MovieBob - Intermission
The Future of Movies (Maybe)

Bob Chipman | 2 Aug 2013 12:00
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Movie going has been in a state of constant technological upheaval from the moment it was invented. Sound, color, widescreen, 3D, smell-o-vision, um... 3D again but better this time I guess. The list of innovations that have reshaped the cinematic experience goes on and on. What will the future bring? Well, surely there are expert futurists or seasoned industry veterans you could turn to for that answer, but wouldn't it be just as good to hear the educated guesses of an internet movie critic?


This is the easiest call in the world to make, which is why I'm leading with it. For as long as there have been movie theaters, the entire business has been built around (and limited by) having to move physical prints from theater to theater. It's expensive, it's time-consuming and most of the time it's the main reason why you can't see what you want when you want to.

But it's not the way things are going to stay.

Right now, most major theaters are well into a conversion from traditional film projectors to digital versions, which use high-def digital video files rather than film reels. The majority of films are still shipped to theaters, now in the form of discs or drives containing the digital files, but technological advancements will very soon make it both possible and affordable for these files to be streamed directly from their studios and/or distributors directly to theaters. Aside from being (theoretically) faster and cheaper, this will very likely change the landscape of film distribution in profound ways.

Most immediately, it would be possible for a studio or filmmaker to make changes to an already-released film almost on the fly. Imagine a world where "movie mistakes" like incorrect clocks, makeup-continuity flubs, an out of place prop, visible boom-mics, etc are no longer part of a film's permanent record; since mistakes caught on the first day of release could hypothetically be learned of on the first day of release and then "patched" with quick FX work (and a new upload of the source-file) in time for the first showing of the second day.

It could also lead to a rebirth of the concept of "revival" screenings - the showing of older movies on the big screen. We're already seeing some of this back in the multiplex world with 3D re-releases of major classics ("The Wizard of Oz" is getting one later this year) but when you're streaming rather than shipping the field becomes much broader. In theory, providing that studios do the smart thing and make theater-ready digital back catalogues of their films available to theater operators, a theater owner could respond to specific opportunities with specific films. Is the sequel to a major hit opening on Friday? Might be a good idea to dial up the original and run it during the week. Is it Christmastime? Perhaps your customers would like to see "It's A Wonderful Life" on the big screen.

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