007

How much would you pay for a new movie? Eighty dollars? A hundred?

An interesting article I read in Entertainment Weekly last week explained that cable companies are working on getting theatrical premieres on our television, in a way to increase profits, and somehow enhance movie going.

It’s not a surprise that this idea has been brought up, as these days, Hollywood seems to be swallowing itself whole with movies that get worse year by year; it seems the think tanks are scrambling for something new. Hell, even I would rather wait on the release of a film and watch it at home than commute and sit elbow to elbow with people who aren’t even there to see the film.

The cable company Comcast is trying to bring this possible new evolution in movie going to subscribers, and the price tag is said to be 30-50$ per film. Other companies have jumped on to the bandwagon, but many in the industry suspect it’s simply because of Comcast’s ownership.

Said the article: ”The truth is, going day and date doesn’t benefit anybody but Comcast,” said Shari Redstone, president of National Amusements Theaters as well as vice-chairman of Viacom, the parent company of Paramount Pictures. ”The revenue streams for movies begin in the theaters. This proposal would hurt the studios overall, and the quality of movies would go down. Filmmakers don’t want to make films that are made to be seen at home.”

The comment does indeed hold some truth, but there are some filmmakers I’ve talked to who would enjoy any format beyond peddling DVD’s on the internet. There have even been filmmakers who have uploaded their films on Torrent websites for the purposes of publicity and have attributed this function to the word of mouth of their film.

At first this seems almost ridiculous, in fact completely ridiculous, but then people these days are willing to pay almost a hundred dollars for a special edition DVD, so apparently Comcast thinks they know something we don’t.

Would you really be willing to pay 30-50$ for a movie premiere in your home and then spend money on the home release? And would you actually watch an event film that is meant for a huge screen? Much like I-Pod video, some movies are not meant to be shown at such a small location. Speaking as someone who really can’t afford a huge television, this seems unnecessary. Film like “Grindhouse” and “28 Weeks Later” really do deserve to be seen on a big screen as an event, and not some normal task.

It seems Comcast has the right idea, but as all evolutions in technology, there are some missteps. Would you pay double for a movie you loved? These days with low ticket sales, and two new technologies trying to make its way onto shelves with even larger price tags, it’s possible either movie goers will adapt and be willing to pay the high price tag for a premiere, or just completely avoid the attempts at increasing profits and order every so often.

These days the commute to theaters and the environment in theaters are hardly worth the price, but I think I’d ultimately rather pay ten dollars, and six for a matinee, if it could mean undercutting a forty dollar price tag for a movie that may or may not be worth the money spent, in the end. Even as a film critic, I wouldn’t spend thirty dollars on “”The Hills Have Eyes 2″ if it meant first dibs on the review.

Hollywood as always doesn’t really seem to really have grasped evolving with the times as they’ve made efforts to stop piracy to no avail, and even introduced two new technologies that have higher price tags, and require even more expensive add on’s that many still can’t entirely afford, it’s likely this idea will be realized, but not for a long while.

There have been rumblings in the past that movie theaters will soon be a dying part of pop culture, and Hollywood has devised attempts to create new ways to revive the experience, and somehow evolve with it. Many movie websites are now offering legal downloading, and Hollywood has sought out to fight piracy, along with shortening the window of releases during movies.

This is only an experiment at the moment, as IFC is also offering simultaneous releases on-demand, and in theaters where many movie-goers can’t watch independent films, but the price tag for their movies range from 3-5 dollars per title. And this service should really be available to independent films that can’t normally be seen in many venues, because large studios have so much more of an advantage.

But paying 30-50$ for a film like “Night at the Museum,” or “Georgia Rule” is a price that seems awfully hefty when most films these days aren’t even worth ten dollars. Sooner or later, it seems possible that studios will willingly team to invent a new form of movie-going that keeps up with the times, rather than work against it, and downloading could be the new wave of the movie-going.

