"I take orders from the Octoboss."

VERN TELLS IT LIKE IT IS for October 14, 2011

ButTellsitLong Live the Round Disc

Why we’d have to be stupid to let hard copies go away

You and I, we love movies. We might even love music. Possibly books. We might’ve been happy living our lives going to movie theaters, watching videos or DVDs at home, putting on a record or a CD, then cracking open a paperback. It worked pretty well, nobody had any complaints really. But we live during the time of a massive technological shift that’s changing everything we do, including our viewing, listening and reading. Come to think of it it’s changing our way of life.

There are countless great things about digital technology, but there are also some huge drawbacks to abandoning some of the old ways. In our lust for the latest gadgets and conveniences I wonder if we’ve put enough thought into what we’re on the verge of giving up.
I wanted to finish this column before Saturday, because that’s been declared the first annual Independent Video Store Day. But one thing that got me thinking about these issues a few months ago, I was maybe gonna get a new computer. Some new models of Mini Macs had just come out. They’re way faster than the old piece of shit I have, and not as expensive as I thought they would be. The only drawback I noticed: no optical drive.

It’s true, most people don’t load software from CDs anymore, it’s mostly downloads. Fair enough. But that was never the reason why optical drives have been an expected built-in feature on all computers for years. College kids watch DVDs on their laptops, and people like me listen to CDs on their computers. Come on man, I did what you asked. You lured me into getting rid of my stereo, I play music on my computer and then I put the songs I want to on my iPod. Pour one on the curb for Steve Jobs and everything, but pretending the optical drive is obsolete is a dick move by Apple. It’s an abusive monopolistic type of strategy: make it less convenient to use long established high quality formats (forcing you to buy a separate external drive to do something that used to be built-in) in hopes that more people won’t want to bother and will start using iTunes.


The shifts from VHS to DVD and from that-old-ass-TV-I-had-for-years to HD were caused by a rise in quality. After I saw what BARBARELLA looked like on DVD I wasn’t gonna go back to the tape. Unfortunately some of the other shifts we’re making are more like a home-cooked-meal to TV-dinner type of shift. It’s not as good as the real thing, but it’s easier and cheaper.

This next complaint would’ve started a shit storm if I brought it up just a couple months ago, because it’s about Netflix. I think I got a safe window here because people are mad that they raised their prices. Before that people loved that corporation more than their own grandmas. Richard Corliss learned that when he had the nerve to write in Time Magazine about his “misgivings about the service’s usefulness, especially compared with that of a real, well-stocked video store, and about the possibly harmful effect that Netflix and other online retail outfits may have on American society.” Admittedly the headline (“Why Netflix Stinks”) sounded more inflammatory than the article itself and got people’s blood pumping so they didn’t notice what the actual article said, which was mainly that he misses going to the really great video store that used to be in his neighborhood and wishes he wasn’t forced to give it up for a service that he doesn’t think is as good. But by the hostile reactions he got in various rebuttals and comments sections you’d think the headline used the n-word three times divided up by reader’s unlisted home phone numbers.

People never got that defensive about corporate chains like Blockbuster, Starbucks, Subway or Best Buy, but Netflix was different. It was okay, even cool, to wrap your identity up in their branding. Like Corliss said you couldn’t impulse-rent because you had to wait for the mail, and the selection wasn’t as good as some video stores, but it was a good deal because you pay the monthly fee and get them to mail you a whole bunch of movies. It made rental stores, who if they weren’t part of a big chain had to pay more for their movies as well as cover all the overhead of having a building and electricity and employees, seem expensive. But as it turns out, what Netflix was charging wasn’t enough to cover their overhead either.

That was the Netflix rope-a-dope that went mostly uncommented on. What most people saw as just a raise in prices was also an admission that their business model wasn’t sustainable. Getting to rent movies for that much cheaper than a store seemed impossible because it was. Using the time-honored “first rock is free” method of salesmanship they got people hooked, then brought the price up a little. Honestly, the prices now are still cheap, but they devalued movie rentals with their previous prices to the point where their customers can’t comprehend that.

Unlike the crack dealer I’m comparing them to, Netflix lost some customers with that move. DVD by mail is not as good of a service as crack delivery, it turns out. But they don’t care, because they don’t even want to be in that business anyway. They split off the mail order side of the business and even tried to rename it so they could kill it off. That’s the larger admission: not only was their previous price structure not going to be profitable, their new one isn’t either. They want out of the game. They don’t want to send you stuff, that’s a pain in the ass. They just want you to push a button to have a shitty compressed version of a movie pumped into your house like the food in MEET THE HOLLOWHEADS (a weird 1989 movie listed on the Netflix websight but not currently available):

In the movie they have everything piped into their houses because it’s some kind of post-apocalyptic situation where it’s dangerous to go outside. We just have everything piped into our houses because we want to.


Of course you can’t deny the many advantages of these new technologies. For the artist (or owner of the art) there’s the matter of not having to print up copies of a DVD, record or book and ship them to people, you can just have a file available for download. That makes it easier to make art available at less financial risk, and therefore it encourages the weird and the obscure. The advent of print-on-demand books got me into the world of publishing, and it was an ebook that attracted my real publisher. Also we’ve all read about that girl in her 20s who became a millionaire writing vampire ebooks, and we all tried to figure out how to get in on that shit. The new gold rush. I wouldn’t even have to get rich, just pay the bills that way and I’d fall in love with the Kindle, even though I don’t personally plan to ever get one.

For the viewer/listener/reader, I guess the advantage is storage. Your copy of BARBARELLA is not an object, it doesn’t exist as physical matter, so you don’t have to make space for it. We got tired of all the shit in our apartment so we switched to digital files. Then we got tired of our hard drives dying and losing all our files so they want us to be on “The Cloud,” storing our files somewhere else, through the air. Another great way to convince everybody they gotta pay a monthly bill to a corporation for something they never previously thought they needed.

But I don’t know if that’ll catch on. Maybe they’ll come up with something better. I can see why people are down with switching to files instead of hard copies, but let’s just be sure everybody understands what we’re signing on to. This is the main point I want people to consider, so I’m gonna bold this shit: We’re not just using a newer technology, we’re agreeing to a re-definition of what it means to buy art and/or entertainment.

When you buy a DVD, or a CD, or a book, you aren’t buying “intellectual property,” you’re buying a vessel that contains a movie or an album or a story or what have you. You own that vessel. It belongs to you. If you get sick of it and don’t want it anymore, or if you just need the money, you can go sell them to a pawn shop or a used bookstore, or on ebay. But you can’t sell a file used. When you buy a file on iTunes or Amazon you don’t own anything, you’ve just licensed some software for home use.

It’s a weird philosophical shift, but not necessarily a big deal for most people if they don’t get hard up for money and need to sell off their shit sometimes. Or if they have things that are more valuable they could sell, like tools, jewelry or music equipment. Fair enough. But there are other ramifications. Changing the definition of buying these things also limits the possibilities of archiving them.

Let’s say the Weinstein Company buys the American rights to a great Asian film and don’t bother to release it for a couple years. What you can do now, you can find out if there’s an English-subtitled Asian release of that movie and you can import it. You might need a region free player, but you can get it, or you can watch it on VLC player (if your computer has an optical drive – ah, shit!). The Weinsteins don’t want this, so if they find out an American company is selling the import they’ll send cease-and-desist orders and scare them away. Everybody knows they have no legal ground for that, it’s just a good bully tactic because they have more money and lawyers than you do, so fuck you. Eventually they’ll release their version, Bey Logan will have a pretty good commentary track on it, everything’s fine now. Later, if they stop making that DVD, you can still find used copies for sale online, or you can rent it from a video store, maybe even borrow it for free from a library.

Now imagine this happening in a future where movies only come as downloads or streams. I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that the Weinsteins and other companies won’t suddenly turn into our best buddies because of the new technology. There might still be guys out there who act like dicks, is what I’m thinking. It seems possible, anyway.

In this scenario I’m not sure how different regions will be controlled. I assume they will be able to stop overseas companies from streaming or uploading the movie to American computers, but I’m not sure how exactly that will work. But after they release that movie, if they decide it’s no longer in their interest to keep it available, or if they lose the rights and nobody else picks it up, or if they decide they want to keep it out of circulation so they can do a new version later, or whatever, it will disappear. There will be no archive.

Right now, out of print means “harder to get.” You can legally buy it, it just might be more expensive, depending on supply and demand. But without hard copies you simply can’t legally buy it. If the corporations aren’t making it available at that moment then getting it will be illegal. We’ve already seen that corporations can track who is uploading a file, who is downloading it, and that they are sometimes willing to prosecute people for it. If Disney doesn’t want you to see TRON before TRON LEGACY comes out, you won’t fucking see TRON. If they want to put PINOCCHIO in the vault for a while then you’re not seeing it. Sorry.

And out-of-printness won’t only be at a corporation’s discretion. It will also come from economics. Let’s say Netflix has HOLY MOUNTAIN available for instant viewing. (I don’t think they do, this is just a hypothetical example using a movie that oughta fuckin be available at all times.) That means the Netflix corporation has made a deal with whoever owns HOLY MOUNTAIN to have the exclusive rights to stream it for such-and-such window of time. Once that window ends they may decide not enough people are interested in the Sanctuary of 1,000 Testicles to be worth paying for that contract again. Then it’s gone until some other company can pony up the cash.

I mean, don’t panic. I still have the dvd and the blu-ray sitting on my shelf. I’d be happy to loan it to you. But for movies that come out in a post hard copy world you won’t be able to count on my shelf.

So you see, we’re making space in our apartments, but we’re giving up our tried and true system of archiving.

I believe our boner for supreme convenience will cause us to wake up one morning lying next to an ugly corporate monster. And wearing a wedding ring. Just as nerds have increasingly learned to call their beloved characters and mythologies by business terms like “franchises” and “properties,” movie fans have learned that they’re no longer watching movies, they’re watching “content.” In this world there’s no room for a piece of art or a story or a historic document, there’s only catalogs and rights packages and availability windows.

Will there still be room for companies like Criterion or the old Anchor Bay, groups of movie lovers with a passion for a certain type of film, who search out the ones they love most, lovingly assemble them for us, try to share them with us in the best presentation possible? Or will there just be a list of titles on channel 0 that we scroll through with our remote while an infomercial for some new Kate Hudson movie plays? Where in on-demand world is there room for anybody who gives a shit? We’re not asking for tender loving care, we’re asking for content. Shove a tube in my head and stuff that shit in there as fast as you can.


Ideally the future would include the convenience of the computery business but retain the availability of discs and books. Plenty of options for everybody. I think this is what most people assume will happen. But is it really feasible? Video stores, record stores and book stores have been falling at an alarming rate. Not too long ago we used to worry about chain stores putting locally owned ones out of business, now even those monoliths have trouble surviving, so we’ve seen the death of Hollywood Video, Borders Books, Tower Records, the bankruptcy of Blockbuster Video, and I heard Barnes and Noble isn’t doing too good either. If these companies, with the massive advantage of the deals they get by buying products by the cubic shitload, are not able to survive, imagine how hard it is for the little guy. In New York, the legendary Mondo Kim’s found that it was more profitable to sell off their building than to stay in business. In your town the independent video and record stores, if there are any, are probably struggling. I shouldn’t even say independent. The video and record stores, period.

I like going into stores. I like browsing, exploring, stumbling across things by accident. It’s a huge part of what I do here, because as much research as I do to find movies I want to see, sometimes it doesn’t beat just picking up a box and seeing Rowdy Roddy Piper or a crazy tagline or painting on the cover and realizing I never heard of that one before. Sometimes I even like human interaction: Have you seen this one? Have you heard anything about it?

When “brick and mortar” stores are gone and replaced by our computers we won’t only be losing that experience, we’ll be losing an entire segment of business. In a world of streaming and on-demand there is no such thing as an indie, is there? Under the current rules we just have to pick the store we trust to gather all the things we like. Even the so-called “Blockbuster Exclusives,” by law another video store was allowed to rent them out if they purchase them. Under the new rules of no-hard-copy we are giving complete control of what is available either to one monolithic corporation or (more likely I think) we’ll have to assemble our viewing piecemeal from a series of competing services who own the rights to different movies. There’s no going to the place you like best, there’s no supporting a business in your neighborhood that sponsors local events and charities, there might not even be not-supporting-the-one-that-gives-to-the-anti-gay-groups. There’s just you, your screen, and the corporation that shits the content at you.


Well, the solution is to keep hard copies alive at least as a niche industry. I don’t know if it’s gonna be possible to keep these places in business, but it might be. I thought vinyl was gone forever in the ’90s, but there are still record stores in Seattle today that sell records, new and used. And I don’t know, it seems like the studios wouldn’t want to abandon hard copies of some kind. How are they gonna double dip on files? How are they gonna do special editions? How are they gonna get you to buy your dad a file of THE GREAT ESCAPE for Christmas?

But I don’t know. Who’s gonna sell the blu-rays to us if the stores can’t afford to stay in business? I guess just Amazon. If the post office can afford to stay in business.

I’m not trying to make anybody feel bad about how they get their movies, and I know there are many parts of the world where you don’t really have a choice other than Netflix, On Demand or a fuckin vending machine in a Safeway parking lot. But that’s sad, isn’t it? I wish you guys had a choice, and I want to keep mine. Since I spend so much of my time watching movies and writing about them, this is my way of life. And I think it’s worth protecting. I’ll continue to support my local businesses as long as they hang in there.

Please feel free to sing the praises of your favorite local video, record or book store in the comments. Living or dead. (Or if you know the solution to all this that would be even better, please post that.)

further reading:

The convenience trap: What the changes at Netflix reveal about an insidious trend (Onion AV Club)

Special thanks to L. Jiminez for opening my eyes to the Netflix rope-a-dope

This entry was posted on Friday, October 14th, 2011 at 12:53 pm and is filed under Blog Post (short for weblog), Vern Tells It Like It Is. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

167 Responses to “VERN TELLS IT LIKE IT IS for October 14, 2011”

  1. You said it, Vern. I don’t understand people’s obsession with streaming and digital everything. Streaming is great for rentals, I’m not gonna lie – IF everything obscure was available in digital (it isn’t yet). Physical copies are great for “deep dives” of great films with commentary, special editions, stuff like that.

    Ultimately I can’t lend out a streaming copy of The Blues Brothers to my friend Steve, and that sucks. There will always be a home for “real media” copies of things, and I think your article illustrates why.

  2. Great piece Vern, I love the experience of going to the video store and exploring the DVD & VHS case art and finding a strange and/or bizarre gem of a film I might never have encountered or had recommended to me.

    I am not a Netflix fan, but I do enjoy the streaming service because the content is like 80’s HBO programing with a lot of older cheapo genre films, drive in films, and foreign films that are hard to find on DVD. However, I don’t look at it as a replacement for the video store I look at it as more of a substitute for a movie channel like Stars.

  3. I got another solution for you Vern, although it won’t save physical stores (nothing can in the long run, imo). That solution being that Public Domain laws need a drastic overhaul. If a movie (intellectual property, whatever) became public domain after maybe 25-30 years instead of the current 70 years it’d mitigate a lot of the problems you describe above. Anyone could archive this stuff legally and offer it for streaming for whatever price they wanted to charge. The independent stores would still exist except they’d be online.

    Also, I think putting all the blame on the studios is slightly unfair since a huge reason these guys want to move over to a subscription model is the rampant piracy going on at the moment. Technology fucked up the old model, you can’t blame em for trying to find a new one.

  4. Also, I read an interview with Oliver Stone recently where he talked about how great and valuable he thought films on Blu-Ray are because the quality is good and it is most likely the last physical media format films will be released in. He was advocating stock piling them.

  5. YES! Thank you, Vern. Wonderful work. This is true and important and good.

  6. whatever happens happens. kill dumb copyright law and everything will be fine. blu ray will be the last widespear physical medium. enjoy it while it lasts.

  7. widespear? sorry.

  8. So true.
    Here in Germany, the situation isn’t THAT bad, because we are scared of all kinds of new technology (Pay TV and HD are just slowly starting to catch on here) and don’t really have a streaming service. There are some like Maxdome and of course iTunes and “my” online video rental offers streaming too, but only really crappy z-grade schlock (like Asylum productions), because they either can’t effort contracts with bigger distributors or the distributors are scared of streaming their movies.

    I gotta admit that there is a certain appeal to streaming movies. There were a few nights where I found out that movie XY is finally on DVD and thought “Man, I would love to watch it NOW and not tomorrow, when my DVD store across the street is open and I can rent it. It’s a nice option, in my opinion. But just like you, I prefer to have something in my hands. I got some trouble with my internet access since a few weeks. It pops on and off and I have no control about it. So if I would try to stream a movie, I probably won’t have a chance to watch it, despite having paid for it.

    For DVD rental I use both, the store across the street for all kinds of new releases, but for TV series and older movies, that the admittedly pretty small store doesn’t have, well, I got this handy mailing device with something like 400 movies in my queue. So again, this is a nice option too, although there are movies in my Top 3, that I’m waiting to get now for more than a year. You know the problem.

