Luke: To have not noticed the changes in the movie industry lately, you’d have to be completely removed from the world. The largest rental chain, Blockbuster, has filed for bankruptcy and closed a significant portion of its stores. Regional chains have followed suit in the downsizing or closing, leaving local rental stores to either collapse completely or survive due to the lack of competition and reliance on the traditional markets that haven’t succumbed to Netflix or Redbox.
Both of these alternatives, in addition with digital downloads, pirating and other forms of new media sharing, certainly come with their issues of pricing, legality (how many computers can share a Netflix account) or lack of variation in distribution, but their benefits can’t go unnoticed.
Now more so than ever, movies are reaching further limits. People can download, rent and take their movies to go on their computers or on their iPods and iPads. Using Internet markets like Amazon or iTunes, a trip to town is not needed. At any CVS or Wal-Mart, audiences have access to rent foreign films that couldn’t show at their local cinema. Easier access to harder to find films; however, seem to make way to more popular, in demand films like The Proposal and This Is It.
In a way the accessibility is a fascinating, new and exciting tool at hand. When abroad, Netflix wouldn’t allow me to download 300 after visiting Sparta — the service is not available yet in Greece — but iTunes allowed me to rent, download and sync the video to my iPod for watching on the go. Since, several films have accompanied my travels, making the ten minutes waiting in line at the train station here, forty minutes on a plane here go by much more enjoyably. Often my biggest complaint in life is not having enough time to watch all the films I desire.
Greater access has been glory. Netflix has spared me countless bus trips to the local video store just hoping they will have the movie I am looking for. Redbox has saved me dollar upon dollar for silly, fun films I watch with my family (or might not watch if we don’t get to it) but wouldn’t dare risk spending $5 on at Blockbuster.
The negatives are apparent, at least to those who see beyond the benefits to themselves. With the largest movie retailer in North America failing, and more following, it is impossible to track the full and part time jobs lost. Without a movie box description, video store trailers and ads, stumbling across a good foreign or indie movie usually takes back burner to the highlighted, big studio hits like Tron: Legacy.
The future only brings about more uncertainties to the once fairly stable industry — at least it has not suffered the wrath of the internet the way the music industry did, instead finding a way to coexist and profit — especially with Facebook’s Warner Bros. deal and Netflix’s price increase. Now that we can take movies anywhere, it will be interesting to see where we will take movies.
Matt: There’s no doubt that Netflix changed the movie rental business. I would even go so far as to call them the Napster of the movie rental business. Though their business models are vastly different (Netflix started out charging), the scope of the change they brought to this industry is astonishing. Coupled with technology like 3G and the evolution of the smartphone, media consumers have developed a “watch it anywhere” mentality which has left companies like Blockbuster in the dust.
In my opinion, smartphones will always be better for the latest YouTube video than they will be for enjoying a film (David Lynch agrees). I would never feel comfortable reviewing a movie I only watched on an iPod Touch precisely because I wouldn’t consider myself to have actually watched it. Though the screens are becoming higher and higher resolution, the image and experience that we can have on a home theater system or, even better, the actual theater is unparalleled.
Presumably if you’re watching the movie on a portable device, you yourself are on the move. Sure, 300 may be able to be digested like that, (especially if you’ve seen it before but that’s a horse of a different color) but watching a film like There Will Be Blood or 2001: A Space Odyssey on a portable device in 20 minute increments doesn’t really do justice to their complicated camera movements, gorgeous cinematography, or deliberate pacing. They were made to be seen in a single sitting. To me, a smart phone is something you should watch internet videos on while you’re waiting in the theater for the real movie to start.