Whether or not this does take form, as it’s all allegedly in the talking phases, but not even films like “28 Weeks Later,” or “Grind House” could inspire me to spend 30-50$. And I doubt introducing a new format that requires spending on new add-ons that are impossible to afford for the average American, and simply upping the ante on On-Demand is going to help the movie-going experience any more.

Rather than looking for alternatives, studios should be enforcing a better movie-going experience, and possibly the stay of execution for movie theaters nationwide could extend. Cleaner theaters, lower concession prices, better sound and picture, and especially a better selection of films for all audiences, and stern crowd control with assigned guards, and ushers standing at theaters to assure no rowdy audiences would make the price of ten dollars for a film worth it. Or perhaps, focusing on making better movies and on forms of media that could benefit movie going would also work.

Even if this experiment takes off, only time will tell if people will cough up the hefty price tag for mainstream movies at home, or, like many have done for years, just wait for the goddamn DVD.

Closing Note: In honor of the opening of “”Hostel II,” here’s an oldie, but a goodie. Read and continue the bashing.

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  1. Professor Tom says:

    Thank you for saying so, sir.

  2. Dave Lawler says:

    Professor Tom

    Your analysis of the new Kong was flawless. I forgot to mention that.

    I’m a fan of the 1976 version, and I thought the original was an abomination (for various reasons).

  3. Professor Tom says:

    King Kong
    I absolutely fell in love with this movie and thought that it looked great. I still choke up when Kong dies. My Dad, a man who must have the tighest spincter in the world even got emotional when he watched it. I guess some things just aren’t for all people. To each his own.

    Kingdom of Heaven
    I will agree with you that the theatrical cut is s**t, but you really should give the director’s cut a chance. That having been said, I was pleased with the visuals of this movie too. I guess I care more about story then what is on the screen. If you give me something I can analyize, I’ll watch it again and again. But, as I said to each his own.

    financing yourself
    I do agree with you that if the director is also a producer on a film and if he is paying out of pocket, he will come up with more tricks to save more money (hopefully) putting him on the higher end of his game. Alternatively, it could just be the case that he wants to make one of those movies that are so bad that you just have to laugh.

    To each his own.

  4. Dave Lawler says:

    King Kong

    I’ll agree Kong was an exciting movie-going experience (like Titanic ), and I’ll agree it’s an inspiring film for young filmmakers, but mostly in what to avoid as a storyteller. The subplots made me angry. While Naomi Watts is a wonderful actress, I would never consider her Fay Wray’s (or Jessica Lange’s) successor. The human romance was (ridiculously) over shadowed by the monkey love, and the character of Kong was anthropomorphized for the benefit of the PETA crowd, but enough about that. I’m working on a blog that analyzes the three Kongs .

    I could practically see the blue screen. The actors didn’t really sell me on the awesome images they were supposed to behold. The Jurassic Park movies did a better job of integrating actors with visual effects. There was more hands-on contact with the animals in those movies. The shots were way overexposed instead of blending with the CGI, thus you could see original release Star Wars effects outlines. I won’t belabor it, since they were on a frightening schedule to get the movie in theaters. They spent the most time on Kong, but I didn’t like his look. He’s just a big gorilla in this one, and not terribly frightening. Other than those points, I really did enjoy the movie, but I didn’t weep when he died. It’s the death of a CGI sprite, for crying out loud.

    Kingdom of Heaven

    Jeez, that movie gave me a headache. It was all overlit and underexposed, undercranked and noisy. It was so murky, I couldn’t make out any of the characters or what they were doing specifically.

    A lack of money may make you a better filmmaker; perhaps if you were spending your own money or using limited resources, there would be less pressure to cave to spectacle and create thoughful, original movies. They may make less money, and have less studio hype and promotion, but at least you’ll still feel like a filmmaker as opposed to an assembly line underling for the massive studio machine. Comcast’s plan (if reduced in price and plan) could allow filmmakers to control their work and distribute it themselves to the general public, and then film would truly become an art form.

