How DVD's Killed The Rising Cinema
DVD has changed cinema,
Okay, it hasn’t changed how
films look and sound, but it has changed the way that we view them. A
little over 10 years ago when you wanted to watch a movie, you had to watch it
on the big screen at a movie theater. Sure, we had VHS (remember VHS?), but the
big screen was the way to see a movie. The picture was first rate, you saw it in
the correct aspect ratio and the experience was mind-blowing.
With DVD you can get all this
at home, for a fraction of the price considering how inexpensive DVDs have
become and the cost of multiple tickets, concessions and gas for the trip to the
Now major studios are making
direct to DVD features that not only have high production
values - but also top tier talent. When your favorite franchise has run its
course on the big screen you can check out a new installment from your favorite
chair at home.
So how did it all change?
What DVD has also manged to do
is present to the viewer films that they would never normally watch. Suddenly
you didn’t have to seek out an art house cinema to watch a foreign film or
independent feature. I recently saw a selection of Cuban films that I’d never
have seen if it wasn’t for the vast selection of foreign titles that are
available on disc.
When VHS was dominant the
expression “direct to video” was like a dirty phrase, something that was to be
ignored. You rented (or bought) these films at your own risk, taking the chance
that the film would star a Z-list actor and feature a terrible script. This is
no longer always the case - films that premiere on DVD can at times be better
than some that appear on the big screen. While they might not have huge budgets
for special effects they will often have something much more important: good
scripts, interesting stories and decent acting. In recent years I have seen
films such as Blind Horizon (2003), Bone
Dry (2007) and The Backwoods (2008) that
have entertained me despite bypassing my local cinema and going straight to my
local DVD retailer.
The release window between when
a film opens at a movie theater and when it arrives on DVD has also been
reduced, so seeing a film on the big screen is merely a preview for the DVD. At
times the movie’s cinema release poster is still on billboards and buses by the
time you can buy it! Even former big screen stars such as Steven Seagal, Jean
Claude Van Damme and Wesley Snipes can still earn a healthy living by churning
out action movies that make a killing on DVD. At times these actors can be paid
several million dollars a salary comparative to that of their big screen
When DVD broke through you
could suddenly watch a movie with excellent picture and sound quality in your
own home - and not only that but if you so wanted, you could watch scenes that
were cut from the movie and listen to the director talk you through the film. In
your own living room! The film buff experience was available to all, DVDs were
sold on their special features and discs were often re-released with more
features and extra footage. The DVD was a cash cow that was forever growing. If
a movie was a modest hit in cinemas, but a huge seller on DVD a sequel could be
green-lit due to this success.
There have always been movies
that never made release not because they were of bad quality but because too
many films are produced and there is limited cinema space. I know that’s hard to
believe in this multiplex day and age, but it is true. DVD studios and
independent companies are able to cut out the middle man and release these lower
budget niche films without having to pay for prints
Studios are often releasing
films on a limited amount of screens just to fulfill contractual obligations and
then releasing the film on DVD to turn a profit. This release plan is what
Warner Brothers intends to do with Guy Ritchie’s forthcoming
RocknRolla. The western Seraphim Falls
is another film that had a similar fate. Starring the A-list talent of Pierce
Brosnan and Liam Neeson the film was released on only 52 screens and ended up
grossing a mere four hundred thousand dollars before hitting the DVD shelves
despite it being a highly entertaining addition to the genre.
Now studios have set up their
own production arms that deal solely with DVD films. These films are often
follow-ups to big screen releases and they can use lower production values and
brand name recognition to turn a healthy profit. The recently formed Paramount
Famous Productions is set to make at least five or six of these films a year.
This home entertainment branch of Paramount recently announced sequels to
Road Trip, Bad News Bears, Naked Gun,
Mean Girls and even Grease!
Meanwhile Warner Brother’s DVD arm will follow up this year’s Lost
Boys: The Tribe with a sequel to their 1999 hit Deep
Blue Sea, as well as a second House on Haunted Hill
sequel. Universal Pictures in recent years have made a killing on straight to
disc sequels to the American Pie franchise, while Sony
has been ploughing through sequels to films like Starship Troopers,
8MM and Cruel Intentions
movies for years.
While these movies may not have
the quality of the originals, there appears to be a market for the product, so
you can expect more films like these to be made in the future no matter what the
quality is like.
While we will never stop going
to the movie theater, we now have the opportunity to have more cinematic
experiences at home. 3D and digital technology will carry the medium through to
the end of this century, but we can now build our own film libraries at home and
enjoy movies from all over the world with very little expense.
Soon we will be downloading
films and special features onto our home computers with greater frequency - but
the cinematic group experience will never die out. The DVD is also a major
educating tool in the art of film. Aspiring filmmakers can use the added
features to learn how to craft a film - from the filmmakers themselves. Director
Robert Rodriguez always includes a “ten minute film school” on all his DVDs
which are educational and entertaining.
Much like the introduction of
television in the 1950s, the film studios will have to adapt - but one thing is
for certain: Our love of film as an art form will continue to live on. However,
you may be watching it on a high definition television in the comfort of your
own home instead of in a movie theater with sticky floors, crying children and
rude people talking during the film.