Theater attendance is down. The cost of digital projection is down. DVD sales drive the profits in the motion picture industry while pirates provide a flow of cheap content via alternative channels, it’s no wonder that distribution is getting turned on it’s head and will eventually slip out of the hands of the studios and big theater chains.
Consider this data point: on Jan. 27, the Steven Soderbergh’s film “Bubble” will be released at the same time in theaters, on cable television and DVD. Get it to the audience before the pirates do. Seems like a more effective strategy than trying to stop the pirates, which is equivalent to getting rid of all of the cockaroaches in New York city. It’s simply impossible to get rid of them and do no hard to the other living things. So distribution adapts. I’m thinking about this because I just read Rob Walker’s “Consumed” column about Left Behind: World at War, in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine.
This is the third movie adaptation of the apocalyptic novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins that opened in October on 3,200 screens, but not in theaters, instead, the film opened mostly in churches. Much in the same way MoveOn.org arranged house parties for OutFoxed, Cloud Ten Pictures, the producer of the series, has tapped into a network churches that will probably become an alternative theater system. So maybe if you count things like this, theatrical attendance is not really down, it’s just that the concept of theatrical exhibition is changing.