Sunday, January 01, 2006
Dawn of a New Era: Smaller But Immediate
When I was growing up, there were two words marketing experts were sure would attract new customers: bigger and better! But these days, those words don't hold the luster they once did. As 2005 proved, and 2006 is poised to confirm, bigger and better is not necessarily what the new generation of movie lovers want. No wonder the industry was shaking nervously at the fact that King Kong (which many unfairly anointed the all-time boxoffice champ before it even opened!) is not doing as well as they hoped. If Kong can't bring audiences in, where is the motion picture business headed? Then it occurred to me. If audiences could watch King Kong (which director Peter Jackson, obvious created as a labor of love for the BIG screen) on a Video iPod, they would. If they didn't have to drive to a theater and wait on line and pay $10.75 for a ticket, and mortgage their home for some popcorn and soda, but instead download it onto a one-inch screen, they WOULD!! Now, that concept makes me quite sad. King Kong or Gone with the Wind or Titanic or Star Wars or Doctor Zhivago or Reds or Gandhi were never meant to be seen on a one-inch screen. Still, if audiences could have done this, they would have done this. Show business executives are finally admitting publicly that the era of telling viewers when and how they can watch motion picture is over. Variety reports that "the challenges facing film and TV companies in 2006 are old ones: how to grapple with years of shrinking box office admissions and splintering TV ratings; how to capture a mass audience that's fragmenting into millions of niches." I agree. TiVo ended television viewing as we know it. Portable DVD players, Video iPods, and other mobile viewing devices may now end movie watching as we once knew it. For the new generation, it's all about small and immediate. New bytes instead of news. Music videos. iPods. Video games. Cameras on cell phones! Tiny is all they have known. The Big Screen holds little allure any more. And while it laments this fact, the industry doesn't really seem to care. Little to nothing is being done to preserve the moviegoing experience. Business arrangements make it impossible for theaters to survive. Films, (especially the event films Hollywood puts all its money on) are nothing more than commercials for other related products and eventual DVD sales. Even King Kong was used to help sell the NY State Lottery! Some would say there's no turning back. Others would cry that we've gone too far. Still others may argue we have in fact come full circle. After all, didn't the Nickelodeons of yesteryear give audiences small images for a small price? Could the future of the motion picture business be buried in its past? How long before theaters become museums?