Business Week had a recent article on the benefits of Digital Projection in cinemas (movie theatres for you illustrious Americans) – at a time when the industry is whining about falling revenues. At the same time Ad revenues are dropping for TV. Meanwhile Google cruises past the $300 share price, launches Google Video and sees it’s ad revenues growing. And Sony releases the $2K, HDR-HC1 High Definition (HDV) "prosumer" camera.
How was it that REM put it? Oh, yah – "It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine."
What does it all mean? I’ve found my "Chapeau de Prognostication" and I’ll share my thoughts with you.
Digital delivery is coming to theatres as soon as they can work out who ends up paying for it – the cinema owners or the studios. It’s better delivery, with consistent quality and the distribution is also cheaper (a hard-drive rather than film reels). However, this isn’t going to stop the slide of the Motion Picture Industry’s revenues. With the falling price of HDTV sets (projection, LCD, Plasma et al) and surround sound systems, consumers are more likely to wait for the DVD – than spend over $30 per couple for a night at the Fliks. And wait until the HD playing DVD formats are available – although most consumers are already knocked out by the quality of a 16 x 9 Standard Definition signal played back on an HDTV box.
As well, Hollyweird has a hard time tuning into the tastes of the average movie viewer. And the wired nature of our society means turkeys get killed quickly by nanosecond word of mouth. (See Gigli – well, actually, don’t see it, but consider it’s rapid demise.) They can’t even recoup a fraction of their losses on bad films as they once could.
TV Ad revenues are an acknowledgement of the fewer hours being spent in front of the "Cool Fire" by the average Nord Americano. Eyeballs equal revenue – and the eyeballs just aren’t there – and when they are, they TiVo the content and skip the ads.
And what of Google Video? Well, Google is building a model of hyperlinked, searchable video that will have a revenue stream for producers – at low cost for consumers. The internet model of pull is superceding the broadcast and motion picture model of push. We will decide what we want to see from a huge selection of content.
And a lot of that content will be created with tools like the HDR-HC1 at a cost (in comparison with Hollywood) approaching zero. In fact, I would suggest that the podcasting model that Apple has just latched on to in iTunes 4.9, will become the model for Moving Picture content. (And note that Steve Jobs is no longer denying video iPods – he’s now saying "no comment.") And yes, I realize that video delivery poses huge bandwidth issues – but so what – BitTorrent, better compression and bigger pipes will solve all that. Check out Akimbo as an early example.
Hang on to your hats – it’s going to be a very interesting ride!
UPDATE: Read the Gizmodo riff on Movie Theatres.