Friday, September 19, 2008

Scotty, beam me the new Cannes title!

A few years ago, Canadian multiplexes started showing operas beamed live from the Met. I have no idea what the attendance figures are like for these opera screenings but I have seen people easily plunk down more than $40 for two tickets. I have often thought if they can do this for opera, then why not for film festival flicks? Why can't we have the Cannes Film festival beam its screenings to movie theaters around the world allowing thousands of film fans to enjoy the feature film screenings?

Beaming films -- Technical aspect

I remember seeing an article last year about Hollywood wanting to beam films to cinemas directly. I can't remember the exact article I read, but I found this one. Also, I heard the same noise in Bollywood as well about beaming films to theaters around India.

When I first heard that, I thought that would be great. But then could this idea not be taken one step further and people could actually watch beamed movies directly at home, sort of like the satellite model? It seems that even this idea exists.

While both the above methods would improve the delivery methods of movies, I still think the content of the films shown would still be a problem because these methods would still be geared towards Hollywood films. I think back to May 2007 as an issue. Most multiplexes across Canada were only showing three films -- Spider Man 3, Pirates 3 & Shrek 3. I am pretty sure almost all the shows were sold out. Such a beamed delivery method might ensure that more screenings of Spider Man 3 could be booked as opposed to Pirates.. because there might be more demand of good old Spidey in a certain location. But what about those Cannes titles that demand to be seen? Would they get beamed up? Probably not.

Beam me something I want

A lot of has been debated in print over the last year about the relevance of film critics. But for me, the question of film distribution is far more important -- how can we distribute better film content to markets around the world in a faster manner? As it stands, after films premier at Cannes, a select number end up making the rounds around film festivals for more than a year. And maybe after 15 months or so, an even smaller selection of titles open in North America, with a DVD release taking anywhere from 18 - 24 months. This filtering process does not ensure that every single Cannes Competition title would ever get distribution.

Who do I trust more? A Cannes film programmer or a North American distributor?

Easy answer. The Cannes Film Programmer. Now that does not mean that I agree with every single selection choice that the Cannes film programmers make. But in a way, I am glad that they have worked hard to select a few titles to showcase. Still I rather see all the Cannes competition films and be able to judge their merit for myself.

And I do believe that if more international films are easily available around North America, the value of critics would go up. Critics would not have to waste time debating why people must not go see the new popcorn flick and could spend more time talking about that relevant title from [insert country of choice] that is also playing at the local multiplex.

Open the taps, please!!

As much as I want Cannes film titles to be beamed up, I don't think the film industry would ever allow it. Too much has been invested in the current distribution model, a model which I don't think works as well as it should. Sure, more and more foreign films are washing up on the shores of North America but they are still going through a small filter. But why we can't we fully open the taps and allow North American markets to be flooded freely with international films?

But will it make money?

I can already see the first argument against opening up the cinematic taps. Since film production and distribution is a serious business, driven by profit margins, will those beamed up Cannes title make money? I do not know. But are there more people willing to spend $20 to watch an opera in a theater than wanting to spend $10 on an international film? Once again, I don't have numbers to prove any one side but I like to think that international films would hold their own.

No comments: