Monday, May 5, 2014

DreamWorks' CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg Offers Ridiculous Vision Of Future Film Distribution

DreamWorks' CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg has suggested a new way to release movies that involves making them available for download/digital rental 3 weeks after release in theaters. And while this isn't necessarily a bad idea, the unusual part of his plan involves the pricing scheme that would vary depending on the size of the screen you wanted to watch the movie on.
“These movies will be available everywhere ubiquitously and you will pay for the size. A movie screen will be $15. A 75-inch TV will be $4.00. A smartphone will be $1.99. That enterprise that will exist throughout the world, when that happens, and it will happen, it will reinvent the enterprise of movies.”
This "vision," to me, suggests Katzenberg is out of touch with realty.  William Nelson Jr. writing for Android Authority brought up some good questions for Dreamworks' CEO,
"...how exactly would each device be identified? Wouldn’t it be easy to screen spoof? Are we really trying to include the failure of DRM into our lives even more? Would I not be able to simply hook my phone into my TV with a cable cord? Does anyone see Apple or Google putting in such a radical system? Lastly, how would this increase sales?"
He seems to be ignoring these issues, but also the simple fact that currently films in theaters cost less than $15, and if you go to a matinee it's even cheaper. Why would it suddenly cost more, and is that the price for a 3D version of the film or the regular, and if it's the regular 2D film, what's the cost of the 3D version?

Why make the process of simply owning or renting a film more convoluted?  If I bought the film for my TV, would I be able to watch it on my phone or tablet later? And if I bought a film for my phone what's to stop me from streaming it on my TV through Chromecast or by plugging in a cord?

Right now services like Google Play do offer a few films that are out in theaters but perhaps not in wide release, which allows them to gain more exposure and increase sales by allowing them to reach people who would otherwise not be able to see them.

To me this is the future of film releases.  Better than Katzenberg's solution would be to put the films in theaters for their usual length then after 2-3 weeks or so make them available through steaming services like Google Play, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Vudu, etc... For $6.99 (just an example/the current price for Google Play's films still in theaters) you could essentially rent a film that's out in theaters and if you like it enough you could go watch it again in the big screen, or vice-versa.

Also I'm not one to go to the theater by myself but I do want to be able to watch movies when they first come out. If I can't find someone who has the time to go with me I miss out until it comes to DVD/bluray/streaming services months later.  This would solve the problem for me, and presumably a lot of people.

The downsides:
It would likely hurt theaters because you'll have those who want to wait the 3 weeks until they can watch in the convenience of their home. But there will also likely be enough who prefer the theater experience and seeing films the week they come out. 

This is where the revolution of film distribution comes in.  If theaters are hurt by the digital age and my proposed new release schedule then we would see a trend toward digital release instead of theater release.  It's possible that's where the industry is headed.  Theater buildings may sadly die out over time, but the film industry does not have to suffer because of it.

This possible solution would likely also accelerate the process of pirating a film, but it seems a problem that won't go away for the time being. Smarter people than me will have to come up with a way to break that problem.  I admit this solution is a double edged sword that could still pose problems for the film industry. They would continue to make money in this way, but the ever present threat remains pirated copies of their films.