Academic journal article West Virginia University Philological Papers

The Instantaneous Worldwide Release: Coming Soon to Everyone, Everywhere

Academic journal article West Virginia University Philological Papers

The Instantaneous Worldwide Release: Coming Soon to Everyone, Everywhere

Article excerpt

The film industry has been characterized by challenge and change throughout its history. From the patent trust as the industry was first developing through the advent of sound, the challenge of television, and the emergence of home video, the industry has responded and adapted. However, today the industry faces more technological changes than at any point in its history, changes occurring more rapidly than those the industry has faced in its past.

While the changes are very apparent to consumers on the creative front through the new images computer applications are enabling filmmakers to put on the screen, the changes that will most affect the industry's future are economic in nature. Specifically, these are changes in the distribution and marketing models the industry has followed for decades. There has been considerable coverage of these changes recently in the industry and business publications widely read by executives and content producers; however, scholarly research continues to focus on applying standardized marketing and economic models to the existing distribution structure. This paper examines technological innovations that will permit the industry to modify the delivery methods it uses to get its products to the consumers. As these new delivery systems become commonplace, it is hoped that their acceptance along with such introductory analyses as this paper will prompt more scholarly attention to the evolving role of science and technology in motion picture distribution methods.

To comprehend fully the ramifications posed by the new technologies, an understanding of the life cycle of a feature film is necessary. A model useful in illustrating this concept is the motion picture value chain.' The first stage in the chain is the development stage in which an idea or script is pitched to a studio, producer, or network either as a stand-alone project or as a package with stars and a director attached to the script. The goal of the development process is to obtain a step deal which will provide financing for the development and writing of a shooting script over a series of four steps or phases from idea to story to draft script to shooting script. Once a studio or broadcast network agrees to commit a film to production, that script or project is said to have received a "greenlight" from the studio or network with production funds now made available. The project then enters preproduction, which is the planning stage that continues until the beginning of principal photography. The production stage includes all activities of principal photography while the postproduction stage includes the addition of elements such as music and sound effects as well as editing to produce the final film negative consumers will see in theaters. The film then enters the final stages of the value chain, which are distribution and exhibition. While a studio's marketing department becomes involved once a film receives a "greenlight" in development, the marketing function takes precedence throughout the film's distribution and exhibition stages.

The same major Hollywood studios have dominated the film industry for the past seventy years:

930:            2001: 
Paramount        Paramount (Viacom) 
Warner Brothers  Warner Brothers (AOL Time Warn 
Fox              Fox (News Corporation) 
Universal        Universal (Vivendi) 
Columbia         Columbia (Sony) 
MGM              MGM-United Artists 
United Artists   Disney 

The only substantial differences in the major studios in 1930 and the major studios in 2001 are that RKO ceased distributing films in the late 1950s, Disney began distributing its own product after having relied upon RKO and United Artists at different points in its history, and MGM acquired United Artists. However, while the list from 2001 is very similar to the list from 1930, it is important to note that most of the studios today are subsidiaries of much larger media conglomerates (identified in parentheses). …

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