    I really got used to digital formats in terms of music, though. I still buy albums that I like as CD, but I haven’t bought a single since 2003. For that I really buy MP3s (or FLACs) and burn them on CD myself. Many DJs, including me and real legends and vinyl fetishists like Jazzy Jeff or Fatboy Slim switched to MP3s too a while ago, just because it’s easier to put 1000 songs on your hard drive, than carry several cases of vinyl or CDs to your next gig. But just last Tuesday I bought the new ELECTRIC SIX album on CD, although the digital version was available one day earlier and only cost 1/3 of the physical version. But I couldn’t put this one in my CD shelf, next to the other albums, it wouldn’t have a booklet or a cover, which I could of course print by myself, but my low budget inkjet printer, prints of course not as good as the industrial ones, that print the real CD booklets.

    Oh well, I make it short and I think we can all agree: It’s nice to have everything available. Even books! If I would be on the road a lot and have enough time to read, I would buy a Kindle immediately! But nothing beats physical media. Even if it’s just for the slightly capitalistic feeling of actually owning something.

  9. Yup. I would even argue that a physical object exists in your mind in a more accessible way in terms of how human memory functions. A title on a data file is infinitely less memorable than an object that has physical properties such as size, shape, and color.

  10. ron: I don’t think that killing copyright laws is the right way too go. Sure, everything would be available for everybody, but nobody would earn anything from it and not even the richest, most eccentric filmmaker will spend any money on making another movie, if he doesn’t have at least the possibility of getting his money back with a profit. Same goes for musicians, software developers, writers and so on.
    There is a reason why artists sell their art and that’s because they want (and need) to make money. Otherwise they would give everything away for free.

  11. Allow me to present an opposing viewpoint; because although I agree with a few of Vern’s points, I couldn’t disagree more strongly with his main one.

    I want everything, and I mean everything, in a digital format. I want to be able to store it on my hard drive and play it whenever I want. I can’t do that with a copy-protected DVD. A lot of the times I can’t even skip the fucking adverts. And don’t even get me started on region-coding.

    I would not condone video piracy, ever. I think it’s fair and right that the people who made a film get to profit from the distribution of that film. Which is why it makes my blood boil to think of the kind of abuses that took place before the internet. Films were made, bought out, and never heard from again. Distributors would bury films for reasons from the purely mercenary to the moral / religious.

    This shit still happens, but it’s a helluva lot less prevalent than it was in the bad old days. The middlemen have less power than they have ever had before.

    I don’t condone piracy, but I do regard it as the great check and balance of the distributor’s power. Now if a company takes too many liberties, they have to know that their measures will be circumvented and their content put onto the Internet. To stop this from happening, they have only two choices: take on the arms race of technology of DRM-vs-P2P (which they will inevitably lose) or try and come up with business models that benefit the people who would, if given the choice, PAY for that content. Guess which model the most successful companies are taking?

    Don’t get me wrong, I think there’s a place for physical media, especially books. I love books and regularly buy them second-hand. A lot of the books I like – specifically detective stories from the early 1900s – aren’t available in print any longer, but there are always secondhand book sales and markets. I have an ebook reader but rarely use it because the quality of ebooks are so universally terrible. I would love to be able to archive my physical books to have in digital format instead. I don’t have an “apartment”, as Vern puts it; I have a room. There’s barely room for my computer desk in it, so you can imagine that bookshelves are pretty much out of the question. And that’s modern-day life; house-sharing is pretty much universal, at least until you’re married or settled in a long-term relationship (I’m not).

    But besides all the other problems I mentioned above with DVDs (would you buy a microwave that forced you to watch a 20-second informercial about its manufacturers before it started cooking your dinner? Nope? Well you don’t have a choice if you want to watch DVDs, guys) they are FINITE. I’ve already had problems with DVDs that have been scratched, smudged, or just plain worn out. And we’re talking stuff that’s less than ten years old here. And if I copy them to make backups, not only is it demanding in terms of both technical know-how and time, it’s also against the law.

    A DVD is just as much a “licence” as a download is. But you can’t make a copy of a DVD (at least, not easily or legally). A DVD is what a big movie distributor uses to sell the same content to the same person again and again. Fuck that.

  12. To clarify, Kim’s still exists. It just closed down its original location, which was fucking huge, a whole building, three floors right on St. Marks, the heart of the Village. The rent on a place like that must have been astro-fucking-nomical, so I can see why they had to shut it down. (I forget what’s there now, some kind of gym or Asian fusion restaurant or something.) So they sold off their rental stock and moved to a much more modest space a couple blocks over. It’s still pretty cool. They have a wide selection broken up into interesting categories, plus imports and records, and if you hang out by the section you’re into you’re pretty much guaranteed to get into a conversation sooner or later, especially if you’re a showoff like me and you want to answer everybody’s movie-related questions even if they’re not specifically asking you. But the new Kim’s just sells, they don’t rent. In fact, I honestly cannot think of a single place to rent a movie in the entirety of New York City that isn’t a vending machine. There aren’t even any Blockbusters anymore. So Netflix is all I got.

    And you know what? I always liked Netflix. I got a massive stockpile of movies at home so it’s okay if I have to wait a few days for my new Netflix to arrive. I usually forget what I’ve got coming so it’s like a little surprise I got myself. “Thank me, me, it’s just what I wanted! How did I know? Oh me, I shouldn’t have! ” But a big problem is that Netflix’s stock is deteriorating and they’re not replacing the weirder titles. So the streaming comes in handy, but I’m with you, Vern, I don’t trust my movies just floating around out there in the ether. I gotta hold it in my hand to know for sure that that QUEST FOR THE MIGHTY SWORD problem has been licked for good. So what I’ve been doing lately, and I’m pretty fucking pleased with myself, yessir, is I’ve been burning DVDs from Netflix’s streaming content. I got me a Roku and a convertor for ripping VHS to DVD, and I hook them up to my laptop, and boom, I got me a hard copy no corporation can take from me without their own SWAT team. (They don’t have those yet, do they?) So I’m fighting the good fight for hard copies in my own way.

    And yes, I will sell them to you. Anyone want George Armitage’s VIGILANTE FORCE with Kris Kristofferson and Jan-Michael Vincent or Peter Hyams’ BUSTING with Elliott Gould and Robert Blake and probably the earliest use of steadycam in actions scenes I’ve ever seen?

  13. I, like Oliver Stone, also believe that Blu Ray will be the last physical format for movies. This wont happen for awhile since not everyone in the world has an internet connection or a fast enough internet connection for that to be feasible yet. Still, it scares the hell out of me because if the world goes all streaming, then you no longer control the media you just purchased. They can yank that away from you anytime they please. Even with Blu Ray this happens. I’ve seen firmware updates that cause players not to be able to play movies that played perfectly before. Granted, these were accidents but it shows that they can issue updates that will cause movies not to play. There’s also the image constraint token that is on some discs that can downgrade the 1080p signal to 480p if you are using component connections rather than HDMI. The studios have not used this, and I don’t think they will, but its there. In fact, legally, no blu ray players manufactured from now on can have component outputs. Crazy stuff.

    Still, that is nothing compared to what studios can do if everything goes all streaming/digital. I never rent physical media, i buy it. If its something i’m usnsure about it, i’ll stream it. If its something i think i’ll like, i’ll buy it. If its something i’ve streamed and i ended up liking it, i buy it. So streaming = rent, blu ray/dvd = buy. I’m in stockpile mode as far as dvds/blu rays, but streaming does have its purpose. I’m not going to pay $150 a month for cable so streaming is my “premium movie channel.” I mean, i never would have seen They Live! if not for streaming so that alone justifies my 7.99 a month for netflix streaming. Still, while I appreciate the convenience, I’m not willing to take the risk that Fox will pull Die Hard from my streaming library when I can just buy the fucking thing and actually own it (with superior quality).

    As far as piracy, the studios have a reason to be paranoid about people stealing their movies. I don’t support piracy but I can understand why people do it. In this day in age, you can literally steal a movie or an album with one click of the button with very little chance of getting caught. We’re so detached from the crime it feels like you’re not even doing anything wrong. I also feel like most people think they’re owed something so downloading a movie isn’t stealing because “it should be mine anway, I pay taxes” or something like that. I’d hate to side with millionaires and billionaires but piracy is stealing and i’d be a little pissed if someone we’re stealing my movie. With a crime like this, the people who get hurt are the honest buyers. Still though, I haven’t seen movie budgets go down and Brad Pitt still gets 20 million a movie so who knows.

  14. As a matter of fact, Holy Mountain and El Topo were available for instant streaming for a lil while there, and then they went away. Hmmmm…


    Attica! Attica!

    Looks like we need to Occupy some video stores.

  15. I think the UltraViolet thing that the major studios and distributors are trying to get off the ground is interesting. Apparently the idea is you buy a hard copy of a movie and you and your family also get access to a digital version stored on the Internet (or The Cloud, if you prefer goofy, made up marketing names for things that already have names that make sense).

    I’m not sure if they intend it to be the first step in killing off discs entirely, or as a way to keep both options open for people who prefer one way or the other. I could see it being the future though. Possibly it will be a dystopian, cheaply CGI’d future where Milla Jovovich has superhuman powers and is forced to protect a young boy from something or other I don’t remember except that it was pretty boring.


  16. don’t worry guys, the economy will crash and we’ll all be too worried about not starving or freezing to death to worry about how we’ll watch our movies

    nah I’m kidding, I don’t really know what to say about this whole situation except that I’m been very close to canceling my Netflix subscription for weeks now, the only thing that’s stopping me is the fact that if I don’t have Netflix the only way I’ll be able to watch a movie will be by buying it, there’s no video stores left in my town

    I really wish the local Blockbuster was still here, I’d start using it again if it was, Blockbuster, I’m sorry I forgot about you! please come back :(

  17. well actually, there is something else I can say

    there’s pretty much no stopping the death of psychical media guys, it sucks, but it’s gonna happen eventually

    however there is one upside to this future and that’s this, we look at it from the perspective of corporations controlling everything, but imagine this scenario

    say I was a filmmaker and I independently make an off the wall horror movie that features endless graphic gore and nudity, something that would get slapped with an NC-17 and never play at any theaters, well what’s to stop me from making my own website and using paypal or whatever allowing you to purchase a download of the movie? that cuts out the middle man between artist and audience, I mean imagine it guys, no studio interference, no MPAA, just filmmakers doing whatever the fuck they want, I can imagine that creating a whole new independent film revolution that will counteract future Idiocracy style studios films like “Kevin James Falls Down and Goes Boom part 4”

  18. also, I now totally want to see Meet The Hollowheads

  19. Griff – as to your first post above – THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT I’M SAYING.

    As to your second post above – THAT’S EXACTLY WH – oh never mind.

  20. Also you made three posts.

    Ok I will shut up now… it’s been a very long day…

  21. I think being able to stream and download is a wonderfull thing itself, but yeah, I don’t think we should do away with the physical alternatives at the same time. I can only read a book in a halfway convenient way as an actual novel in my hands. Reading stuff online or on a screen just doesn’t work for me when it’s that long. And yeah, I like the covers and artwork and stuff like that.

    “When you buy a DVD, or a CD, or a book, you aren’t buying “intellectual property,” you’re buying a vessel that contains a movie or an album or a story or what have you. You own that vessel. It belongs to you. If you get sick of it and don’t want it anymore, or if you just need the money, you can go sell them to a pawn shop or a used bookstore, or on ebay. But you can’t sell a file used. When you buy a file on iTunes or Amazon you don’t own anything, you’ve just licensed some software for home use.”
    In the video game industry right now, pre-owned games are a bit of a hot topic, as the publishers are against them because they don’t see any profit out of them. I can sympathise to a certain extent because developers aren’t going to be making as much money as they arguably deserve because of it, but on the other hand
    1. Video games are fucking expensive. I believe an average Triple A title over there is typically 60 bucks, so you can’t really blame people for looking for cheaper alternatives
    2. The strategy some companies are taking to try to combat pre-owned games(not to mention the fucking attitude they take in comparing it to piracy) are ridiculous, such as Online Passes, which are one time codes you need to input in order to use specific features of the game(which are already on the disc), such as an online multiplayer mode. Such a code would be included with your new copy, but if you buy the game pre-owned, you have to BUY an individual online pass. One company’s justification for this is that they pay for the servers that you play Multiplayer on, so people need to pay for their “spot” on it. Which falls completely flat as an argument when you consider that person who originally bought the game paid for that spot, and aren’t using it anymore. Someone else is. No “extra” space is being taken up, it’s just a different occupant. Not to mention, it’s an inconvenience and an insult to that original buyer to make them have to PROVE they’re entitlement to something they’ve bought. So you get punished even when you try to support the original party. It’s particularly obnoxious when there’s actually GOOD strategies for encouraging buying games brand new, such as including codes that rather than unlock things that are on the game, instead let you obtain additional content that enhance or extend it, but otherwise are completely optional. Reward, not a punishment.

    Griff- Yeah, you’re right about the streaming benefits for the independant self publisher. And a lot of the critically acclaimed, unique video games are independant projects distributed that way, counterbalancing a lack of budget or length with quality, originality and lower price.

    I would like someone to explain to me however why international restrictions on online content…exist? Why exactly should an american who doesn’t pay for a cable service with Comedy Central be able to view episodes of the Daily Show on their official website, while that same content is blocked overseas? And if I’d tried to watch that BLACK DYNAMITE pilot directly on the comedy central site, I’d have been blocked too. Luckily Vern’s hosted version somehow didn’t come with that restriction.

  22. ^BLACK DYNAMITE pilot on the Adult Swim site

  23. I just can’t help but think of all the films lost from the silent era because studios went bust, copies were lost or destroyed for various reasons, or the copy is sitting in grandma’s attic because great-grandpa took it home with him one night after the studio fired him. I don’t have time to type out a point right now, I just wanted to say that this discussion reminded me of all those lost or buried gems, like the missing castration scene from Freaks or Dorothy Gish as Nell Gwyn. And I’ll probably never see the horror flick again that I was asking about because it apparently was an embarrassment to all involved and MGM will never release it. As the annoying saying goes: I haz a sad.

  24. Um, I realize Freaks is not a silent film. I would just really like to see the original cut. Not that I enjoy castration or anything, although I thought it was used well in Hard Candy.

  25. I work in a record store that sells DVDs (I used to be able to work at a store that just sold DVDs but those days are gone), and as soon as I started seeing obscure stuff that probably won’t make it to Blu Ray soon, if ever, going out of print, I started feeling less bad about my budgetarily impractical physical media habit. I love my library. I can watch any number of great or terrible but interesting pictures at a moment’s notice and it looks great (or awesomely aged) on my big ass TV I couldn’t afford when I bought it. But when my old one broke I got the biggest, best one the store would let me leave with because I don’t like watching things on phones and computer screens. It is not cinematic. There’s magic in the scope, the scale, the perfectly-immersive-even-without-3D of the cinema. It’s bad enough not to be living in an age where the group moviegoing experience has been so degraded by terrible audiences and tried-and-tested mainstream corporate programming, I do not want to lose my home theater experience.

  26. Great to see a VTILII column. Seems like it’s been a long time; I hope you’ll have something about matters political before too long.

    I’m divided about what you’re talking about. YES, it’s awesome if you have a good video place near you, but most people don’t, and, at least over the last ten years or so, being able to get the obscure shit sent to you through the mail by Netflix was amazing. I might miss my old ’80s video store, but by the ’90s it was all Blockbuster and Hollywood, and I always had the feeling Netflix treated me better than either of those places.

    I don’t know where I’m going with this but I’m kinda drunk. Oh. Right now, when it comes to music, I basically either want the damn vinyl, or, if I don’t care that much, some shitty mp3 rip off of the CD. And when it comes to movies, it seems like it’s only worth getting the blu-ray or some xvid rip off of USENET. At least for me, it’s very bifurcated in terms of I want the best I can get or a completely crap free substitute.

    I don’t know how that’s going to change movies, but I bet more people will be like that going forward.

  27. Ugh, giant change of meaning in my post above with a few missing commas.

    Should be:
    “At least for me, it’s very bifurcated in terms of I want the best I can get, or a completely crap, free substitute.”

    M. Casey regrets the error.

  28. (That last sentence got away from me. We DO live in a world where people don’t know to behave and don’t want to see Drive or Tree of Life, and it does suck.)

  29. Yay! The return of Vern’s Tells It Like It Is!

    Great writeup, kinda feels a bit overly dramatic because of fear of the unknown… might make you seem like a fool in the future BUT I’d be lying if I said that I don’t agree with you.

    I feel a little uneasy with the idea of having our stuff “in the cloud.”

  30. Not long ago Amazon got in trouble for selling an electronic version of a George Orwell book that they didn’t own the rights to. As a result, they had to recall every copy, which turned out to be easy: they pushed a button and zapped it from all the electronic devices of the customers who had purchased it, regardless of whether the devices were plugged into computers or not.

    Even if the quality of downloaded books and music didn’t suck, I’m hardly inclined to step into the digital marketplace knowing that all the stuff I might buy can be snatched away in such a manner. How long before some crank like Fred Phelps gets the ear of the companies that provide digital media and exerts pressure to make controversial material unavailable? It happened once under Reagan. After then-Attorney General Ed Meese sent off a letter urging stores not to carry pornographic magazines like Penthouse, fundamentalists like Jerry Falwell managed to pressure Walmart into thinking that fucking Tiger Beat was porn and got it pulled from their shelves. It was unconstitutional, but Walmart still caved and continues to cave to this day. And Walmart sells the most CDs to Americans. If we’re going to live in a corporate police state, I want the old fashioned version: I want cops busting down my door to physically take my subversive Walter Benjamin books and Witkin prints. (That actually happened under Reagan too, just ask the Estate of Robert Mapplethorpe.)

