Green Cars, Ugly Stepchildren and DVDs21 Jun, 2005 By: Holly J. Wagner
A couple of people have taken me to task about the super-release jag I've been on, and that's fine. It's an idea we all need to talk more about: What really prevents releasing films on the same day to all venues?
I suggested studios give it a try, but they will never take the risk with a tentpole title, partly for political reasons. Change to the window system would force changes in the studio hierarchy — the kind of changes that got Warren Lieberfarb fired. Because of that, I expect studios will only commit lousy movies — so far the fare with the shortest windows — to any such experiment.
Industry and politics have plenty of examples.
Why hasn't a woman ever been elected to the White House? Because back in 1984, when they knew they were going to lose the election anyway, the Democrats put Geraldine Ferraro up as Walter Mondale's running mate. They lost the election, not because of Ferraro, but more because Mondale looked old from the start of the campaign — something the Dems knew. But afterward, they could just shake their heads ruefully and say, “The country just isn't ready for a woman vice president.”
Automakers are another example. Why don't more people have alternative-fuel vehicles? For decades, American car makers have said we don't want them. Is that really true? Have you looked at the “green” cars? They're all butt-ugly. So when people don't buy them, carmakers can tell legislators “nobody wants alternative fuel cars.”
Even one studio president's comment about super-release supports the idea. He pointed to the only super-release example in the marketplace: Noel — released last November simultaneously in a few theaters, on cable and on Flexplay's expiring disc — was a washout. But the title got little advertising and was only available on expiring disc on Amazon.com. I'd like to see how well the best of films does on DVD when Amazon is the only channel selling it.
Studios will continue to self-fulfill their prophecies. When they do experiment, it will be with a movie like Gigli, or the major studio record holder for short windows, Surviving Christmas. It's really not surprising that consumers who didn't want to see it in the theater weren't really interested in buying those movies on disc, either.