I’m beginning to wonder if my children will ever experience movie theatres the way I did. I wonder if they’ll pay two times the price of a ticket for two buckets of sugar and a back-row-middle seat at that summer’s biggest blockbuster. I wonder if they’ll feel the gooey theatre floor, hear the whispering after each trailer and see the movie the way it was mean to be seen – on the big screen. I’m not entirely sure why I care so much about movies and going to the theatre, but I do. When the lights dim and you’re only plan for the next two hours is to watch what’s about to be presented to you on a screen 80 times your size, something special is going on.
I’m also beginning to wonder how my children will experience the internet. Will Facebook still exist? Will tweets still be relevant? Will I still use Google when I forget how to make make spicy enchiladas? I can’t and don’t know.
As the internet grows and online viewing becomes more prevalent, filmmakers will need to adapt. Recently, Steven Spielberg predicted that going to see a movie will be more like going to a play – you’ll dress up, go with friends, drink alcohol, and make it more of a “night out”. With Galaxy Cinemas recently introducing new “VIP” theatres, with reserved luxurious seating, a private licensed lounge and in-seat food and beverage, things are beginning to move in that direction. For the sake of my predictions, let’s say this does happen and Mr. Spielberg is correct. What if ten years from now movie tickets are a pop?
Something big will need to happen in the online world. People are already opting out of going to the theatre and instead watching movies via illegal torrent, Netflix, Hulu, or YouTube, and I don’t blame them. People now have home theatres, laptops, iPhones and larger computer monitors. Content is at each one of our fingertips. With TV shows like House of Cards and Arrested Development being produced by Netflix, it’s only a matter of time before movies start going in that direction. Larger studio systems are still working and will continue to exist as long as people are still going to theatres, and in this case, paying for a ticket.
What if I don’t want to pay to see a movie?
This is where things get interesting. Right now, at the top of Canada’s iTunes movie chart is “Oblivion”, priced at .99. I don’t know about you, but is a little ridiculous for a cloud-based digital copy of a movie requiring no physical elements. What if this price was moved down to .99? I’d pay five bucks for a digital copy of that movie in a heartbeat. As HD televisions get larger and cheaper, our living rooms and basements are beginning to turn into mini-theatres, and online stores like Netflix and iTunes are becoming mini-studios. Let’s take for example a movie like “Celeste and Jesse Forever” released this year by Sony Pictures Classics in select theatres. What if this smaller-budget indie film was released online in a digital store for .99 at the same time it was released in select theatres? When this movie came out, it wasn’t playing in my city and was nowhere to be found on the web, so I had to wait until it was released on DVD to actually see it. I would’ve gladly paid .99 to watch that movie at home while it was being played in theatres, and I think many other people would too. With two big actors such as Andy Samberg and Rashida Jones, there’s no reason this movie couldn’t make a good amount of money online and in select theatres if marketed correctly.
This business model would also be opening lanes for small-budget filmmakers looking for a direct to consumer online release. It opens lanes for short films to be truly relevant, and opens many doors of opportunity for budding filmmakers.
Nobody can predict the future, meaning my predictions are either slightly crazy or completely crazy, meaning I’m wrong either way. The film industry is a large ship to steer and has many moving parts, so major change might take awhile. In the over 100 years the film industry has existed, the internet has only been around for roughly the last 15. Give it another 15 years to figure out the web and we’ll have richer studio executives, more working actors and filmmakers, more movies and happier customers.