    One more thing about physical media: it is my understanding that something has to exist in physical form to be accepted by the Library of Congress. The social significance of something like the Conet Project or the Nixon Tapes or a Noam Chomsky lecture are far too easily diminished if they cannot be accepted in the official record of our life and times. Physical media is crucial to this process.

    Another thing: The companies that provide internet service are moving toward charging their customers by the minute like with long distance charges. What a fucking gouge. There’s no way I’d watch movies online if I was being charged by the minute.

  31. Also I like Clouds, but only as extra backup device. I got all the music that is on my computer also burned on DVDs and uploaded to a cloud, so that in case my hard drive crashes and the backup DVD is scratched, I can at least download my stuff again.
    But I would never save all my stuff in a cloud only! There are too many hackers out there and I don’t wanna lose all my stuff because of some 15 year old, who thinks that watching V FOR VENDETTA while hacking corporate databases makes him a freedom fighter or some shit like that. Not to mention that I saved a backup of my music back in 2005 already on a cloud for free, until they changed their business model one year later and I suddenly had to pay 100 bucks to download it again or just delete it all.
    Remember: If you upload something on someone else’s server, he can technically do with it whatever he wants!

  32. So many things I would have done but clouds got in my way.

  33. I grew up in a small town where there were NO MOVIES.

    At least not really. The video store had shelves of new hollywood shlock and that was it, no classics, no arty films, no documentaries, it was terrible.
    No real movie channels on our tv. The nearest theater was 90 minutes away, it was a god awful commercial multiplex.

    I had to search high and low to see a terrible washed out vhs of Seven Samurai from my 8th grade english teacher, I caught Seventh Seal on TV one night… I got to see some interesting stuff by trading tapes of fan subtitled anime with fans I met on the net, but the world of cinema to me only existed in Roger Ebert reviews and IMDB plot summaries.

    Netflix was a window into the world of cinema for a kid born in the boondocks. Kubrick, Kurosawa, Bergman, Tarkovsky, John Woo movies… All those films I had read about for years were just waiting for me, and I only had to wait for them to come in the mail.

    So for me, at that time and place in my life, netflix was a god send. That said, I do lament the coming of the digital only world… Still, people are resourceful, and subcultures will bring about niches to the market, legal or no…

    And glad to see more Vern Tells it Like it is!

  34. Didn’t Sony get dicked with their online service not long ago? So what will people watch when everything in their cloud is cut off from them? And that will happen, ‘cos some autistic/genius/terrorist will do it for shits and giggles.

    I like having a physical product, be it music or film. I used to love reading sleeve notes and looking a t artwork on covers. Now its impossible for me to buy anything other than the shitty limited selection in my local limited shitty town, so I am forced to download stuff.

  35. My favourite local independent video store closed last year. It just hasn’t been the same without it. they specialized in foreign and obscure stuff…I’ve had some of the best film viewing experiences of my life because of that place…RIP Gen X Video.

  36. Maybe I’d be more optimistic if Apple hadn’t cornered the hardware (iPod) and software (iTunes Music Store) markets. One whitebread multinational company that monopolizes the music industry is never going to grasp diversity in the way that a fragmented market with multiple players will. In the world of physical media, my tastes are in no way satisfied by Amazon. I need Boomkat and Discogs and Music Stack and the local store that puts out stuff by artists in my community. In a world that is only digital media, the current model seems to be headed toward Walmart selling me Brian Adams with only Bon Jovi as an alternative all over again. There’s nothing more boring than monoculture.

    Up here in Toronto the better independent video stores and a few independent music stores are doing well. They’ve always had a better grasp on their constituents and haven’t had to radically change their business models. It’s the big stores that are hemorrhaging. HMV, for example, has no idea where to throw their resources. They went from music to DVDs to video games to cell phones – none of these moves have made them competitive with Amazon. Last time I bothered to look they were selling t-shirts because the independent stores do well selling them. Except the chain stores sell a bunch of faux vintage STAR WARS crap while the independent stores actually know what bands and subversive slogans the kids want on their shirts. Likewise, the independent video stores are willing to provide comprehensive cult films and gay porn, if that’s what the customers want. And like Revolution Records in New York, they’re not shy about stocking grey market stuff.

    A couple of the independents have had to move because landlords are generally pricks. One store here couldn’t even get the building owner to allow the store to submit a bid to buy the building when the owner wanted to sell; the owner just handed the store to the first chain that came along. Ironically, the property value of these buildings that are rented by independent stores often increases dramatically exactly because the independent stores foster a unique sense of community that their neighborhoods respond well to. Entire neighborhoods in Toronto have been rehabilitated by independent businesses that are eventually chased away because the owners want the perceived security of renting to a chain store at a higher price, which then promptly returns the neighborhood to anonymity.

  37. Vern –

    “It belongs to you. If you get sick of it and don’t want it anymore, or if you just need the money, you can go sell them to a pawn shop or a used bookstore, or on ebay. But you can’t sell a file used.”

    Am I an asshole for buying used CDs online, burn them onto my computer, then selling them back to the local used bookstore? Yet even then that business could possibly dry up because people are able to rip MP3s from YouTube videos. which unless its about monkeys fingering themselves or sports bloopers, it pretty much consists of songs/music videos. Why even pay the $5 for a used CD of, oh I don’t know, THRILLER when you could rip it for free off YT while watching that kid get nailed in the head with the basketball for the millionth time?

    And yet really, I can’t blame people for going that route to a degree in certain circumstances. I mean its not like we can expect an official CD release of DREAM FACTORY in our lifetimes.

    Come to think of it, our world has become definately screwed up when you understand and sorta sympathize with a crazy control freak like Prince and his silly gestapo crusade against YouTube. We Fucked indeed.

    Vern – There’ an important issue worth noting that could be the final nail in the coffin for the music industry: The copyright laws passed in 1978 finally expire in 2013, when artists/estates are now eligible to legally reclaim their recordings (starting w/ music released in ’78). Since most labels now are making most of their money from their deep library catalog of albums, this would cut off their last golden revenue stream.

    The lawyers on both sides are already lining up, people like Dylan, Springsteen, Village People (I shit you not) are starting the lawsuits. Of course I think the labels are overreacting. Even if the musicians do reclaim their work, they’ve got to have somebody to distribute and promote their albums, unless they try to do that themselves like Prince…or more accurately, learn how not to do it like him.

    A recent example that might give a hint of what’s to come if the stars reclaim their music: Paul McCartney took his entire solo catalogue from the drowning blue whale that was EMI over to some small label I’ve never quite frankly heard of, and re-releasing that library. I would suppose that many of these small fish labels are willing to give stars (or mostly has-beens with numerous hits) a bigger royalties cut just to get make some money long-run.

    That is if said-stars don’t use that situation to bend the major labels over the barrel and get much higher royalty rates, which I’m expecting to happen and the only way said labels could survive.

  38. Vern:

    I just want you to consider the irony that we are reading your words, for free, on the Internet.

    The future with everything on demand is better, because it’s more options, instantly. Yes: the publishers will try to control that shit, but the point is: they can’t. Piracy rules the web. Yes, they can try to sue, but they sue uploaders, not downloaders, and the uploaders are in Sweden or Antigua or Belarus or some place that has a big middle finger up at American Intellectual Property rights.

    Plus, someone like me who is consuming the weirdest shit from Asia, how the hell am I going to do that without the Internet? More variety, more options online.

    So you say: what about the artist?!

    I think of it like radio: you give away product for free, and that creates fame and cachet for the artist, who capitalizes on real world venues and ancillary revenue streams like personalized content, commercial endorsements, etc. And I know you like this idea: THIS IS WHAT YOU DO: you give away shit for free here, your words, this gives you fame, and some of us go and click and buy your book. YOU are the model for artistic content in the future, whether musician, writer, or movie maker.

    As for movies, the cinema is not dying. People said TV would kill it in the 50s. Then it was VHS in the 80s. Now they say it is the Internet. I look forward to the whining in the year 2030 when they say Direct To Cranium Media Tube technology will kill the cinema. And all the while, they keep making more and more money in the cinema.


    Because we’re social animals. Sure, the cell phones, the babies, they suck. But the oohs, aahs, shrieks: it heightens our enjoyment, because shared communal experience equals more pleasure. The cinema house is our modern day church, and I’m sorry, but sitting in your mom’s basement in front of a 17 inch screen watching a movie by yourself is not going to compete. “But I’ll invite my friends!” you say. Yeah, I don’t know about you, but the concept of on demand friends who want to watch what you want to watch right now is not in my realm of experience.

    So what I am saying is:

    1. fuck the DVD market. Sorry.
    2. Everything free on the web, including movies (whether the publisher wants it or not: they have no control, piracy rules).
    3. Money made in the cinema houses (which is not threatened by free shit on the web, just like TV and VHS didn’t kill the cinema).

    I’m sorry if some people are wedded to the DVD market. And no, the loss of that revenue will not stop the creative process in movies: one of the most expensive movies ever made was “Avatar” in 2009. It recouped all of its money in the theatre. They made plenty of movies before the 1980s that are awesome, no aftermarket then. Moviemaking will go on just fine without a DVD market, the financial argument is bogus. And the Internet means of all of movie creation is there for you free (piracy rules), at your fingertips, any time. A far superior world for the artist (I am basically explaining the Vern model of media creation here), and the consumer. The losers? The media companies. Well, fuck them, no love lost there.

  39. My kid brother (20) has never bought a dvd or cd in his shitty little life, and I’ll bet he ‘s got more music and films than I’ve ever seen. The only reason he buys video games for his Xbox is because he has to. Their is a whole generation of these little scrotums that have never paid for anything and never will. That is why stores close, if its there for free, it’ll get taken. I’m no angel, no one is, though people like my little brother have never stumped up their hard earned cash (he’s never earned hard) and never will. The funny thing about him is that he wants to work in the music industry, the very thing his kind have death kicked in the throat. Tool.

  40. BR Baraka – I would think the movie theatres won’t die simply because there’s just too much money invested into it by the system, if you want to use that term. Too many losers among everyone to let it die.

    Hell Deadline reported recently about that studio behind TOWER HEIST getting ball busted by the NATO (movie theatre owners, not the military alliance) over their original plans to stream it Video OnDemand on the same weekend it opened. That plan got scrapped.

    I seem to also remembr Fox having original plans to dump the future Razzie contender FROM JUSTIN TO KELLY about 4-5 weeks onto DVD after it premiered in theatres, because they knew it was a turkey and wanted to try to make back that investment as much as possible. Theatre owners again weren’t pleased, and Fox backed off.

  41. BR – If I’m the model for artistic content in the future there’s not gonna be as much art anymore because how are you gonna make a movie when you gotta work a full time job to pay the rent? But there are people who do it better than me.

    I don’t know man, it sounds to me like you’re saying yes, all on-demand instead of physical media won’t have as many movies available but don’t worry, there will be shitty bootlegs you can track down to fill in the holes. But if bootlegging is the way to see this stuff then why would anybody bother to (or have the resources to) remaster and subtitle Jodorowsky’s TUSK?

  42. Ace Mac Ashbrook – hey, I’m 22 and I pay for plenty of stuff

  43. Intellectual Property law has become evil, evil, evil: 70 years and such protection? That’s insane. I have to pay somebody’s granddaughter because I want to watch a movie? That makes sense? Of course the artist needs to be rewarded for their work. But the guy who rebuilt my porch: do I give his children 20 years later a dime every time I walk across it? Of course not. Yes, that artist deserves to make cash. No, the artist doesn’t get to make that cash without working: he performs in real world venues. He needs to work like everyone else. And he gives away the media for free, to advertise his work. It’s the same model as radio.

    So the legal system is broken, and we now have a technology that routes around it, and we’re talking about poor teenagers who are media hungry and technologically savvy: they are going to get their media, and they aren’t going to pay anything. Not because I am stumping for some bullshit “information wants to be free man” bullshit philosophy, but just because of what is going to happen, by poor, technologically savvy teenagers, no matter what you say or what laws or written. Don’t shoot the messenger: I am describing what’s happening, not advocating.

    And besides, IP law doesn’t benefit the artists, never did: it benefits these middle men who are, essentially, useless in the creative process and just represent a sort of command and control aspect to extort money that doesn’t add anything creatively. They fund your movie or your recording session, yes. But you sign something first that gives 95% of the profit to them, of course. Imagine what you could make if you got to keep that money? (The example of George Lucas notwithstanding.)

    99% of artists who ever lived were broke. This is in the time of Mozart, when you needed rich patronage to produce anything, and in the time of Hair Metal, where one out of thousands were signed to a label (and got a tiny percentage while the label footed the bill for the hotel, limo, hookers, and blow). And this is true today, with the Internet. That’s never going to change, and the Internet isn’t causing artists to get poorer, the Internet isn’t going to make artists broke: they always were.

    But what the Internet IS going to do is cut out the middleman: look, I obviously admire your writing, and here I am corresponding with you. THAT’S the future of the artist. No fucking suit in an office signing bands and greenlighting movies, no filter: you make movies on your own, get a million hits on youtube, THEN someone fronts you the cash for a run at the cineplex. Which, I am still insistent, RRA, is never dying. They’ve been saying that since the dawn of television, the VHS, etc… didn’t happen, never will, people still keep going to the movies.

    Your real enemy is not the technology. Your enemy is the bullshit Intellectual Property laws which bear no relation with the laws of supply and demand as they now exist on the Internet. They can make billions off of pharmacy drugs that can only be profited off of for something like 7 years: that works, because in healthcare we understand the profit principle really shouldn’t trump actual human life… while at the same time, you need some financial incentive to make drugs. Same logic applies to media, our shared cultural space, which, after a SHORT period in which the artist is rewarded for their work, should naturally be our shared free resource. But because people don’t die if they don’t get to see some out of print movie, the IP laws aren’t like the healthcare laws, and have been allowed to become farce, under Sonny Bono, Disney, etc, to warp into this ridiculous unenforceable bullshit.

    And the technology, furthermore means movies are easier to make. Go to youtube, click around. Here is the future of filmmaking Vern:


    There’s thousands of guys like this. This Portland guy is creative. But rather than waiting for some suit in an office to notice him, like in the past, he can invest in a cheap camera, and reach a worldwide audience BY HIMSELF. Like you do. Vern, like him, you are the future model of the artist. His audience builds, by giving away product for free… then he gets a movie deal, which makes money IN THE THEATRE, which is the only place (real world venue) that anyone should make money. Not off the media (which they can’t anyway in the Internet era).

    This free media is GOOD for the artist because that’s how he gets noticed in the first place, in this new world. So the economic model is radio: give your product away free to build an audience, profit off that fame via ancillary real world revenue streams (endorsements, personalized content, gigs, etc.).

    Here, read this, this is the economic force of the Internet that makes niche players like yourself have a passionate following, and a shot at economic growth, in the Internet era: look up “Long Tail” on wikipedia.

    It basically means that the Internet allows for niche audiences, and niche creators, say, those who appreciate bad ass filmatism, to flourish, where this wasn’t possible before the Internet. So the Internet is a friend of esoterica, not an enemy of it.

    Think of the Long Tail like this: some Hair Metal band might make $10 million in the ’80s. But 100 other bands just like them make squat (they weren’t signed, and no way to get an audience). But in the Internet era, that same band (for the sake of argument, imagine Hair Metal was still a viable endeavor… I know, it’s painful) would make only $1 million without selling CDs, by just selling tickets at concert venues.

    However, 95% of their profit was taken in the 80s by the label. Today, since there’s no middle man, they get to keep that cool milllion all to themselves. So the artist is actually making more money. Screw the middleman.

    In addition, due to the long tail, those other bands, that would go unsigned in the ’80s, today:

    1. 10 of them make $100,000 from free publicity of getting fans on the Internet and then real world concert venues
    2. 100 make $10,000
    3. 1,000 bands make $1,000
    4. 10,000 bands bake $100.

    And no middle man. No 95% cut. That’s the power of the Long Tail.

    So your real thought shouldn’t be: “I can’t get esoteric DVDs anymore.” For two reasons:

    1. It’s out there. Just pirate it. Go ahead, rip it off: because the “owners”, the useless middleman in the suit, is your enemy, not the Internet. The artist wouldn’t see jack squat anyways: it’s esoterica, the suits have it locked in a vault. And besides, if you review some esoteric movie, you increase that artist’s cachet again, making him viable where before he wasn’t at all, and then that esoteric art has a chance to be seen and appreciated again. Now we’re talking about a different kind of reward: appreciation, honor. Believe me, after all these years, a check for $5 from a suit? Who cares. But acclaim again? The artist will gladly take the acclaim from yore. Might even revive a career. By reviewing their old works, that would otherwise lie dusty and forgotten, you are doing them an enormous favor. The fact you buy it, or pirate it, is utterly besides the point. Imagine yourself as Tarantino casting Pam Grier in “Jackie Brown”, or Aronofsky casting Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler”: your spotlight, on faded artists, is much more valuable than some stingy middleman possibly cutting an artist a paltry check. And because of that Middle Man, not the Internet, you couldn’t otherwise review their work. If you need technical help on dipping into this vast pirate stream, contact me offline: as long as you download, and not upload, you’ll be ok. And as long as you are just getting esoteric work, and not downloading the latest teenie bop movie, the studios aren’t going to care anyways.