  5. Professor Tom says:


    Rami…for his movies.
    I didn’t know that about Rami, but again that goes back to the point I made above about having to overcome the limitations of not having money vs. having money and spending it because you can.

    King Kong
    Are you saying that King Kong was a bad movie or are you saying that every frame in King Kong required CG? Personally, I have no qualms with King Kong. I saw it three times in the theater and would have saw it more but didn’t have the time. On the other hand, I have to say that I find it hard to watch at home because it is such a long movie and I never have that much free time. I know it’s only so long and I’ve watched Kingdom of Heaven Director’s Cut several times but the intermission in that presentation does allow for multiple sittings. The pacing of Kong does seem to drag from time to time, but I loved every frame of it and wouldn’t trade one frame for all the money in the world. (Actually, for all the money in the world I might not be able to tell that Kong lost a frame.)

    While we’re on that subject, I would appreciate feedback on my breakdown of King Kong. It is the bottom half of the post and you can comment without having to sign up.

    Michael and Felix both have a point when it comes to where the money is spent versus how much money is spent at the movies.

    People around my neighborhood can barely afford cable, how can we be asked to buy all of this s**t?
    Great point man. There have been a lot of advances in film technologies (e. x. visual effects for one) the past several years, but I think that just like with computers there has to be a point where the market can catch up with the innovation. Let me explain.

    With the Dot Com boom came Windows 95, Windows 98, all manner of Linux distributions and more hardware leaps then any other time period in all of computer history. However, after the Dot Com bubble went bust hardware kept plugging a log for a bit but then the innovation slowed down for a bit to give consumers a breather before going wild again.

    The same needs to happen with film. Instead of trying to put all of the new tricks into every movie let the audience breath a little. Don’t forget that simple is best with film. Give us the consumers of your art a bit to catch our breath so to speak before you get all innovative on us again. People as a whole are resistant to change; let us get used to and caught up to what’s already out there before throwing even more esoteric ideas out there.

    I’m doubtful…a miss.
    I’ve never read the comics but I get the point about the visuals. What I’m wondering is this: were the emotions just a screwed up in the comics? Were (most) all of the villains actual good people that had gone astray that only fought Spiderman to concede to him and give us a morel lesson before ending the episode? Who else thought that Sandman reminded them too much of Doc Oc’s “I’m not a bad guy, I’m just a good guy that bad things happened to”?

    Note to Rami: This is film, not a comic. You are not Robert Rodriguez and this is not Sin City. You have to adapt this story, not give us frame by frame, line by line what is in the comics. If you can’t write a strong script, hire someone who can. All three of your installments sucked a*s.

  6. Felix Vasquez Jr. says:

    Isn’t always the case that the artist is always poor and has little to work with? This is what makes independent film so great. When you have nothing and problem solve to create “something” (i.e. the vision in your head) it’s ultimately better then when you start out with having all the tools and resources you need at your feet.

    That having been said there are many people who have started small, matured and put those additional resources to good use, but they are few and far between; that is why we call them professionals and masters of their craft.

    You make a great point there, I have to admit.

    Too many people are wrapped up with keeping up with consumerism these days and really dont have a mind of their own.

    A friend of mine keeps up with the newest cell phones, and can barely pay his rent, and I know some folks who have spent lots of money on affording this tech, and then can barely get by during the week.

    I speak as someone who is basically lower working class. People around my neighborhood can barely afford cable, how can we be asked to buy all of this s**t?

    Question: If the Spiderman franchise would have had a much more limited budget, do you think we would have got better film?

    I’m doubtful about that. Spider-Man is a difficult comic to adapt, and it’s proof that some comics can’t be realized for live action. Spider-Man is too much of a complicated hero with odd movements, and for me, Raimi only caught on to the actual Spider-Man in part two. One and three are a miss.

