Virtual Cinemateque

Here’s what my world looks like now:

I’ve got sattelite radio playing in my office–over my direct-tv hooked-up fifty-inch screen. (The system is used primarily for radio listening. I currently watch two or three movies a week and perhaps an hour of 24 hour news rant a day. But the radio is on pretty much the rest of the time.)

There are three movies currently in theaters that I would like to see. But since I work out of my home-office (and my day therefore is necessarily focused on what I have to get done professionally) the idea of going out and paying to park and walking around a mall and sitting through trailers I’ve already seen or didn’t want to see to begin with doesn’t sound like time well spent. (One of the misconceptions about working “for yourself” is that you get to do whatever you want with your time. The truth is I do much less outside of my work than people with nice normal out of the house type jobs do.)

And: the movies that I want to see are not ‘event’ movies. So, yes, I admit it: without an audience waiting to enjoy the movie with me the idea of adding two hours travel/parking/trailer/getting home time to the two hour running time of the film isn’t attractive.

Instead I spent one hour on youtube and saw: Oscar Petersen at Montreaux in 1980, Sarah Vaughn on TV in the 70’s, Steve Allen giving a tour of Birdland (a great old Broadway jazz institution) from a show in the early fifties and a Laurel & Hardy short (“They Go Boom”–1929-rarely shown). And I caught up with some recent Comedy Central stuff.

Here’s what the “Vitural Cinemateque” world might look like.

The same. Except that the three new commercially released movies that I can’t find the time (or the will) to see will be available to download (via something resembling an i-pod I-would i-magine) to my fifty inch screen.

Result: more viewership for current work, possibly more interest on my part turning into better word of mouth for movies that I will not, at this point, see until they arrive on cable (at which point word-of-mouth is decidedly beside-the-point. Chee-rist, I love hy-phens.)

So where is the cancer in this scenario? In trying to understand the “Studios” (and they can hardly justify being called that word anymore now that they don’t really produce their own films) and their inability to come to grips with the downloadable world, one wonders: is part of the problem that the “studios” actually believe that the virtual cinemateque might still a future only if they agree to negotiate for it? The future is here. Only it’s not being delivered in an optimum fashion. Furthermore, the hijacking of the ancillaries by the video-equivalent of street thugs is being allowed to happen by an elephantine system in which lawyers argue with lawyers over lawyering (this has an interesting new term: “overlawyering”) while technology and human desire to grow with technology is all but ignored.

The problem seems not to be “should we allow films to be downloaded.” That’s already happening. It’s just not happening for consumers like me (relatively honest, relatively naive, somewhat lazy). And the money that could be being made for the artists involved in making the films is being left on the table.


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