Commenting on the Critics with Simon Columb…
Amy Kaufman and Ben Fritz write about the success of indie release Bacholorette for The LA Times:
“Struggling to compete with big-budget movies at the box office, indie films are increasingly finding a lucrative niche in one of Hollywood’s fastest-growing markets: video on demand. The number of films released in theaters and video on demand at the same time nearly doubled from 2009 to 2011 and is projected to jump about 30% this year, to 68.“
Read the full article here.
This current era in filmmaking truly is unprecedented. The nature of distribution and access to filmmaking itself has changed dramatically as technology has spread into everyone’s houses, phones and Apple products. The time of a ‘family film’ on a Sunday night ‘as a treat’ has well passed. You don’t need to wait. Streaming packages on Netflix and LoveFilm mean that a minimal price gains unlimited downloads.
Cinema releases, as we know from recent news articles, are now focusing on films which already have garnered an established audience. For every flop like John Carter and Battleship, there is success in Transformers, Avengers and Twilight. At the box-office, smaller indie films struggle to compete for audiences who will only watch something they already know about.
Personally, I place great value in my use of time. I have limited time to watch films as my current profession doesn’t give me flexible time to watch every film that crosses my mind. I doubt many cinemagoers have such freedom either. A cinema release needs to service a few criteria before I purchase a ticket: Does it seem to be garnering conversation amongst film critics and fans (e.g. Looper, which everyone is praising so I shall seek it out…)? Do I have something emotionally invested in the franchise (where will they go with The Bourne Legacy?)? Is there something I can learn from the screening (Oliver Stone’s Savages, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc at the BFI)? The more of these boxes it ticks, the more likely I will watch the film. I’m sure everyone has a similar process when deciding to visit the cinema.
This means that I will watch many more films at home than at the cinema and, by the same token, the same rules apply. Last night we scanned through the LoveFilm catalogue and selected Lethal Weapon, something to teach me about the Mel Gibson craze of the eighties and the Richard Donner style of filmmaking. Lars Von Triers Melancholia was on offer too. It is not a huge leap to consider that, if ever enough critical acclaim and word–of-mouth managed to speak about Bacholorette (the film The LA Times story discusses), then I would happily watch that film rather than venturing to the cinema.
In London, cinema ticket prices seem to rise exponentially and even film festivals are not averse to raising the prices to make a tidy profit. The cost of watching three films, with my fiancé, at the London Film Festival came to a total of £90. And that doesn’t even count a £19 ticket to watch a re-mastered copy of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Manxman. To spend over £100 to watch exceptionally few (on the grand scheme of things) films at a festival strikes me as odd – you would have to have quite a strong interest in cinema to shell out that much for films which very few people have even seen.
To make things worse, I constantly find myself at a dilemma when purchasing films on DVD and Blu-ray too, as everyone seems to happily expect them to become obsolete when – I am told – in the future, we will watch everything on download. It seems that now, the most inexpensive way to watch a film is Video On Demand and why not? I have heard huge positive buzz about Joseph Kahn’s Detention and the collage horror film V/H/S, and – living in London – I haven’t heard of any cinema releases. The LA Times mentioned how Margin Call, a film nominated for Best Screenplay at the Academy Awards, was released On Demand and in cinemas at the same time! If such good films are available for such little expense, in the comfort of your own home, it is any wonder cinema is losing ticket sales? If you are devaluing the cinema-experience with cheap “blockbusters” and kid’s films, whilst giving credible indie films releases on a limited platform, of course we will argue how cinema is getting worse, because the On Demand services seem to be picking up the gems that the studios have left behind.