On-Demand Culture: Digital Delivery and the Future of Movies

On-Demand Culture: Digital Delivery and the Future of Movies

On-Demand Culture: Digital Delivery and the Future of Movies

On-Demand Culture: Digital Delivery and the Future of Movies


The movie industry is changing rapidly, due in part to the adoption of digital technologies. Distributors now send films to theaters electronically. Consumers can purchase or rent movies instantly online and then watch them on their high-definition televisions, their laptops, or even their cell phones. Meanwhile, social media technologies allow independent filmmakers to raise money and sell their movies directly to the public. All of these changes contribute to an "on-demand culture," a shift that is radically altering film culture and contributing to a much more personalized viewing experience.

Chuck Tryon offers a compelling introduction to a world in which movies have become digital files. He navigates the complexities of digital delivery to show how new modes of access--online streaming services like YouTube or Netflix, digital downloads at iTunes, the popular Redbox DVD kiosks in grocery stores, and movie theaters offering digital projection of such 3-D movies as Avatar--are redefining how audiences obtain and consume motion picture entertainment. Tryon also tracks the reinvention of independent movies and film festivals by enterprising artists who have built their own fundraising and distribution models online.

Unique in its focus on the effects of digital technologies on movie distribution, On-Demand Culture offers a corrective to address the rapid changes in the film industry now that movies are available at the click of a button.


In May 2012, comedian Mark Malkoff embarked on an unusual challenge when he sought to watch as many Netflix streaming movies as possible over the course of a single month. Reasoning that he wanted to get the best value possible for his $7.99 per month subscription, Malkoff managed to watch 252 movies— approximately eight per day— bringing his cost per film to an impressively low three cents per day. Malkoff’s well-publicized stunt, which was happily embraced by Netflix, served as unofficial advertising for the company, especially when Malkoff touted the wide selection of movie titles. In interviews, Malkoff emphasized that the existing catalog of streaming movies could last several lifetimes and added that the service’s recommendation algorithms typically suggested titles that fit his tastes. Malkoff’s experiment was also deeply connected to the social media tools that have shaped movie culture, with Malkoff actively promoting his project on Twitter and Facebook, where he would also solicit recommendations from fans and followers. Finally, Malkoff demonstrated that he could watch Netflix titles on a variety of devices and in multiple locations, at one point watching St. Elmo’s Fire (1985) on his iPhone while actor Andrew McCarthy pulled him along in a wagon through Central Park. Although Malkoff’s performance pushed the possibilities of digital delivery to their logical extreme, it illustrated many of the key questions facing both producers and consumers of media content.

This book addresses the continued changes that are taking place within the realm of media distribution and consumption, especially as we seek to make sense of an emerging “on-demand culture,” one that provides viewers new forms of immediate access to movies and television shows, even while introducing a . . .

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