    2. Think of all the artists in the 60s, 70s, 80s, etc, who were never signed to a label or funded to make a movie. The tragedy is not that esoterica is missed… the tragedy is certain esoterica WAS NEVER CREATED. Because those artists had the bad luck to be born before the Internet and the Long Tail. They weren’t around when the Internet could make them stars, without the bullshit filter of some suit deciding who makes the cut or not (and then take 95%). That era is over, thankfully. Now the audience directly decides. Far more democratic, a much better world.

    Before I said “don’t shoot the messenger: I am describing what’s happening, not advocating.” Of course, that’s bullshit. I am advocating: the new media world is far better Vern, it really is.

  44. I am also worried about special features and director commentaries going away with the death of physical media. However, I have read that Criterion will add the special features from there releases to the films the have on their Hulu channel.

  45. I’m all for cutting out the middle man, but the time will come when the talented artists, who spread their films and music via YouTube and Soundcloud would like to make money with their stuff, maybe by selling it on their own website. The problem is that maybe 50 people pay for it and 50 million will download it for free.

    I do agree that the copyright laws need some tweaking for modern times, but I’m totally against the “just steal it” argument, doesn’t matter how you phrase it. Because in the end there are always the same two kinds of people who encourage it:

    – Those, who don’t get any money from it anyway, (consumers like us)

    – Those who would get money from it, but already have enough to pay their bills for at least the next 10 years and therefore don’t care if they get one or two cheques less per year.

  46. Thank you Griff. ;-)

    Charles: Criterion?

    Will there still be room for companies like Criterion or the old Anchor Bay, groups of movie lovers with a passion for a certain type of film, who search out the ones they love most, lovingly assemble them for us, try to share them with us in the best presentation possible? Or will there just be a list of titles on channel 0 that we scroll through with our remote while an infomercial for some new Kate Hudson movie plays? Where in on-demand world is there room for anybody who gives a shit?

    I don’t get it. Vern, YOU are the new Criterion. That’s what you are making here with this site.

    CJ Holden: You’re in Germany, right? Thank you Germany. Thank you for giving the answer to ridiculous Intellectual Property laws: behold the revolution on IP law starting Europe, soon to be seen on these shores. Behold the future:


  47. One point about streaming content, it requires a fairly speedy internet connection. Lots of people are already ponying up for broadband, but more and more rumblings in the telecom world about making consumers pay for every last bit of bandwidth makes me appreciate Vern’s concerns for what could happen to us all blithely going the way of doing it all digitally.

    Corporations are greedy as fuck, so we’ll pay for the means to access the content, then pay for to store the content we access. It reminds me of prostitutes who’d be charged room and board and to shower and everything else by the madams and never ever ever make enough to get out of debt. OK maybe that’s not a good analogy except corporations and madams wanna charge ala carte too much for things that probably should be considered included in the rent…I just wonder why it’s so expensive having the internet. (Or why cel phone companies all seem to charge the same prices for that matter.) Mostly people can’t bear the thought of living without the internets, I know I’m one of them, so it’s just another expense peoole grouse about paying, like food/shelter/clothing, but don’t consider going without as long as it’s affordable, and even if it’s not. Probably you’d cut back on the quality of food you’d buy before you’d give up your Cloudcrackpipeline. I’ve seen homeless guys coffeeshop wifi-ing their supply. Anyhow, you could die without food/clothing/shelter, but without the internets, where we’re supposed to keep all our stuff now too? you just die of boredom.

  48. Baraka: The German pirates are a joke. They are unorganized and only spouting popular catchphrases from the headlines to get more votes, without having any realistic plans to effactuate them. (Like neo nazi parties. Only without the racism.)

    I mean, they really want that nobody has to pay for public transit anymore! That’s a cool idea, especially because bus tickets are way too expensive these days. I would love to just hop on a train or a bus without having to pay for a ticket first. But who is going to pay for gasoline and maintenance? I guess we have to raise the taxes for that, but no, raising taxes is evil! You can’t do this! So they just talk about free public transit for everybody and when someone asks, they just change topic.

    A while ago some German politicians tried to hide child pornographic sites behind giant stop signs, because they couldn’t delete them, but only hide them. Pirates: “No, you can’t do this! This is censorship! You can’t censor the internet! Censorship is wrong! What’s next? Forbid us to illegal download music?” Politicians: “So what if we find a way to delete these websites, even if they are on servers outside of Germany, where our law has no power?” Pirates: “No, this is censorship! If you start to make laws about deleting certain websites, what keeps you away from deleting every website you don’t like? Child pornography is free speech!”

    The German pirates are like a 4Chan party. Lots of OMGLOL kiddies. but no real thinkers. Their congresses are usually dozens of kids, who were just able to vote for the first time, yelling “Me me me me me!”
    The only reason why they got so many votes a few weeks ago, was because all the big parties ran Germany into the ground and people are (thank God) too scared to vote for the neo nazi parties.

  49. I’m not sure I understand your logic, BR. Why would Criterion spend the time and money to track down the best prints of movies, pay to create a new HD transfer, go through the painstaking process of restoring it, find interesting supplemental material, pay scholars and filmmakers to record commentaries, and then release it free to the Internet like Vern?

  50. Vern, and BR Baraka (and by the way I 110% agree with what Baraka is saying on the subject of intellectual property laws, if my first post didn’t make that obvious enough):

    I buy music online. I buy it in mp3 format only (no DRM, thanks) and can choose to pay for it by the track or by the album. A system that I still regard as an anachronism, because digital media has no inherent value and never did. I could reproduce that mp3 ten thousand times in seconds at virtually no cost to myself. Yet I’m willing to pay £0.79 or however much it is to get hold of my copy.

    When I buy music, I like to check it out first on sites like YouTube. Some big music producers limit videos by country, so I can’t check out a lot of American bands (for example). Which is dumb as hell, since a lot of the culture I’m exposed to these days is American (plainly, since I’m posting here); I want to know what’s out there.

    By stopping me from listening to the song on sites like YouTube, the big record producers are denying themselves my custom and my money. If they deny enough people’s custom through similar methods, they will stop making money. And some of them will continue to blame it on “piracy” instead of their own outdated business models that rely on intellectual property laws that were in many cases developed before CDs were even invented.

    As for the case of films, as BR has said, the concept that they’re paid for exclusively by DVD sales is nonsense in itself. BR cites ticket sales in cinemas; I’d go further than that. Films are funded by merchandising, product placement, corporate and governmental sponsorship, and many many other methods. Some of them create new problems within themselves (how much product placement is too much? Must a director cede control of his film to a sponsor, maybe one with a vested financial or moral interest, to get the money to make it?) but that’s going to be the case, no matter what the technological innovations are.

    The point, though, is that the days of films being paid for by sales of copies of physical media are dead. More accurately, they never really existed in the first place. The “recording industry” as such is less than a hundred years old. We used to never even have recordings; soon enough we won’t have them, in their current form, again. And it will seem ridiculous that people ever paid £8.99 for a copy of a movie that they could download for free. Just as ridiculous that anybody relied upon the profit of this exercise to actually MAKE movies.

    One other wrong assumption: that people only make art for profit, which isn’t true and never has been (just check out any amateur channel on YouTube and you’ll see what I mean).

    The real middlemen of society soon won’t be BMI or Sony, they’ll be Google and Microsoft. And there’s enough moral ambiguity about that scenario to fill a whole other “Vern Tells it like it is” – how much control do we really want to hand over to Google? I think we’ll see a lot of more specialised search engines appear soon enough; if we don’t, there are a whole lot of freedom-of-speech issues there. But those are questions for another topic.

    The fact is, decrying new technology as “bad” is sticking your head in the sand. It’s out there, whatever your views are. Seems to me that the best way to treat it is to understand it and shape its use in such a way that it benefits as many people as possible, not leave it up to those who would only use it to benefit their own interests.

  51. CJ Holden:

    That’s funny. Sorry for glamorizing them so much. I… just didn’t know. And thank you for dispelling the air of myth I was feeling about them. They do sound childish and amateurish.


    Exactly. What does DRM and IP limitations on media do? It punishes paying customers, and doesn’t affect the pirates in the least. It’s ridiculous.


    The passion for preserving beautiful old esoteric media is not strictly in the realm of those who can make money off of it. Most people posting on this site, for example, would do everything you mention for free, out of passion. Furthermore, Intellectual Property laws do not help esoteric old media, it HURTS it, by making it more rare and more inaccessible in the first place.

    Your argument is essentially that of the abused wife: do what the IP owner says, or they’ll hit you again. The point is, the IP owner shouldn’t have a monopoly on these products in the first place, certainly not after 10 years. But 70 years? That’s defensible to you? These prints should be freely available to us, lovingly fawned over and appreciated by the fans. They are our cultural heritage. That they are not freely available, and that somehow I am a making an argument against those who would make it available, is to fall for the circular reasoning of the abuser, to ask the unnecessary abuser to abuse us a little less please. No, just get rid of the abuser: ignore the idiotic law that says they own a piece of our culture from 40,50 years ago. I do not respect that concept, it is morally and philosophically incoherent. It is, in fact, your moral duty to ignore IP law, route around it, because IP law itself is the corporate foisted affront to fairness, culture, and the creative process.

    But don’t listen to me, listen to Vincent Gallo, on why IP law is the enemy of the creative process:


    V.G.: Thank you. The amount of time I spent choosing the music of the film would be unbelievable to you. The funny thing is, when it’s not right, you spend all your time playing songs for people saying, “What do you think of this one? How about this one? How about this one?” You’re dying, when you’re on that level. When you hit it, it’s so obvious and you immediately get a desperate feeling that says, “How am I going to get the rights? Are they going to fuck me on the rights to this song?” And guess who are the worst people in the movie business. The licensing people. They are most miserable, mean, selfish, insensitive, regressive, unproductive on the planet earth. You don’t know what it’s like to feel so strong about something and not have a budget to make that go away. It’s not like I was looking to get some Paul McCartney song for my movie; I’m talking about esoteric music. Some of the music in the film didn’t even exist, I had to rebuild the original master tapes that had decomposed. I had to re-bake the tape stock, the emulsion on the tape had peeling off. I’m the only person in the world who would salvage this particular recording because I had an original three-track machine and I knew how to bake that type of Ampex tape. The tape would have disappeared in two more years, and it’s highly spliced. Then to be ballbusted for a year and a half on the licensing on that music. We talk about how long it took for me to get the film out after Cannes was because the film wasn’t ready due to negative problems. I wanted to use this technique to blow up the negative in a new way. That’s why I waited so long to finish the film. But it turns out that I would have had to wait seven, eight months anyway was the releases for the music. If you were dealing with the musician directly, you wouldn’t have these problems. It’s the people representing these artists that kill the process. I realize if you want to use the Beatles song “Revolution” to sell eyeglasses, I understand the exploitation of that. I understand that I’m using culturally significant relics to manipulate people into attaching those to my product. But if I’m using a rare piece of music by and unknown artist, not to brag, but the people whose music I use in my films sell way more records than they were selling before they were in my film. Proof of it is, the Italian artist who did this one jazz piece in my movie had sold 600 copies worldwide before my movie. Before my film was released just on the announcement that they were included people tracked down the music, and they sold something like 6,000 more copies. Why you’re treated like you’re exploiting this music makes no sense. If they’re going to make a tough deal for you, just be up front about it. But this sort of, “We don’t have time for you. What do you want?” stringing along is nonsense. And I’m the producer on THE BROWN BUNNY. I didn’t have a music supervisor. I did the licensing for BUFFALO 66 and THE BROWN BUNNY. And of all my memories of making the film, that’s my most painful memories.

  52. You are mistaken in thinking that is my argument. I don’t have an argument. I have almost no knowledge about IP laws and the economics of the film and home video industry. Certainly not enough to to think I have any argument worth listening to. I’m only asking questions since I don’t quite understand how things would work under your scenario. Like, if watching movies at home should be free how would something like BLOOD & BONE or UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION get made since they have no possibility of a theatrical release? Also even if the IP window was only five years wouldn’t that mean a five year wait for a home video release? Without a monetary incentive I don’t see why any studio would release a film to the home video market.

    I do think you might be overestimating people’s willingness to do this stuff for free. I know fansubbers and the like exist but that seems like a very different scale from the thousands of man-hours it must take to put out something on the quality level of a single Criterion release. I know I for one would not put that amount of my free time into restoring a movie and I certainly wouldn’t spend the thousands of dollars required just to have a lab do the initial telecine.

  53. Jake, I guess I’d put it this way:

    I’m excited about this new era, but I’m also mindful of what is lost. So I don’t want to dance on the grave here, but I don’t want people to mistake the inevitability of what is really happening. There’s a lot of confusion and hand wringing and fear and anticipation and anxiety and anger and whatnot. But good art will never stop being made (and bad art as well, of course), and all we can do, really, is watch, and see what happens.

    The whole economic structure of art and commerce is morphing into something crazy and new, and no one really has a hold on it. Don’t believe anyone who tells you it means art is going to die, that’s hysteria. Look: most of the songs ever written in the entire history of mankind was motivated just to get in some chick’s pants. So we’ll still see movies being made: the average teenager has more technological production capacity in one cheap 1080p camera and a laptop with some basic editing software, all for a couple hundred bucks, than an entire studio system in the 1950s. Of course, he’s also a teenager, and not John Huston.

    But I don’t know: at one time only a few rich people could read, and only a few monks could transcribe books, and the rest of the world was illiterate serfs. Hello Gutenberg: cheap bookmaking creates the middle class, and eventually modern democracy. I’m certain the old royalist aristocracy freaked out about the changes the technology did to society too. But the new system created was certainly better than the old, and I can’t see how new movie making production and consumption technologies, something that lowers barriers of access, and creation, is somehow bad either.

    So all of the freak outs about the new Internet media world? To me, it’s same hand wringing as the aristocracy worrying about their serfs reading. It’s about fear of change, and changes in basic power structures that are the only power structures anyone understands.

    So I can’t get too sad about the death of the DVD era. Because something is also being born. What is being born? I don’t know, but I’m excited about it. We can’t deny what is happening, and the old days aren’t coming back, ever.

    But I’m not going to deny anyone the right to mourn the passing. Hey, the British still love their royalty. Maybe not all of the old media ways will go away.

  54. Jake – I think the massive, massive point against IP laws is that the system of paying for a single recording for music never used to be economically viable until the beginning of this century, was viable for a VERY short time due to technological limitations (that no longer exist), and now can only be viable while draconian technical roadblocks to copying media exist. Artists didn’t make money from recorded music for the vast majority of history, and they won’t make money from recorded music in the future. It never stopped people producing art before and it won’t do so in the future.

  55. Also BR, I love ya and I agree with everything you’re saying. But don’t associate the rest of us with the royalty. They’re as much of an embarassment to us as the late George Walker Bush was to you guys. Trust me on this.

  56. And by “us” I mean the Welsh. Not a nation known for its royalists.

  57. Yeah but you are known for that band “Hybrid” from Swansea.

    One of my favorites. A band that I would never have been able to appreciate had I not “stolen” their music. There’s plenty I would do economically to show my love for them. Now that I know them. Which wouldn’t have happened had I not gotten easy access to their music.

    Not an off topic comment, btw: take a look at the soundtracks they show up in:


  58. Yeah, I wasn’t joking, they have a site dedicated just to their soundtrack work:


  59. BR – I think we are entering a new era, but I cannot buy into much of the hype for either positive or negative at this point.

    There are always going to be people like Nina Paley, MdotStrange, Don Hertzfeldt, Bill Plympton, and the other true independents who don’t need a commercial system in order to make amazing films and to make a living off of those amazing films. The problem is that those types of people are very rare. A good quality film not only takes serious work and talent, but huge hours of labor and coordinated involvement by many people. Having AfterEffects and a nice camera is like putting on a good jacket before climbing Mt. Everest and feeling like half the battle is already finished. As such, I feel that pointing to youtube and saying “that’s the future” is pretty bleak.

    Do I think that for the average viewer the loss of physical media will mean more control for the corporations? Sure. Do I think the average viewer cares? Nope. The average viewer does not give a damn. That’s why all the awesome cinema we love is considered niche, remember? That’s why the cineplexes are filled with mind numbing dreck that brings in hundreds of millions every weekend. Most people simply do not care enough about film to worry about the worries Vern is expressing in his piece here.

    But that shouldn’t really bother us. Why? Two reasons. 1. A niche market is still a market and the elimination of physical media will not harm the proliferation of that market. 2. Those who have an unusually high level of love for cinema will find alternative methods to enjoy that cinema. That might mean direct donations to the artist, that might mean special event screenings at art house theaters. It might mean all kinds of things, but I really don’t think we are going to suffer.

    Rather I think that the greater access to more and more media will only allow the strange and special works to have a chance to present themselves to potential fans more often.

  60. Anyone remember DIVX? It was competing with DVDs, their idea was you buy the disc for $5 and it works for 48 hours. Then every time you want to watch it again, you pay another $5. I know George Lucas loved this model because fanboys would have to pay EVERY time they wanted to watch Star Wars. That’s why it took so long for Star Wars to come out on DVD. He was hoping DIVX would work but DIVX failed. I bought a few titles when it was over to save for posterity. Personally, I think they would’ve had something if repeat viewings were only $1. They priced it too high. If every viewing is $5, just buy the DVD for $20. Also they were full screen like VHS.

