Posted on Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009 by David Chen
There’s one thing that this summer has proven: People still love going to the movies. Movie grosses are actually up this year from last year, to $4.25 billion from $4.2 billion last year. And while studio executives are probably pleased with this development, one thing that hasn’t been as encouraging is the DVD market. While DVDs used to account for a huge percentage of a film’s revenue, that percentage already plateaued and is being supplanted by a number of other competing forces. The format itself is under attack, as Video-on-Demand and DVRs continue to take hold in American households.
One of the signs of the times has been the struggle of brick-and-mortar stores to stay competitive. With Netflix and Redbox offering consumers a cheap and easy way to get movies, it’s difficult for companies who are paying massive overhead renting physical space to continue to operate profitably. Last week we reported on how Blockbuster might be closing 960 of its stores, which comprise 20% of its 4,400 outlets. Anecdotally, I’ve seen three separate Hollywood Videos close in my area, which was actually kind of sad, as I used to enjoy browsing through the endless aisles of DVDs/Blu-Rays and chatting with the occasionally knowledgeable staff member. While video rental stores may never entirely go away, we are certainly witnessing an industry in the midst of a sea change, and in 5-10 years, the video rental store landscape will probably look completely different than it does today. Would you be sad if video rental stores vanished?
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It’s a slow news night, so I thought I’d post this report from /Film reader Joshua R about seeing Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in D-Box seats.
For those who don’t know, a few movie theaters have begun installing these motion seats in select theaters. D-Box programs the seats to move in sync with the action during the film presentation. Many people are quickly writing off the seats as a gimmick — something that belongs in a theme park and not a movie theater.
Is it as distracting as it sounds or does it provide a unique viewing experience worth the extra ticket price? Read Josh’s quick review after the jump.
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As IMAX technology has become a more popular filmmaking process over the past few years, we’ve tried to keep up with it as much as we can here at /Film. Just this past week, I wrote about how the Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen IMAX experience compares unfavorably with The Dark Knight from last year. I’ve also urged people to see Watchmen in regular format before you check it out in IMAX. On this week’s episode of The Totally Rad Show, /Film friend Dan Trachtenberg opined that the Transformers IMAX experience rendered the action scenes virtually unwatchable. This raised the question for me: With ticket prices already high as they are, is the IMAX experience really worth it?
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This past week saw the release of Harold Ramis’ Year One, with an all-star cast featuring Michael Cera, Jack Black, David Cross, Paul Rudd, etc. While the film had a few laughs, overall, we thought it was poorly put together and not really worthy of Ramis’ glory days. The script is half-baked, most of the humor is juvenile, and many scenes from the film seem truncated, with probably a lot of material left on the cutting room floor.
One thing that the film constantly mines for laughs is the fact that Jack Black and Michael Cera act very much like fish-out-of-water in the Biblical setting. The interplay between them and the other characters, who behave very much like they are part of the correct time period, helps to generate a lot of the awkward situations (and hopefully, hilarity!). On this week’s episode of The Totally Rad Show, /Film friend Dan Trachtenberg made a comparison to Shanghai Noon, in which Owen Wilson’s cowboy character acts like he’s…Owen Wilson from America, circa the 1990s.
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Last week Sean Penn announced that he would be backing out of the Farrelly Brothers comedy The Three Stooges and another project to deal with family issues. So who will replace Penn as Larry in redo of the famous comedy trio? How about Paul Giamatti?
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In a previous video blog, we discussed the possibilities for the future of the Star Trek film franchise. One thing both Steve and I agreed on was that we’d like to see something completely new and different in the sequel, and not just a remake or reinvention of past storylines or events from the films/tv shows. Screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman haven’t yet started writing the sequel (they will be joined by Damon Lindelof, and have to hand in a draft by year’s end), but that won’t stop them from talking about the possibilities.
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If you’ve been following coverage from last week’s Electronics Entertainment Expo, you’ll know that a bunch of impressive footage debuted there. One of the most anticipated games of recent memory is Heavy Rain, which is being developed for the Playstation 3 by Quantic Dream (screenshot above). Heavy Rain has been in development since 2006 and has been the subject of much hype by its developers, who at one point claimed that the game would successfully cross the uncanny valley.
On this past week’s Totally Rad Show E3 wrap up (which I highly recommend for anyone with even a passing interest in videogames), Jeff Cannata and Dan Trachtenberg were quite complimentary about what they saw of the game, calling it the equivalent of “playing a cinematic experience”:
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News Corp.’s new chief digital officer Jonathan Miller commented at an Internet Week event last night that he believes at least some of the television shows and movies on Hulu will be available only to paid subscribers. While he admits that it isn’t likely to happen tomorrow, he says that “it seems to me that over time that could be a logical thing.”
Ad supported content seems to be the future of the web, so I’m not sure why Hulu would want to go backwards. I’m not sure I’d be willing to pay for Hulu’s current line-up, but I would be willing to pay a monthly subscription fee if they provided an archive of complete seasons for all the shows and a much larger vault of movies (netflix is the one to beat). Under that model, unpaid users could still watch the most recent episodes of television shows in a free ad-supported format. Or may-be offer a monthly subscription fee for those viewers who want to bypass all the commercial breaks (the upgraded experience model). But I just don’t like the concept of paid on demand movie rentals.
Discuss: Would You Pay For a Hulu Subscription? How Much? What For?
During this week’s episode of the Totally Rad Show, Alex Albrecht theorized that one of the many reasons Terminator Salvation didn’t work for him was because he believes that the concept of machines or technology rising up against humanity has been done so many times before, that it is no longer valid (I’ve included an excerpt from the show after the jump).
How can a story work on the same level of the first Terminator film, when the machines and technology are no longer scary. Even in the critically acclaimed Battlestar Galactica television series, the Cylons weren’t even scary (It should be noted that the show worked on many other dramatic levels, but it never tried to be a thriller).
Or could it be that we’ve reached a place where both the animatronic and computer generated machines no longer look real? And maybe the same could be said about technology. We now live in a technology-infused world, and the evil tech in films like Eagle Eye just ring false.
Terminator Salvation aside, lets have a discussion. In this post-Matrix world, is the story of humans having to defend themselves against scary machines and evil technology a thing of the past?
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