Wednesday, November 4, 2009

60 Minutes and the MPAA: Part VI - What now?

Along with passing along the $6 billion/year figure, Steven Soderbergh tells 60 Minutes that, thanks to piracy, movies that got made in the past could not be made today. He cites The Matrix as an example.
"The chances of a movie, for instance, like 'The Matrix' being made shrinks. Here's a guy, here's a movie, two guys, they've made a small independent film. Warner Brothers gives them $75 million to make this script that nobody can understand, right?" Soderbergh said. "Wouldn't happen today."
Now, I'm not going to claim I know anywhere near what Steven Soderbergh knows about getting movies made. I will go so far as to claim I know next to nothing. And yet, looking at the Yahoo! box office grosses, I can't say I see anything amiss.

Clearly all kinds of movies are still getting made, including some pretty expensive-looking ones. A lot of them stick pretty close to the usual formulas, but that's always been true. Movies by unknowns? I wouldn't know, but I'm quite sure that intersting movies by intersting people with interesting viewpoints are still getting made.

But what about the future? The movie studios are understandably worried, particularly in light of what their brethren in the music business have been going through. But every industry is unique. Movies are not the same as songs and albums. Nobody goes to a "music theater" to listen to pre-recorded music.

Making a movie, even a cheap movie, carries a lot more overhead that recording a song, and songs are easier to market. At least one songwriter has recorded a song a week for a year at a stretch, and at least one of them was pretty good. Plenty of small bands self-produce and self-distribute, and a lot of them are pretty good. By comparison very few feature films are made without the involvement of some flavor of existing studio. There's plenty of self-produced stuff on YouTube, but much less of it is pretty good and most of it goes unseen or nearly unseen anyway.

In short, the economics are different and hey, people still make money selling books, to my continual puzzlement. So my guess is that the movie industry is going to be just fine, particularly if it stops trying to boil the ocean and embraces online distribution.

I certainly hope so, anyway. As much as I've questioned the MPAA's rhetoric and logic, I wholeheartedly agree with them on some basics: Movies are cool, and people who make them should be able to get paid for their work.

P.S. While chasing down the link above on YouTube, I ran across two previous posts on paying for movies, which might be relevant.

1 comment:

David Hull said...

Not to self: movies and theaters are both still around, and streaming services are producing plenty of original content. Piracy is still around too.