    I think that’s the idea with VOD. We pay every time we want to see a movie. In a way it goes back to the old days, before VHS, when if you wanted to see a movie, you had to go to a theater playing it. They’d rerelease movies because it was the only way to ever see it. I think they want to take back some ownership. Remember, studios never liked home video, they killed Beta in spite. They made some decent money on VHS and DVD but really what they want is to charge us per viewing.

  61. I’d also like to give a shout out to Stallings Video in Arnold, MD. The first video store I grew up with. They would hold new releases for me so I could be the first to rent them. I saw Re-Animator and Toxic Avenger, even dubbed versions of Chinese Connection and Return of the Dragon (U.S. titles) from them. And they closed before I was even old enough to go to the adults only back room.

    Now Don’s on the other hand lasted long enough for me to go to the porno room. Tower had a good selection of weird, random, foreign movies along with the mainstream studio. Hell, I even liked Errol’s Video. They were the big chain until Blockbuster came and ran them out of business. Remember when you’d go to Blockbuster and all the new releases were out? This generation has always had guaranteed in stock. They need to learn what it was to pay your dues checking every day for the copy of Terminator 2 that was just returned in the drop box.

  62. I think it’s pretty naive to think that movies of any real quality can exist without a studio system. Films are, and always will be expensive to produce due to the insane amount of work it takes to make one. They will always require financing by someone with access to enough money not only to finance that one movie but enough to absorb any loses should it bomb. It’s all well and good saying people will be willing to produce art for the love of it, but people need to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. I don’t care how much of an artist Aronofski is, Black Swan wouldn’t exist if he had to work 9-5 in a call centre to make ends meet. And if it did exist it would have been a story about how Nina fucking starved to death because the ballet company wasn’t making any money.

    Like a said above though, laws regarding ip and public domain need to change. Rights on medicine expire after 30 years because it was agreed that it’s in humanity’s best interest that no single entity own any particular medication for longer than that. Same should be true of art.

  63. fuckin’ typos.

  64. On the subject of video stores – i remember getting pretty freaked out by some of the covers when I was a kid. It always seemed strange to me that the cover to a movie I’d have to be 18 to watch was in many cases more frightening than the movie itself, and on display for all to see. There was a period in the late 80s when I literally had to wait outside the shop because they had this fucked up poster in there that’d make me cry. (Not sure what movie it was, it looked like a disembodied head floating above a city skyline. I’ve looked for it online and found some similar ones but none of them made me cry.)

    I was a pussy when I was 8, Is the point I’m making. I dunno how kids get by these days with the internet and all, one look at rotten.com (does that still exist?) and I’d have been scarred for life.

  65. Obviously the internet has created a huge shift in how art is produced and consumed. Some of it has been great. Specifically, I now have access to an incredible amount of movies and music thanks to the seemingly infinite space of the internet. One of the downsides that people have yet to really touch upon (although I think Vern mentioned it above) is that the face to face distributor represented by video, book, and music stores are all disappearing. These people used to serve as curators and sources of knowledge regarding all sorts of art. In some way they have been replaced by websites like Vern’s. I have watched countless films not only because of the reviews featured here, but also because of recommendations in the comments section. Unfortunately, not everyone can pay the bills with their website (although some manage). Places like Borders gave a paycheck to movie and music enthusiasts, providing them a niche in the marketplace for their seemingly esoteric knowledge. Like many others, I spent the last month or so of Borders’s existence picking off parts of its dead carcass, and the people there seemed genuinely upset (sometimes angry) about the store closing down. I’m not sure the internet provides a new place for these displaced workers. Maybe it’s inevitable, but it doesn’t make it less troubling.

  66. Loved this piece. I have to say though in regards to some of comments, that for me piracy justifications and talk of extreme copyright reform always boil down to “Fuck you I want it.”

  67. Thank you Vern. You have been able to articulate what I have been telling people for YEARS, just much better than I can.

    I own two video stores in Asheville, NC. Surprisingly, we are bucking national trends. We are down a little, but I blame this more on the economy than competition. Netflix jacking their rates sure gave us a nice bump in business though.

    Video Store Day was a success for myself and many others around the country, but I feel we need to do more. First of all, we really don’t know how many video stores are left around North America. My guess is thousands. Every small town still seems to have one, as well as larger cities and college towns. It’s time we band together and start making our voices heard.

    Our biggest obstacle is that that studios and dvd companies HATE us, unlike record stores who have close relationships with even the largest corporations. We have zero dialogue with places that you think would support us: Criterion, Synapse, etc. What they don’t realize is that a lot of us sell dvds as well as rent them. Once we are gone and the Best Buys are as well they will have no one left to deal with except Amazon, and that might not be a good thing for them.

    Like I said, yesterday was a big success, but we want some involvement from these companies for next year. We are the people that are recommending their amazing dvds and blu-rays, and it’s high time we start working together.

  68. RBatty024> I assume you’re also in the Uk? Or has Borders gone tits up in America?

  69. Ace, no, I’m an the U.S., and Borders has gone the way of the dodo here in the states. I never really liked their stores, and I mostly used them as makeshift libraries, but I must admit that I felt a little sad for the people who worked there.

  70. Andy C:

    Language is funny. Take what you posted:

    ‘talk of extreme copyright reform always boil down to “Fuck you I want it.”’

    Language is funny because I could have used the same sentence, with the opposite meaning. As I would write it, extreme copyright reform makes sense (take it down to 10 years), and the “Fuck you I want it” is the media conglomerates and their attempt to completely destroy all notion of a cultural commons.

    If it was up to them, anything remotely having to do with any sort of media consumption, by anyone, in any venue, alone in your room or sitting in a bar or whatever, media from any era: it would all be monetized. A price tag from the central server, every time a song touches your ear or a movie touched your eyes. Doesn’t that bother you?

    It does bother Vern, he wrote of the same fear above. It does bother plenty of people. And the answer is, in some respect, as Vern and many others say, to hide out in the previous media era, and trade in hard copy, that you actually own, and isn’t commodified at every act of consumption. In fact, you WILL see a revival in hard copy buying and selling and trading and borrowing, should Internet controls prove too daunting for the average Joe Blow.

    Funny thing is though, the teenagers are always more technologically savvy than the hired hacks at Media Conglomerate Command and Control. There’s always a way to route around their control methods, and package that routing in an easy to use point and click interface, that anyone can use. It’s a giant game of whack-a-mole, an arms race, between those who want to control all of our media consumption, and those who wish to do as we like. Not out of disrespect for the artist, but out of simple poverty. Not everyone is an upper middle class middle aged consumer in a rich country with a generous allowance for whimsical forays into esoteric media.

    And of course, the real disrespect is for those whom Intellectual Property law really serves: the corporation. Does anyone really believe IP law protects the artist? It serves the corporation: they make sure the artist signs away the bulk of the rights and profits to them, before they get to produce anything.

    The idea of every waking breath, every sip of water, involving a pricetag, is odious to anyone, and the same holds true for our media consumption. And every teenager who can point and click with an Internet connection is a publisher. Every teenager from Belo Horizonte to Novosibirsk to Dakar today, has more global reach than Time Warner and Bertelsmann as they existed in 1988. Welcome to technological progress, it isn’t always smooth, it is sometimes shocking how it changes the status quo. And those teenagers are all well outside the reach of media company lawyer goons and US laws bought and paid for by US media conglomerates. But they are just as connected to the Internet as the kid in Burbank. So game over, sorry.

    It’s really not a matter of me proposing an alternate ideology I am trying to sell you. It is more like I am explaining the reality we are living in now. Don’t shoot me, I’m just the messenger. Of course, I obviously like this new reality, but I am not trying to sell you anything. I am simply explaining to you what is already happening.

    Focus on the real menace here, and it’s not the teenagers: media corporations do not appreciate the concept of a copyright expiring. Ever. Doesn’t that bother you? Doesn’t it bother you that every single act of media consumption on your part is intended to be commodified? Don’t you see that as the real enemy here?

    Look, I’m just a crank on an Internet message board, you don’t have to listen to me if I appear to you as just some silly teenager who wants everything for free. Listen to a legal scholar if the problem for you is the messenger, so you can really hear the message:


    It is simple as this: the very idea of copyright law was created in an era before the Internet. So it is technology versus the law. You tell me who wins.

  71. BR Baraka – You still haven’t explained who the fuck is gonna finance future works of “esoteric media” when they don’t stand to make any money from it. You’re talking about the death of cinema – hardly something to be happy about.

  72. The cinema house isn’t dying. They said it would die in the 1950s with TV. They said it would die in the 1980s with VHS. Now they say it will die in the 2010s with the Internet. I look forward to the 2040s, when everyone starts whining how Intercranial Nanotech Media Injection is going to kill the cinema house.

    All the while, they keep making money, in the cinema house, and they keep making movies, for the cinema house. The business model worked just fine before VHS and DVD, and it will work just fine after it. Proof? One of the most expensive movies ever made, 2009’s “Avatar”, made many times more that expensive outlay, an extremely handsome profit. Before a single penny from DVDs. All in worldwide cinema houses. Just last year.

    Don’t believe the hype.

  73. mode7 – I think every kid of my generation has had the experience of getting creeped out by video covers, I remember I used to dare myself to walk through the horror aisle at video stores and I would always get the shit scared out of me, I remember the cover for It’s Alive fucked me up bad and don’t get me started on the Child’s Play movies

    Fred – ya know I’ve always wondered, what kind of pornos did they have in those video stores? shit like TABOO and EDWARD PENISHANDS? and how embarrassing was it to rent them? I got super embarrassed just buying a Playboy at Books A Million once

  74. I’m still stuck on a comment from way up there, that EL TOPO and HOLY MOUNTAIN used to be available on Netflix instant. That’s exactly what I’m talking about – that’s the future we’re headed toward. Wait for the corporation to let you watch HOLY MOUNTAIN, or have BR help you get a bootleg.

    (Of course I will be stockpiling HOLY MOUNTAIN blu-rays for the good of civilization, but what about the HOLY MOUNTAINs of the future?)

  75. man, that reminds me, I’ve been meaning to see HOLY MOUNTAIN for ages

    I saw clips of it on youtube once years ago and I was quite literally wondering if I was hallucinating

    how many movies have armless midgets in WW2 army helmets kicking the shit out of mannequins?

  76. But Vern, how is that any different from the situation Holy Mountain was in pre-2007?

    In the 70s an obscure mystic artist filmmaker received funding from a bunch of wealthy fans of his work, he then proceeded to make an incredible film which had zero commercial value. Holy Mountain certainly did play at some festivals and midnight movie showings in the big cities over the next few decades, but it never had a widely available home video release. Even in Japan (land of the Laserdisc) it only had a very limited VHS release.

    Then in 2007 Anchor Bay remasters the major titles of his filmography and releases them to DVD, this is followed by the Blu release, sometime in there netflix has the film available for streaming and then later doesn’t.

    The film was given new life and presence by Anchor bay.

    So, what really does netflix have to do with anything? Sure they ditched the movie, but it is still more available than ever before. Anchor Bay is still going to be making money from you and me in the future with their library of eccentric films, because IF the day comes that they find themselves unable to sell physical copies of those movies, they will just open their own streaming service which we will gladly subscribe to! Will joe six pack also subscribe? Nope, joe has netflix.

    But then again, joe six pack didn’t buy (or care about) the Jodorowsky box set in the first place anyway, right?

  77. BR Baraka – I hope you’re right but I dunno, I’d personally rather watch a movie at home with friends than go to the cinema. As technology improves this is only gonna get more widespread – why go to the cinema when you’ve got a 100″ 3D OLED screen at home? And the studios know that kids these days are growing up watching shitty bootleg movies on an ipod touch – you really expect them to put all their eggs in the basket that is cinema? The future as they see it is all about home consumption, there’s no way they’re gonna rely on the cinema to save them. I wouldn’t.

    Vern- I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that cds/dvds ect degrade over time. I think the number I read was that after 15-25 years they can’t be reliably read. But even if they could, you might have trouble finding a player that reads them, and even then I guarantee those players won’t work with whatever TV you’re using in ten years time. You just know hdmi is gonna vanish once the general populace is moved onto streaming. I don’t think optical media is a safe bet for archival purposes.

  78. Mode7 – throughout history, artists have almost never gained their primary income from the sales of recorded media. Not so long ago it didn’t exist. Then it did exist, but was tightly controlled by a few central interests, so the revenue stream came from performance rights. Now it exists but is impossible to control.

    My point is that anybody who looks at the rise of “free” media or piracy is missing the point. They’re assuming that the artist’s main revenue stream comes from sales of single copies of their work. That’s not true and it never has been.

  79. Yeah and throughout history artists have typically been fucking poor, unless they had some rich patron to pay their way which when you think about it is the same thing we have now. Except worse. Far, Far worse.

  80. Also I’m not sure looking backwards is necessarily gonna be a useful indicator of thing to come. We’re living in tumultuous times my friends… Tumultuous times indeed.

  81. But when have artists not been fucking poor? Just because metallica has made millions in the industry doesn’t change the fact that 98% of the other metal bands are out there making their money from doing actual gigs and selling t-shirts at those gigs.

    Walk into a big media store, the number of artists for sale is still a TINY fraction compared to the number who are out there in the real world doing their thing. Sure they probably aren’t living in mansions, but under what system would they ever be?

    Many of our great artists and composers thrived in the patronage system and in it were able to produce works which would have got them burned at the stake if not for the protection of that rich patron.

    Also the notion that all artists have always relied on those rich patrons and royalty is simply untrue, most playwrights and composers made their living off of the lower class. Verdi could be argued as the most successful composer in the history of Italian opera, but his fortune came from selling tickets and sheet music to the common folk. Bach made his living as a common music teacher after loosing his rich patron early on in life. Sophocles won all the theater awards there were to win in ancient Athens, but he paid his rent working outside the theater in military and civic positions.

    I’m just saying let’s not get too carried away with thinking how awful things were back then. Think of how awful the 1970s were for a New York painter, suddenly finding himself in competition with artists sponsored by large corporations and seeing the big galleries and art auctions in the painting capital of America fall into the hands of big soulless corporations. Is the world now less of a place for painters? Of course not. Now I can go onto a blog like Boooooom and see painters from around the world, immediately have access to information about their shows and prints, share my favorites with all my friends and so on.

    Artists have always found ways to make their work and connect with the populace, and they will continue to do so without the help of time/warner/aol/walmart.

  82. How does that any of that apply specifically to movies though? I totally buy that musicians and painters can find a place where they can do their thing free from the taint of corporate overlords, but movies as they exist today require way too much upfront investment. That is unless you want every movie to look like clerks.

    I also buy that the film industry could be supported solely by cinema ticket sales in a world where all home use is free, but it’s a fucking HUGE gamble that no one in their right mind is gonna do. The movie industry doesn’t know what kind of technology we’ll all have at home in ten years time – nobody does. They can’t very well let everyone have completely free access to everything they make HOPING that nothing comes along that supersedes the cinema experience. For many people the cinema experience has already been superseded.

  83. Also, what about videogames? They have no live aspect whatsoever, if people don’t pay for games for use at home we have no more games.

  84. Mode7 – you seem to be arguing against the point that all films will be financed by either cinema sales or DVD sales. Nobody’s ever said that that will be the case. I think I made the exact opposite point in an earlier post actually.

    I don’t know how movies will be financed in the future, whether it’s through subsidies or product placement or whatever. Point is though that it WON’T be through single-copy sales of DVDs, etc. That business model is unsustainable; it has always been unsustainable. Doesn’t mean the death of art though, just some more creative strategies when it comes to making money.

    As for videogames, that’s a whole new can of worms. I hate some of the stuff they have now, especially the “online passes” system, always-online DRM, etc. Not sure what the alternative is – more product placement? That’s not gonna go down well – but I suspect we’ll see a lot of different systems come and go before we even get close to an “industry standard”.

  85. The point I’m trying to make is that watching movies at home can’t be free, as some people are arguing. Personally I think the subscription model is the only way forward. Kinda like Spotify but for movies (or games).

  86. gingersoll: I appreciate your perspective on this topic and your enthusiasm for the future – both you and BR Baraka have made points that I hadn’t considered before – but I want to complicate something you seem to be implying in your earlier post.

    I work in photography. I use a Roliflex camera and medium format film. Digital cameras, digital files, jpegs, whatever: these aren’t tools of photography; they produce images, but the images are not photographs. They’re different creatures. I’m not saying one is more valid than the other, much in the way that my film camera isn’t superior to a pinhole camera or daguerreotype. But I do think that digital photography is better suited to the internet (because printing technology for digital images still produces pretty awful looking prints); medium format photography doesn’t translate nearly so well into the internet.

    I take great care to produce work that is meant to be exhibited. The lighting used in the studio when I take the picture, the paper I print the image on, the various treatments I subject the negative and the print to before I frame it. The frame, the matting, even the light in the room where my shit gets shown is taken into consideration, as well as the music being played and the color of paint on the walls.

    A digital scan of my work put on the internet is an entirely different thing than what I exhibit. The online version is, in my opinion, a shoddy approximation, almost a parody. Most painters I know feel the same way.