  7. Felix Vasquez Jr. says:

    But therein lies the problem.

    People arent putting down 30-50 for a ticket.

    They’re doing so for food and what have you.

    I personally never buy food from the theaters, but then I barely go to the movies anyway.

  8. $30 – $50 isn’t that bad if you are in the habit of paying for 2 tickets, popcorn and soda from the same bank account. It adds up to a $50 night. I can crack open a can of coke and nuke a bag of corn for less than a dollar at home.

    Psychologically though I think the post and comments prove that putting that same dollar amount down on the film directly would be pretty hard to swallow.

  9. Dave Lawler says:

    About Spiderman :

    Raimi always had limited budgets to work with, and he had to come up with some unusual yet creative ideas to beat his limitations. In Bruce Campbell’s book, he spoke of the creative penny-pinching as well as Raimi’s merciless chopping down of his own material. He disposed of that mentality when he started getting serious money for his movies.

    With his newer movies, his lunatic producers just throw good money after bad. The trilogy has a synthetic look (unintentionally Matrixy ), it looks fake in every frame requiring a visual effect, like, I dare say it, the new King Kong

  10. Professor Tom says:

    I agree with Dave. Widescreen and high definition have made huge leaps of progress in a few short years but it still has a long way to go. Is it just me or does everyone else see the flaws in the TVs when you’re looking at them in the store. Furthermore, HD isn’t standard in itself, just like DVD+ and DVD-.

    Felix: I’m sorry, but I prefer eating over pretending to be rich.
    Isn’t always the case that the artist is always poor and has little to work with? This is what makes independent film so great. When you have nothing and problem solve to create “something” (i.e. the vision in your head) it’s ultimately better then when you start out with having all the tools and resources you need at your feet.

    That having been said there are many people who have started small, matured and put those additional resources to good use, but they are few and far between; that is why we call them professionals and masters of their craft.

    Question: If the Spiderman franchise would have had a much more limited budget, do you think we would have got better film?

  11. Felix Vasquez Jr. says:

    P. Tom: I agree, it’s pretty stupid. I’m not going to pay 30-50 bucks for a movie, when I’m not even going to pay ten for a new movie. It’s not a habit I want to be f****d.

    D. Lawler: I agree about the wide screen. Not everyone has the money for that s**t. I have a big TV, but not a widescreen, plasma, horseshit. I’m sorry, but I prefer eating over pretending to be rich.

    My dad won a Plasma two years ago, it broke and now he can’t get it repaired because they want to charge him 800 bucks. I mean, give me a break.

  12. Dave Lawler says:

    Why the $30-$50 or even $100 price tag? Is this for the “privilege” of viewing brand new releases in our homes, or punishment for the downward spiral of ticket sales since 1993.

    This is also assuming every American home has some kind of an advanced screening facility (plasma, lcd, big screen and a 5.1 surround sound system); yes, my geek friends like to make me envious with their lcd, plasma, and projection technology, but I know people who still have small B&W TVs with transistors.

    Actually, the jury’s still out on all the new big screen technology as far as I’m concerned. A trip to your local Best Buy will reveal the flaws and the deceptive advertising. The advertised screen sizes vary for some reason, different brands seem to have their own standards, the colors are a bit murky, and there’s an unacceptable (for me) amount of “ghosting” that occurs in even the most expensive models. Still better than grainy, scratched-up prints at the movie theater, but not enough to claim and boast of a home theater “experience”.

  13. Professor Tom says:

    This is just horseshit!

    Yes, Spiderman made a lot of money due to inflated ticket sales, but that’s it. Why don’t they make great films on small budgets and let them play a while longer, reducing costs everywhere? This way, people would actually be excited about going to the theater instead of feeling gipped.

    I mean, you’d think for $10 a film the user would hand you a tube of cherry flavor Anal Eaze so the screwing would go a lot easier.


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