    It isn’t simply a matter of adapting to changing technology. I find meaning in film. It is an aesthetically significant medium in itself. An all-digital future that asks me to adopt a medium I have little interest in is a pretty brutal idea to drop on an old dude like me.

    Your idea of an artist’s utopia where we’re all sharing our stuff online looks to me like little more than a catalogue. Personally, I am saddened by such a scenario. Yes, artists are networking and connecting with audiences. But the work itself, and the rich aesthetic experience of standing before a physical form, is greatly diminished. Your scenario turns us all into hustlers by the simple fact that the visual arts are not particularly well presented to the world via the internet. On a bad day, I’d say that the internet as a vehicle for disseminating art is brutal, ugly and corporate.

    I feel the same way about music and film. Music played through MP3 sounds like shit to me. And a film that isn’t seen in a theater is incomplete. The aesthetic experience I value in the arts is so diminished by its cold-storage online that I’m having difficulty imagining it worth the effort to participate in if that’s where the future of the visual arts lies.

    I think any future in which entire fields of visual arts are clearcut to make room for the new technology is a pretty dire future.

  87. Mode 7 – I agree with the “subscription service” thing actually. Download a certain number of movies a month, etc. The thing is that they will either have to make sure that people can KEEP the movies, or make them available permanently somehow. The big advantage of this kind of system is that it removes the incentive to “pirate” movies.

  88. Jareth – you needn’t worry about this:

    “I think any future in which entire fields of visual arts are clearcut to make room for the new technology is a pretty dire future.”

    happening. People have been using paint to create artwork since before anything approaching familiar modern society has existed, and they’ll continue to do so, if for no reason other than they’re financially viable for everyone. Just like they’ll continue writing stories even though they have video cameras. Just because new technologies appear doesn’t mean that the old ones will go away.

  89. Gingersoll – actually, Holy Mountain pre-Anchor Bay is the best we could hope for in BR’s scenario. Jodorowsky had a falling out with producer Alan Klein when he refused to direct The Story of O for him. Because of that Klein refused to release Holy Mountain or El Topo on video. The versions that were available in Japan, Italy etc. were (at least according to Jodorowsky) because he gave copies to pirates in order to get out there. It wasn’t until they made up that Klein agreed to allow an official release and that’s why Anchor Bay was able to have the real film elements and beautifully restore it (not to mention getting Jodorowsky to do commentary tracks and everything).

    BR said that I am Criterion in the future. Not true at all. I told everybody to watch White Dog, but I couldn’t magically transform the shitty Japanese VHS tape I had seen into the beautiful DVD that Criterion made.

    Anyway, I don’t think I’m getting my point across. The way it works now, if Holy Mountain goes out of print there’s nothing stopping us from tracking down the existing copies. It’s a good system. We are throwing that away in favor of a system where you can only watch the movie during a time that a corporation has scheduled, if it has decided it’s worth paying for the rights and was able to negotiate it. That’s just a shitty way to do it and “don’t worry, you can just pirate everything” does not sound like a good back up plan to me at all.

    By the way, how does all this work with books? If ebooks start to take over, what happens to libraries? Is there a plan for that?

  90. Well the way spotify works is that you pay £10 per month and you search for whatever you want to listen to and just hit the play button. No downloading is necessary, although I think you can download tracks for offline use but they expire after a month if you cancel your subscription.

    I’d happily pay £20 a month for a film-centric version. Really the only noticeable diffence between using a service like that and having the files stored locally is that you’re opening an app that isn’t windows explorer. That and the fact that some snot-nosed punk will inevitably hack the system and bring it down every couple of years.

  91. Libraries are fucked. I think that might be the plan.

  92. Vern- I just don’t understand why it’d be in anyone’s best interest to bury any particular movie when there’s virtually no cost to making it available. The way I assume it’ll work is that the rights holders will just dump everything they own onto a third party company who will then put it all on a server somewhere for people to then watch whenever they want. It doesn’t matter to them if not one single person actually wants to watch it because all it costs them is a gb of disk space.

  93. “By the way, how does all this work with books? If ebooks start to take over, what happens to libraries? Is there a plan for that?”

    yeah, the plan is to start burning books Fahrenheit 451 style, seriously


    fucking scary isn’t it?

    (btw I know this is Cracked, the infamous site that didn’t pay Vern for a while, but it’s still a good article)

  94. Vern:

    Anyway, I don’t think I’m getting my point across. The way it works now, if Holy Mountain goes out of print there’s nothing stopping us from tracking down the existing copies. It’s a good system. We are throwing that away in favor of a system where you can only watch the movie during a time that a corporation has scheduled, if it has decided it’s worth paying for the rights and was able to negotiate it. That’s just a shitty way to do it and “don’t worry, you can just pirate everything” does not sound like a good back up plan to me at all.

    OK, but there’s an assumption in your complaint: that we have any control here. You don’t have to like the “you can just pirate everything” plan. It is a shitty plan. Shoddy media quality, chance of being caught by media company goons, hit and run availability and cataloging, etc. I don’t want you to like the plan. I want you to understand we have no other choice.


    I also buy that the film industry could be supported solely by cinema ticket sales in a world where all home use is free, but it’s a fucking HUGE gamble that no one in their right mind is gonna do. The movie industry doesn’t know what kind of technology we’ll all have at home in ten years time – nobody does. They can’t very well let everyone have completely free access to everything they make HOPING that nothing comes along that supersedes the cinema experience. For many people the cinema experience has already been superseded.

    Again, do you see the assumption in your words? That there is some sort of choice or control going on.

    That everyone commenting in this thread, we’re all grand inquisitors of the Bilderberg Group, sitting around a monolithic table in funny hats, eating goose liver and deciding the fate of the world. We’re going to argue here, reach a consensus, write up a tear jerker of a manifesto full of bluster and fury, present it to the media conglomerates and the teenagers of the world, who are going to go “oh yeah, wow,” push a magic button, and that’s the way things work from now on.


    We are cinephiles. We appreciate esoteric hard to find media, lamenting the passing of a brief DVD Golden Age. We’re not making decisions here. All we can do is observe and describe what’s happening, outside of anyone’s control.

    Like I said before: I’m not selling you an ideology. I’m not proposing a possible scenario. I’m simply describing the reality of what is already happening. There’s no choice being made here, there is merely a description of how events are unfolding. You don’t have to like my enthusiasm for this new age because I obviously have a hard on for sticking it to the media conglomerates, which I do. But you do have to admit that what I am describing is not some odious dystopian fantasy that we can choose to avoid: no. It’s simply what is already going on.

    Look: a teenager wants some media. He has no cash. He does have an Internet connection, some time, and some technological savvy. Go ahead media conglomerate: hire 10,000 technical hacks. Hire 100,000 lawyers. What are you going to do? Shut down the Internet? Spend more money than the entire industry makes filtering every router? You are arrayed against hundreds of millions of poor, media hungry teenagers. Around the world. Not necessarily in the legal territory of the United States or a friendly country. And that snot nosed punk in Buenos Aires, or Darwin, or Harbin, or Reykjavik: he has global publishing reach for every single esoteric piece of media. He is more powerful than all the media conglomerates of 1985 put together.

    You tell me who is going to win this conflict.

    That’s the world we live in today. That’s what is driving pirating. And people can sit here on this comment board, or they can sit in the Ivory Tower of Bertelsmann or Time Warner, and howl in anger and gnash their teeth and cast great aspersions of high holy indignation. But no judgment or force can change this. We’re talking about simple economic imperatives, aided by disruptive new technologies, fundamentally altering the social, media, and legal landscape. A genie out of the bottle, that no one is going to reverse and put back in a bottle on a shelf and be done with it. We are at the dawn of a new age, just as disruptive as what Gutenberg did with his silly printing press thingamabob.

    Did you think the dweebs in their crew cuts and with their slide rules and their starched white shirts in the 1960s building ARPAnet on cathode ray tubes and punch cards thought “gee, let’s build a device to completely upend copyright law and undermine the entire media industry.” No, but that’s exactly what they did. I don’t think Gutenberg foresaw the rise of the middle class, the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, and modern democracy either. But that’s what he did. This is exciting folks!

    I am describing the world of piracy as our only option from now on, and I’m not asking you to like it, I’m asking you to understand it’s the best we can do, stuck with a command and control corporate media apparatus that couldn’t be bothered with us, and a pirate community that lives and breathes beyond any economic considerations of how to reward the artist.

    In many ways it’s frightening. For me, it’s also exciting. I want you to consider that in some ways, it might actually lead to a better world. I’m not going to tell you how, because, frankly, I don’t know how. But I know we don’t have a choice.

    The future is pirating. It is about accepting that fate, no matter how much we like it or not.

  95. Paul: But entire fields of visual art are being unceremoniously scrapped. Painting occupies a place of privilege and will always be produced, but the aesthetic experience of encountering a painting has already been greatly diminished by the mass production of painted work as elements of advertising and interior decorating. More people’s knowledge of Rothko is from knock-offs of his work sold by Ikea to hang in their rec rooms. Most of the galleries that still exist are so dependent on corporate sponsorship that they refuse to exhibit anything controversial, which pretty much lobotomizes the visual arts. Not cool, in my opinion.

    Like Vern says, if this idea of not putting CD/DVD drives into computers becomes widespread, how long before compact disc players are considered obsolete? That leaves guys like me – who refuse to listen to music through a computer or iPod – in the same ghetto as the guys who dig through crates of vinyl. And I feel that this represents the replacement of a rich aesthetic experience with a hollow approximation of that experience.

    BR Baraka: Over the past two weeks I’ve been to Occupation movements in both New York and Toronto. There’s some serious talk about the 99% of the population seizing control of the means of production from the 1% that is currently trying so hard to fuck it up. The future that is being imaged by these folks owes more to collectivism and sharing and a communal experience than it does to pirating and private engagement with monopolistic, tyrannical arts companies. Also, your hat is way funnier than mine.

  96. I would like to commend Vern’s article on the death of physical media, and also the intelligent discourse from the commenter’s on a very important subject to me.

    I’m a musician, vinyl, and film lover. The current trends in technology are absolutely pointing to a bleak future. The pirates are winning. The way things are going how will I ever be able to sell one record to anybody?

    However this is only one way it can go.

    Right now our society is looking for solutions on how we will consume and store art. We are witnessing the birth of streaming media, and are already realizing the extreme negative of this path as the ultimate way to consume art. I remember just a few years ago I had to sell NETFLIX, and absolutely nobody understood the concept. It was ridiculous.

    I believe that as long as there is money to be made there will always be physical products to sell. I don’t agree that Blu-ray will absolutely be the last form of physical media. As technology advances we’ll definitely be moving more towards smaller solid state storage solutions with longer data retention rates.

    The rebirth of vinyl is proving that real music fans who want to support artists want a high quality product filled with artwork, and history. That they can feel proud of owning.

    I foresee that the internet will absolutely start becoming more and more restricted and privatized just like television, just like the radio. I predict that our online privacy will absolutely be challenged in the coming years, and even though file sharing and piracy will never ever go away.

    There will definitely be harsher laws, enforcement and restrictions on all forms of media. A good portion will agree with this, and we’ll all eventually be talking about the good old days of the internet. The death of book stores, and record stores in there current format is extremely outdated, and really good riddance to it all. Everything will be opening up more opportunities for more independent sellers, and different forms of distribution.

    – spidey

  97. Griff, Edward Penishands was the porno I dreamed of watching when I turned 18. On the magical day I was able to rent it (Edward Penishands 3 by then), it was more magical than I ever hoped for. Not only does he have dildos on his hands (one each though, not like five fingers), but he’s got the full Edward Scissorhands makeup and costume and the actor is really doing the character. As far as eroticism goes, not sure how far shoving dildos into women gets you, but I loved the overall endeavor of it. And EP3 was a flashback with old Edward reflecting on his past escapade. And still there were girl/girl scenes.

    I think like anything else, the new models offer a lot of opportunity, it just shouldn’t completely replace everything else. Instant movies are a great opportunity, and Netflix sure keeps a healthy selection of non-mainstream titles. I watched all the Billy Jacks through them. It just shouldn’t erase video stores. Has anyone talked yet about the responsibility of landlords? Would videostores stay in business if landlords didn’t jack up the rent? I know my favorite local coffee shop got hit with a $3000 rent increase they couldn’t afford. Nobody has moved into their spot for over 2 years, so good job greedy landlord.

    There should always be a hard copy somewhere, even if it’s the director’s private stash. There should be a place to discover weird shit and big corporations making our Batman movies (see, even this thread will go there. You guys like Bane’s costume in Dark Knight Rises?)

    Mode7, the aforementioned Stallings had a poster of The Fly that showed every step of the transformation. I couldn’t go to Stallings for 6 months because I couldn’t look at it. Had to send my mom in for me.

    One last thing, I have long been fascinated by the formats in which movies exist. I tried to maintain a collection of CEDs but never found a working player, so got rid of all my discs. But I would’ve been totally willing to watch those outdated old copies, VHS, Beta, Laserdisc just because they existed. You could watch a movie on a vinyl analog plate and it was pan and scan but that’s how it existed for 2 years in the ’80s. Even now I sometimes get on kicks where I only want to watch DVDs for a while, not newfangled Blu-rays. Only for a week or so but sometimes the format itself is the hook for me. Including, by the way, sometimes I only want to watch my Amazon On Demand, because it’s available pumped right into my house and I want to use it. One day I’ll get on my Rekall memory implant trip too.

  98. Another theory I have is that after the robot holocaust, we’ll have to go back to our old DVDs and VHS because they’ll control the VOD streams. Then the zombie apocalypse will take out all the power supplies anyway so the only way we’ll be able to watch movies will be running film prints through hand cranked projectors.

  99. Br, I’ve enjoyed reading yours and other comments. Just throwing my two cents in. Comment more later when I have time. I like the discussion here.

  100. RIP: A Remix Manifesto is pertinent to this discussion.


  101. Oh for gawd’s sake guys… it’s NOT a battle, as much as certain organisations may want you to think that it is, between the “pirates” and the “legitimate” music organisations, music lovers, etc. The pirates need the RIAA as much as the RIAA need the pirates because without each other, neither side has any kind of legitimacy. The RIAA look like a bunch of crooks and extortionists, the pirates like a bunch of thieves. You could say that both sides look like that anyway, but at least right now they have SOME kind of support. Without somebody to rail against I don’t think they’d even have that.

    Jareth – what fields of media are being scrapped? Last time I checked, I had more opportunities to buy books or vinyls than I’d ever had before. The distribution path is changing, I’ll give you that, but that’s as far as I’ll go.

    I kind of agree with Diego here but I think – at least I HOPE – that the Internet stays as open as possible and that it retains the kind of freedoms of expression that we’ve enjoyed up until now (at least in the democratic wealthy world). The people running the companies that run the Internet have to make damn sure that they have an incentive to make sure it stays that way though, and I’m talking cold hard cash here. Companies don’t act out of principle, they act because of financial pressures. Come to that, so does pretty much everyone else.

    It’s the world we live in guys.

  102. Mr. Majestyk, there are a number of good video stores in New York – but nothing as titanic and incredible as the former Kim’s third floor. I do highly recommend Photoplay and Reel Life in Brooklyn, both strong locations for sure.

  103. Jareth – Just for the record, I am a guy who collects LPs, still draws animation with pencil and paper, and paints in oil. I am not trying to deify the concept of an all digital world.

    I respect that you care so deeply for your work. It IS true that a jpeg of one of your prints is not at all a full representation of the experience you want to create for your viewers.

    However, that “catalog” known as the internet allows a child in Nairobi to see your work if you so choose to post it. It might even inspire him to take up medium format photography DESPITE ITS JPEG AWFULNESS.

    Why would me seeing your art online and getting a tiny taste of it DISCOURAGE me from seeking it out when you have a showing near me? In my experience seeing an artist’s work online makes me look at their page and see if they have a showing near by I can attend.

    If you have a message in your art, isn’t it better for a JPEG version of that message to be shared with the world outside your city rather than no version at all? Maybe David Lean should have come out and said “sorry folks, if you aren’t watching Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen in 70mm, just skip it”…

    Even though home video is a pale reflection of that film’s theatrical glory, is it not a wonderful thing all the same?

    I don’t understand what is being clear cut. People who love art go to galleries, young and old. People who love movies go to the theater to see movies they love. Times change and tastes change in regard to art and aesthetics, but then again Kabuki and Ukiyo-e prints were once considered culturally impoverished vulgarities… But both the gallery lover and cinema lover come online and learn more and to communicate about their beloved art forms. Who looses?

    Vern – It is true that in an all-online world a rights issue, desire for censorship, or personal dispute could end a film’s availability. But I think such a situation would likely be rare. Maybe I am wrong, maybe there would be elaborate Lucas-inspired plots and schemes to take away the films we love, but it seems to be for the most part if we get to the point that the world is so hooked up to online distribution that physical media can go away (a far flung future for most of the world…) then the potential benefits of such a system would far outweigh the risks. Just in my limited understand of things, of course.

  104. gingersoll: spot on, good point.

    like gingersoll says, Jareth: I think you are presenting a false choice. Between a print on exhibit and a jpeg on the Internet. No, the truth is, you still have your print on exhibit. AND a jpeg on the Internet. For whatever that is worth. It is an additive situation, not an either/ or.

    Come to think of it, that’s the same argument with pirate media: that if some kid watches a movie for free, that represents lost revenue for the artist/ conglomerate. No, false choice.

    If it wasn’t available to him for free, he wouldn’t watch it. He’s broke. Again, it is an additive situation: you have your paying audience, and you have your audience who watches for free. The audience that watches for free does NOT equal lost revenue, because they would not watch that movie at all if it wasn’t free.

    Well, that’s a little intellectually dishonest of me. There will be people who will look at a jpeg of Jareth’s work rather than go around the corner and walk into the exhibit space. And there will be teenagers who will watch “Green Lantern” in their Mom’s basement rather than trek to the cineplex.

    But what I will assert is that that lost audience is more than made up for in increased exposure for the artist. Maybe not something like “Green Lantern”, it is such a commodity, but for more esoteric media, say Sion Sono’s “Love Exposure”. The amount of people who will see “Love Exposure”, because it is free, and because it is available on the Internet: how many people is that? Especially when it wouldn’t be available at all otherwise, or when they couldn’t be bothered to spend $29.95 on a DVD because they aren’t a rabid fan of Sono with money to burn like me.

    Then you are talking about a situation of no money lost, and lots of exposure gained for Sono: the curious casual audience, which is different than hardcore cinephiles like us. And maybe, some of that curious casual audience will turn into rabid fans like us because of that curious, casual exposure, and wind up buying the DVD, or going to see another of his films in the theatre. So you flip some of them into paying customers.

    The street crack dealer business model is: the first hit is free, the next you pay. Here we are talking about a new kind of street crack dealer coming into town: have all the free hits you want, but I’m giving you cheap dirty product mixed with sheetrock and baking soda and talcum powder. If you want the premium high, the finest rock you’ve ever smoked, then cough up some dough.

    So pirate media is GOOD for esoteric media: an increase in a casual audience that otherwise wouldn’t exist, leading to more potential serious cinephiles, but BAD for mainstream pop media: everyone is casual consumer, so pirate media really does mean some lost revenue.

    I think that makes sense.

    Still, it’s complex. On the balance, it’s like gingersoll says: we aren’t talking about a choice between seeing something badly and seeing something well. We are talking about a choice between seeing something, or not seeing it at all.

    Likewise, with piracy, we aren’t talking about paying or not paying. We are talking about an additive situation: those who would pay, for a premium experience- a theatre or a permanent DVD, and those who would not pay, no matter what, and only consume the media for free out of passing fancy. A passing interest they would not indulge at all if someone insisted they pay first. But a passing fancy that might turn into a full blown romance, with the money involved for that, because they got the exposure which free pirate media made possible.

  105. Paul: Photography is an endangered species; not long ago one of my favorite kinds of film (b/w 1600 for 35mm) was discontinued by the last company that produced it, Fuji, and medium format is only available through specialty stores. The guys who know how to fix old cameras are so scarce that they have year-long waiting lists. I think film will probably survive like vinyl as a niche activity. Eventually people will realize there are some things you can do with film that you can’t do with digital, much in the way they’re starting to realize how awful MP3s sound compared to vinyl. I think it is unfortunate that photography has to be so radically displaced by digital imaging.

    But my real point is that the prevalence of the internet changes the actual way that we experience existing media in profound ways. Music isn’t music when it is heard over the internet. Paintings aren’t paintings on the internet and photographs aren’t photographs. They are all poor facsimiles of complex aesthetic experiences that occur in the real world. The more we interact with art using the internet, the more we erode everything that is unique about various media as discrete experiences. The more we live online, the more likely actual art spaces like galleries and jazz clubs are going to disappear.

    I’m not optimistic that anyone who gets a glimpse of a work of art from the internet is going to make an effort to seek it out in the real world in order to enjoy the experience the artist intended. I think the form of the internet itself is fashioning lazy consumers, not explorers. There is a leveling effect produced by the internet where everything is rendered as flat and lifeless as possible. To me, experiencing art on the internet is worse than watching a movie on television with all the commercials and nudity cut out and “Mr. Falcons” added in. This is going to sound snobbish, but I think the internet is encouraging a trend that began with mechanical reproduction: too many people are satisfied that they understand Picasso’s “Guernica” when they’ve only seen it on a computer monitor reduced to the size of a postcard. I think that’s a kind of corruption of art, not a celebration or sharing of it.

  106. It’s not the threat of a movie being intentionally shut out that I’m worried about (although obviously that will happen). Netflix or whoever has to pay money to stream Blood Rage, Hell High and Slashed Dreams. They can’t afford and don’t want to bother to have all movies available all the time. The video store where I rented them just had to buy them once, and now they’re there for anyone who wants them. The old model is a catalog that builds forever and keeps getting bigger. The new model is a rotating selection and it assumes that nobody gives a shit what it is anyway as long as there’s some new releases and a bunch of other random crap.

  107. “So pirate media is GOOD for esoteric media: an increase in a casual audience that otherwise wouldn’t exist, leading to more potential serious cinephiles, but BAD for mainstream pop media: everyone is casual consumer, so pirate media really does mean some lost revenue. ”

    Sometimes, but what do you say to Scott Adkins and Larnell Stovall, who both believe that the reason they’re not making Undisputed 4 right now is because everybody pirated part 3 instead of paying for it? I agree with you about the exposure helping in alot of cases, but there is also a generation and/or subculture of people who just believe they deserve everything for free. Which is fine, they are obviously great people who deserve it, but the rest of us don’t get to see more Boyka if there’s no money in it.

  108. That’s the thing. People taking for free might choose to pay next time but there might not be a chance. You can’t say to a producer “Hey they didn’t pay for the last one but they might this time.” They wouldn’t believe it and neither would I.

  109. Radiohead once offered a new album as a download on their website. You had to pay for it, but you could decide how much you wanted to give. Way too many people only paid the absolute minimum (Can’t remember if it was 1$ or 1 cent), so that the whole album was a financial loss for everybody and they decided to never let people pay what they want again.

  110. That’s a good example C.J. Good album too. I bought the Cd.

  111. Jareth – I like your comments and you are an interesting guy, but you are being very judgmental and close minded on your views of the ways people interact with the internet. If the net makes you feel lazy and unadventurous, that is your experience, but it is certainly not mine.

    While traveling in rural Japan I came across a photograph in a shop that fascinated me. It was a photo of a very strange looking doll. I had to know who made this doll, I had to see it, or others like it, IN PERSON. No one could give me the info I needed to do that… But enough research online came up with the doll maker’s address in Tokyo.

    I spent a great deal of time looking for the very confusing address not even knowing if this man would be home, let alone if he would let me see his dolls! Luckily I did find his tiny hole-in-the-wall place… It was amazing, 50 years of intense, utterly unique work. I felt like I was in some kind of shrine to this old master’s soul, I wanted to cry.

    Without the net that experience would have been impossible.

    Yet this is not so rare, I assure you. I can’t count the number of times an interesting music act or show has caught my eye online first, leading me to seek it out. My friends also are like this… How is it that you think seeing something online depletes the desire to see more of it?

    As for your prejudice against mechanical reproductions of art, I can only say that if an image brings someone to a intellectual or emotional realization, than the reproduction has done its job. I admit that no art book I have ever seen has captured, for example, the layered depth of Van Gogh’s brush work, and few have accurately reproduced the colors of his paintings, but those imperfect art books in the library shelves are what led me to seek out his works in person, and they still fill me with deep emotions despite their imperfections.

  112. Scotty: I forgot about Reel Life, probably because every time I go to Park Slope some girl breaks up with me. That video store is along my walk of shame back to the subway so I must have blacked it out of my mind.

    I never heard of Photoplay but I don’t make it back to Greenpoint much since I moved out of there back in 2001. The neighborhood has changed a lot since then. I do appreciate that they named their store after one of the songs on the TERMINATOR soundtrack though so maybe I should check them out.

  113. I suppose the biggest question going forwards then is one of net neutrality. I think that BR’s view on things is definitely legit – but only if the net stays free and open. The fact is that although the internet is a great way to stick it to the man it is also somewhat owned by the man. Your ISP is a corporation the same as Sony and as such is looking after its own interests. There’s no saying pirates won’t simply be blacklisted somewhere down the road, and then what are you gonna do for media when there’s no physical media still around?

    I think people sometimes fall into the trap of believing the internet could only ever exist the way it currently does, but Diego is totally right – for all we know in ten years time the internet could work the same way as cable – you subscribe to a select set of sites for however much per month and that’s all you get. I hope to god that doesn’t happen but the MPAA have a lot of power and a lot of money – it’s entirely possible that the people fighting for free media will eventually fuck us all out of an open internet. And yeah I’m sure there’s always gonna be a way of getting around things if you’re savvy enough, but the general population isn’t and I don’t see why they should suffer because a bunch of teenagers don’t like paying for things.

  114. I think the moment where I started to become somewhat weary of internet piracy was when I started reading interviews with some small time musicians who said that once piracy became more prevalent in the early aughts, it became harder and harder for them to pay the bills. None of these artists expected to get rich on what they were doing, but they had, up until that point, managed to become somewhat comfortable. Sure, a good portion of their yearly income came from performing live, but album sales had, up until that time, gave them time to do nothing more than write and work on their craft without having to worry about packing everything in a van and put on a show every night.

    These musicians still denounced the absurd lawsuits that had been levied against illegal downloaders, but they also kind of wished there was a way to get people to pay for art. But because these musicians weren’t globe trotting megastars, I get the impression that their indie labels actually gave them a fair share of their album sales, so this situation doesn’t quite fit into the “the labels screw the musicians, so screw them” dynamic. In the past ten years or so I’ve pretty much stopped downloading music without paying. (I also have more disposable income, so that of course changes things.). I actually think Netflix has probably done a lot more to curb illegal downloads than all the lawsuits the entertainment industry has carried out. These days it is much easier to stream or order a movie from Netflix than it is to search out a bittorrent site and risk downloading a crappy version of the movie. But there are still problems with this model, most notably (as Vern points out) the fact that it might be unsustainable economically. I heard that even Spotify has lost a tremendous amount of money.

  115. Vern you said that video stores add dvd’s to their collection rather than rotate them. But that isn’t true, is it? When new titles come, what do they do with the titles people don’t watch as often? You can’t just continually stock your store with more and more dvds. You have to purge so that you have room for newer titles. Naturally, you want to have room for the movies people are the most interested in. So I don’t think video stores, certainly not Blockbuster, ever had the kind of selection to be excited about.

    Here’s an interesting concept. What if in the future, there are more websites that have older, harder to find titles? Niche websites maybe, like http://www.oldermovies.com (just made that up) where you can visit their streaming archive. Perhaps a niche site might find more success than a giant behemoth like Netflix where streaming hard-to-find titles just screw up their bottom line.

  116. RIP Fremont Rain City video. Now I have to trudge all the way up to Market.

  117. The Devil:

    Here’s an interesting concept. What if in the future, there are more websites that have older, harder to find titles? Niche websites maybe, like http://www.oldermovies.com (just made that up) where you can visit their streaming archive. Perhaps a niche site might find more success than a giant behemoth like Netflix where streaming hard-to-find titles just screw up their bottom line.

    Or: outlawvern.com

    Vern is a great niche. He is the new Criterion/ Anchor Bay. People are going to be interested in certain movies for the first time because Vern reviewed them. The next step is for Vern to be an actual portal to sell the movies he reviews. He wouldn’t be a sellout: he’s not pushing recent mainstream crap. Ancient mainstream crap? Fair game!

    And a review doesn’t obligate him to sell. He can still review “Tintin” while it’s still in theatres and no sale button. He can review that VHS that is pretty much the only copy left on the planet. It doesn’t have to corrupt Vern’s soul, he can let his mind wander freely as it does. If it HAPPENS to overlap with some new release of older films from a supplier, he can put a sales button at the bottom of the review, and get a commission from the supplier. This is how Amazon works, how Amazon rose to become Amazon: smaller sites referred to them, and got a commission. This is a 15 year old business strategy.

    Vern should be adding this to his checklist for every movie he reviews: “Sales button?” yes/ no. check. Then Vern’s reviews, which we love, will get the economic support they deserve, we the reader can consider buying it easily, and the artist/ rights owner makes a sale. Win-win-win.

    All on the evil art destroying Internet.

  118. Well, I guess we’re spoiled in Seattle with a store that has something like 110,000 titles. But even the things they don’t have you can find somewhere in the world, for example I recently ordered the early Isaac Florentine movie SAVATE as a pal code 2 dvd. Think of the world as a giant video store, and the catalog is always growing. But the world of streaming has to rotate more than grow because the deals are not permanent.

    That’s the point I keep trying to make. It’s not so much the technology that’s the problem (I’m sure eventually it won’t suck as much, much like digital projection has improved over the years) as it is the legality. Oldermovies.com couldn’t do a good job unfortunately because they too would have to pay out the ass for Savate and for whatever else they want and their deals would be constantly running out. It’s just like the classic early to mid ’90s hip hop can’t exist anymore because of sample laws. That’s why BR proposes a world where movies are all bootlegs, because it’s either that or a limited, corporately negotiated Blockbuster selection if it’s all streaming.

  119. Vern – you know I’m into golden-age crime stuff, a lot of which is out of print. Thanks to the Internet, it’s no longer inacessible, whereas ten years ago it would have been. I know exactly where to go on the Internet to get what I want. The only problem with the system, as I see it, is the search engines. What if they “prioritise” content from the biggest producers, who can afford to pay for the most visibility, over the smaller ones? Or if they prioritise content they see as “moral” and block content that they don’t? That is a very real and major problem that threatens the concept of freedom of speech itself.

    I don’t see where the “rotating selection” comes in. To me, more and more content is becoming available in more and more different ways to more and more people, and it’s the OLD ideas – region coding, country barriers, excessive IP laws etc – that are causing barriers to it.

    And yeah, I absolutely 100% agree with you about the pirates. And the way to combat that problem is to present people with an alternative that presents benefits that the pirate sites don’t have. A subscription model to pay X amount of money monthly to download – and keep – a certain amount of movies per month? I’m game for that.

  120. I’m disappointed to hear that everyone pirated Undisputed 3. You know what? I think I bought a used copy on Half.com so I didn’t help either. I always thought Pirates didn’t make a difference, because pirates were people who were never going to pay for the movie, music, etc. in the first place. So the $ pool we’re talking about is only the grown-ups who don’t have time to wait for torrents, who just want to watch what they want to watch and pay the download/streaming fee. It’s like the South Park, because you illegally downloaded a song, Puff Daddy’s kids won’t be able to get an indoor swimming pool… for two months.

    So really the problem is that the pool of pirates who don’t want to pay for anything is growing. There’s a generation that doesn’t love movies enough to pay for them. So if they can’t get their hands on a free download, they’ll get something else to occupy their time. That means some re-education is in order. Will my Gandhi approach still work for that? Love the pirates because they lack the love we share for movies? I’m going somewhere with this…

  121. “That’s why BR proposes a world where movies are all bootlegs, because it’s either that or a limited, corporately negotiated Blockbuster selection if it’s all streaming.”

    Vern, I think this is what you’re missing here.

    In the sense that he’s talking about, all movies ARE bootlegs. BR’s world isn’t a proposal, it’s what’s unavoidably and unstoppably happening right now. Technological advancements make things inevitable. Stable owners tried to outlaw cars because they were taking “their” business. Early music producers tried to outlaw the radio, and blank CDs, and blank DVDs, and downloads, for the exact same reason. Guess what happened, in every single case?

    The plain fact is, most people won’t pay for a horse to ride to work when they can get a Toyota that does the same job. As a businessman, you can try to legislate your competition away, prohibition-style. (And we all know how well that worked out. Meth-laced whisky, anybody?) Or you can adapt, develop, and work out a business model that embraces new technology. The companies that take option #2 prosper; the companies that take option #1 die. It takes a while but it happens.

  122. This conversation has really started to make me wonder a really important question: am I better off with the unlimited knowledge the internet offers me?

    When it comes to movies I think the answer is no. I kind of miss just going to the video store and picking up a movie because it had a cool cover or title. I miss going to a movie and not knowing what it’s about. I miss word of mouth really meaning something. All the internet seems to do is make it easier for me to find very specific subgenres of horror or whatever that just increasingly feel cheap and exploitative.

    I remember being in highschool when some friends wanted to go see The Sixth Sense. Sure, I had the internet but all that meant was that I played Ultima Online with some friends. So, we go see The Sixth Sense and all I know is that it’s a ghost movie with Bruce Willis. I’m pretty excited to see him blasting away at ghosts and just kicking ass. Instead, I got The Sixth Sense. Pretty good movie. City of G-d, Amelie, and tons of other movies have had that same effect.

    Nowadays, if someone wants to go see a movie I tend to research it to see if it’s something I would want to see. This easy access to information is robbing me of something. I feel like I’m a better “consumer” since I can find a movie to scratch whatever itch I have but I’m rarely surprised and I also find it more difficult to appreciate a film on its own merits. Instead, I watch a movie hoping it will meet a set of requirements.

    I don’t know, I’m just seeing this progression of technology doing a lot of bad things. If we lived in a more equitable society that cared about quality of life it wouldn’t matter and we would all be better off from the benefits of technology. Instead, all it is doing is squeezing out workers and ruining lives so some can have a marginally beneficial life.

    So, yeah, I think I’m on Vern’s side. I don’t think making people into more efficient consumers of media translates into my life becoming better. I would rather just go to a small video store and bumble around for an hour with a few friends as we decide on some shitty movie no one has heard of. I would rather be a kid checking the video store every day for a VHS copy of Terminator 2 than my nephew who has been able to watch Transformers 2 a million times the day it came out on DVD.

    I don’t know, there’s a lot of sides to this issue. A big part of me is terrified of technology because it seems to be building barriers around everyone. People don’t talk to strangers in public anymore. They just text or talk on their phone and barricade themselves into their known group of friends and family. People don’t go pick up random books, movies, or CDs anymore. They get locked into a genre or artist or whatever and don’t look outside of that. Technology just seems to be allowing people to silo their interests and relationships.

    Shit, man, seriously, at the end of the day I think my life was better when I had to go to the video store and felt disappointed that I couldn’t get whatever bullshit movie I wanted to pick up and had to settle for some other movie I had never heard of because fuck it I’m already there and I can’t go home empty handed.

  123. Man I love how many ideas and angles are being floated in this discussion right now. A lot to think about.

    But just reread the original article and I want to give a shout out to a now dead, but once loved, video store in Humboldt county. VIDEO EXPERIENCE. Man these guys were amazing. Well, not by big city standards, but for a hay seed like me they were. I loved being able to browse their near complete Werner Herzog filmography on one shelf and then turn around and pick up an imported tape of a Shaw Bros classic. The people, clerks and customers alike, were friendly and interesting, I always left the place with a warm feeling.

    But eventually they closed shop. It sucks, but to be honest I can’t blame the average joe for not helping to keep them afloat. Joe just wanted some movies to watch and then forget, he really didn’t care for having to drive all the way out to the store and deal with late fees and all that. Joe wasn’t interested in weird gems or having long in store conversations about bollywood musicals. Fair enough, fair enough.

    Good old VX…

  124. Casey – that’s an interesting post. Very much so, because I can absolutely see your point of view but it’s not one I think I could ever share. I don’t feel as though new technology has closed my mind to new things. If anything it’s had the opposite effect.

    But then my life tends to be planned out in minute detail. I live by rote. My space is limited. My time is limited. My money is VERY limited. I don’t want to waste any of it on crap that I’ll never use, watch, read or listen to again. And I hate renting. If I watch a movie I want to OWN it. The majority of movies I watch at the cinema that I enjoy (which is most of them because I do my research) I will buy on DVD later on. But not ONLY those movies. I watch forums, review sites and other places to see what people are recommending and I will always be open to a hidden gem.

  125. I totally appreciate that, Mr Paul. We’re different people and I totally jive with that.

    Honestly, I almost always enjoy going to the movie theatre. I almost always enjoy watching a movie at home. It’s pretty rare when I don’t find something to enjoy. Not to get into a debate about it (again) but that’s why I really hated Inception: I just plain hated the theatre going experience for that film. Hell, I even managed to enjoy How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days when I was dragged to see it in a double date 7 or 8 years ago.

    I’m not a closed minded guy or anything. I just have a certain taste that I tend to go out and actively try to experience. If Vern or someone else I respects recommends a movie outside of my normal spectrum I will try to see it. Still, I think I’m better off when I’m just subjected to whatever it is that’s there since it pushes me outside of my narrow focus of preferences.

    Do I want to see a quirky French movie about a girl’s response to Princess Diana’s death? Fuck no. Did I go see Amelie because it was there and free for students at the university theatre? Sure, fuck it, who cares, maybe tomorrow night will be a better movie and this indie chick will think I’m a nice guy for going to see it.

  126. I really don’t see how the nightmare scenario of internet streaming is any worse than the current situation. Either way media corporations are going to sit on movies with tricky licensing issues rather than release them. Sure you can track down a bootleg DVD-R or an out-of-print VHS, but as far as the artist is concerned, how is that any different that downloading a pirated copy? I mean, let’s not pretend that if a corporation removes a movie from it’s VOD stream then it’s gone forever. Films will be archived, passed around and seen no matter what. Whether corporations make money from it is another matter.

  127. One more example of my earlier post about embracing new technology without giving up the old. It applies to everything. We get new forms of communication, and people just stop using the old ones. Texting is great. It’s lovely to be able to send texts. That doesn’t mean all interaction should be texts. We should still have conversations and save some stuff to tell people live. Just because we have texting or tweeting doesn’t mean that’s all we should do now. So it gets really social.

    Casey, I think you’re absolutely right. The internet has taken a lot of work out of being a film lover. And other things too. Not to be crude, but porn used to be something where you had to rent lots of cleverly titled videos and record lots of late nite Cinemax to find something you like. Now I can just type in exactly what I’m looking for and there are hundreds of sites producing exclusively that fetish. Honestly, it saves me a whole lot of time as a grown adult since I’m not archiving and catalogueing my porn anymore, and I don’t have to hide a box of VHS tapes anymore. I would also like to have a real relationship where I devote all my love to a human being but here we are.

  128. Anyone remember the recalled DVD of Little Shop of Horrors? It had a 20 minute extended ending that was not authorized by Geffen pictures, so it was recalled. The later DVD release didn’t have the alternate ending. I paid $200 for a copy of the recalled DVD on ebay. The smart people who bought the DVD before the recall kept something of value. And it’s totally worth it. That sequence should be seen and I’m glad to have it.

    I bet if we were an all streaming society, someone still would have found a way to archive the first release of that bonus feature in the days before it was deleted by the studio. However the actual production of a hard copy that exists, either in a Raiders of the Lost Ark style warehouse or in the Mad Max style stash of collectors who bought it quick enough, really makes it something special.

  129. My main store is out of space, so I am selling off the crap and archiving the rarer ones. I just take them out of circulation, but customers can still rent them… they just need to ask for the title specifically instead of browsing for it.

    I have been surprised this year with how many young people are still buying dvds, and also vhs. In my area at least, college kids still like to browse, hold things in their hands, and buy something to put on their shelves.

    The trick is the price. A customer will balk at that $40 Criterion title, but be more likely to pick up something for $10 – $15. The Miramax catalog was sold to Lionsgate and Echo Bridge, and both are doing excellent jobs bundling the films and selling them cheap. Warner Brothers, as infuriating as it is dealing with them for new releases, now bundle 4 films for $15, like DIRTY HARRY or THE MATRIX series. Blue Underground seems to be the only “indie” company that tiers their pricing. Many of their titles are reduced to $15 a year or so after it is released. I think if more studios and dvd companies would take these business models, dvds will last longer than they think.

  130. Anyone know what the logic behind releasing twin packs of films containing both DVD and bluray is? Is it somehow cheaper to produce those than have a separate release of each?

  131. I think the thinking is that maybe you got a Blu-ray player in your living room but you have a regular DVD player in your kids’ room or in your Escalade or something. If you get a digital copy as well there’s just no conceivable way you could ever be without ICE AGE 3 for even a second.

  132. Dude, that squirrel is pretty funny.

    (Ice Age has the squirrel, right? I only remember the trailers from working at a movie theatre a decade ago.)

  133. BR is living in a fantasy world. If you’re a filmmaker, what good is more exposure for your work from a bunch of pirates? Beause then the movie doesn’t make any money and what, you’re going to make the next movie for free and then THAT one gets pirated and you stilldon’t make any money?

    BR lives in a fantasy world that purely out of love, people will pay millions of dollars and thousands of hours of their time, for free, to make wonderful Criterion remasters of films. Yeah, right. You’re just trying to justify not paying for shit…”sure, I’m ripping you off NOW, but this will pay off later when you have to work a lot harder to make up for it because more people have heard of you. Now cut another album so I can steal it too!”

    The problem with this piracy is it IS the little guy who gets hurt the most in these cases…and you can’t say they’re paying their dues and making the money on the next one, because the same thing will happen to the next one.

    Having said that, Vern I think to an extent you’re right about streaming and Netflix, but also looking at it wrong in a certain way. Sure NOW you can own DVDs and all of that, but that was still a fairly recent time period. Back in the 70s if you wanted to see Psycho, you had to wait for years for a revival or wait for it to b shown on tv…and then there were like four channels, so good luck with that. Owning movies is a recent phenomenon. And good luck back then seeing any Jodorowsky movie. So I don’t see much of a real difference, except now you can find that stuff a lot easier, even if there were no DVDs. It will probably be on some site somewhere.

    Or, as BR suggests, you can always find it online and pirate it.

  134. Mr. Doctor:

    Respectfully, you are shooting the messenger because you don’t like the message. I am not trying to sell you a dystopian ideology. I am simply describing what is already going on. Hate the new reality all you want, gnash your teeth all you want: it doesn’t change anything. All of your fears are valid, and you can’t stop it. No one can.

    Furthermore, I’m now going to throw fuel on the fire of your fears by giving everyone even something worse to worry about, a few people have already bought the subject up: CDs and DVDs aren’t designed to last a long time.

    I think most CDs/ DVDs will last decades at least, it depends upon the technology/ metal/ dye used. Worst are those CD-Rs and DVD-Rs, because the dye used by CDs/ DVDs you burn at home degrade quickly. I think those are only going to last 5-10 years. Humidity, heat, etc., speeds things up. And if you ever wrote on your CD/ DVD with a sharpie: congratulations, the solvents in that are going to seep in and degrade your product. Let’s not talk about VHS (although, if stored well and away from magnets, I think VHS will last longer than some CDs/ DVDs).

    I think in the year 2050, we will talk about rare unique DVD or CD copies of certain movies falling apart like we talk about the early silent era movies on nitrocellulose falling apart. The solution? Get your collection on a hard drive now!

    Not because a hard drive is any safer, a hard drive is usually more fragile. But the magic with a hard drive is you can always mirror hard drives, and copy the files over to new hard drives, forever, and transcribe into new codecs as new media eras come and go. But what if your house burns down, destroying all your hard drives? So you SHARE WITH FRIENDS ONLINE (aka, evil piracy). That’s the way to true immortality for the movies we love. Or trust that some conglomerate’s warehouse doesn’t have a fire. Go type “warehouse fire universal 2008” into Google. Oops.

    And then, for true horror fans: the CD/ DVD eating fungus. I’m not joking:


  135. It’s not whether or not I don’t like what’s going on…but you’re not just the messenger, you’re advocating what’s going on. That’s the difference.

    So answer me…how is an indie movie that would bypass theatrical…which is where you say movies will make their money after they make tons of new fans based off pirated media…how are these indies supposed to make any money? This isn’t an instance of pirated music where the band can play live. this is a movie, this is it. And then the movie makes no money and the filmmakers never get to make another one because why would anyone fund them again?

  136. I keep thinking about other parallels this wonderful VTILII speaks to. The failure of DVD and video stores speaks to many industries failing to adapt to changes in the industry. The internet comes along and newspapers just go kaput. They think they can just move their business online with the same business model. Then they realize advertisers who pay $1000s for a full page ad won’t pay hundreds for a banner on the website. It’s a different business, has to be done differently.

    So Blockbuster drove all the mom and pop stores out of business with their massive selection and multi-day rentals. Then Netflix figured out a model that worked with DVDs because they were so cheap to mail. Now a brick and mortar like Hollywood Video or Tower can’t even stay open, and Blockbuster has to switch to a copy of the Netflix mail order/streaming model. And now even the DVDs by mail business seems like it’s unsustainable versus streaming/VOD. There must have been a way to adapt and keep some of the good stuff of the old business while staying competitive with the new model.

    Also, remember when getting a new release was hard? A whole rack of Terminator 2s at Blockbuster would be rented out for days. You’d have to stalk the drop box or know someone on the inside (or a mom and pop store that took reservations.) Then the “Gauranteed In Stock” movement came in for select titles so no one would ever have to miss Sliding Doors (I remember that because it was the one movie that was out of stock, but the clerk pulled one from under the counter and I was no longer interested.) Now we can VOD anything the day it’s out, or at the very least get our Amazon.com DVD delivered on street date.

  137. I don’t know if DVDs are unsustainable per se…but it’s just that streaming really took off. And the ease and convenience is hard to beat, plus on Netflix’s side they have a lot less costs involved (unless the studio is asking for huge sums) because they don’t have to ship the disks. And if streaming really becoms the whole deal, they can close all their warehouses because all you need are some great servers and lots of hard drive space…streaming is relatively cheap to do.

  138. Quick one, because I think I’ve said most of what I want to on this topic.

    There’s one thing I don’t agree with anybody about and that’s that movies will be funded using ticket sales from cinemas alone. Add in the cinema’s “cut” and this kind of model is clearly unsustainable. There are many other ways to fund filmmaking, and many ways to pay for them that aren’t a complete rip-off (as DVD sales and streaming are, at least in an age where the information contained on that DVD or stream can be infinitely replicated at no cost to the person who buys it. What exactly is the buyer supposed to be paying for?) I think Mode had it right when he mentioned a subscription service. Sort out the licensing and privacy issues, and I think that’s the inevitable future of film consumption.

    BUT – here’s the thing – this whole debate kinda reminds me of the things some commentators say about how the book market is “dumbing down”. I feel like shaking these guys by the throat and yelling at them: “NO, it’s not dumbing down! We live in an age where a plumber’s or builder’s mate can buy a widely-regarded classic piece of literature for a pound at the railway station and read it on the train on the way to work! And many of them do exactly that! Two hundred years ago, the vast majority of the population couldn’t even read!”

    By which I mean – WE HAVE IT GOOD. So good, in fact, that we sometimes forget just HOW good we have it. Technology won’t spoil that. Sure, there’ll be speed bumps, but on the whole things will keep getting better and better. More choice, not less. More ways to enjoy media of all kinds, and more accessibility for everybody. This happened with the printing press, it happened with the Woolworths’ libraries, it happened with one-pound paperbacks (do you guys get “one-dollar paperbacks” over in America?) and it it happening now. So let’s not be so quick to be pessimistic here.

  139. Yeah, we have it good, so that means it’s okay to willingly go backwards and make it less good? I disagree. If it ain’t broke don’t break it.

    Anyway I wanted to add one somewhat relevant current event to this. Apparently Disney released that new PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movie as supposedly “not for rent” like the Weinsteins did with their “Blockbuster Exclusive” movies a few years ago. They can’t rewrite the law to make it illegal to rent something, so instead they threaten their distributors to not make it available to rental stores. Apparently Warner Brothers has also done this before and will do it with HARRY POTTER AND THE SECOND PART OF THE LAST PART.

    Why do they do this? Maybe to bully families into shelling out for an expensive blu-ray/dvd/why-the-fuck–would-you-want-a-digital-copy combo when their kids want to see it, instead of renting it. But maybe also to stab the video stores in the back while they’re down and help put them down forever. The corporations never wanted movies to be rentable but they had to live with it and make their money by selling hundreds of thousands of videos or dvds to the people that rent them out. They were so worried about piracy but now technology is actually bringing them closer to the corporate stranglehold they wanted in the first place.

    If Donald Duck were still alive he’d throw a fuckin shit fit over this. Although to be fair he was pretty irritable in general.

  140. Wow, that’s fucked up. The new PIRATES movie is available for rent over here, but I’m scared that they will pull such shit soon too. Especially because POTTER7.1 went into rental a month after it was available for sale. So you can see, they really do try to change the decade old rental/sale model here too.

  141. That’s like challenging their potential customers not to download it. No-one’s shelling out for a full price first week blu-ray buy unless a) they’re rich or b) the movie’s exceptional. Pirates 4 ain’t a b) and no-one’s an a) at the moment. Donald’s quacking in his grave (when did he die? I missed it. RIP)

  142. Thanks, Vern, for spurring this fantastic discussion. I would like to add one comment to those wondering how movies will be funded in the future: Are you familiar with Kickstarter? Perhaps films could be funded along those lines. Pay $25 and you get a copy/get to stream it before the general public does. Pay $50 and you also get your name in the credits. Pay $100 and you get an autographed poster, too.

    Established filmmakers would be able to raise more money. I’d be likely to give a sizable amount of money to the Coen Brothers in order to help get a film from them made. Maybe for a few thousand, you’d be able to get a set visit, or a cameo in the movie.

    A consequence of this model is that there will be lots more small-budget movies, and far fewer big-budget ones. I don’t see this as a bad thing. And anyway, big-budget movies are more popular than little indie dramas, so more people would be willing to fund them.

  143. Also, another point I wanted to add to this discussion is I have noticed that it is expensive to legally stream/rent films that are not part of a steaming service like Netflix or Hulu, and they provide less value than renting a DVD. For example if you want to stream a movie through the Xbox market place or the Playstation store it is going to cost you around 6 or 7 bucks to stream the film in HD, compared to the cost of renting a DVD or Blu Ray for around $3 this seems ridiculous. Especially, when you consider that there is bonus content and film maker commentaries on DVDs & Blu Rays.

  144. gingersoll: I think that the internet is a useful research tool and a pretty phenomenal consumer tool. It’s definitely an effective promotional tool. Evidently it is also a profound social forum as well, which I won’t say anything bad about because it’s allowed me to interact with fine folk like you. Seriously, this discussion is a real pleasure to read, mostly because of the respect everyone is showing each other’s opinion.

    However, I also think that the internet is a dead zone, aesthetically speaking; it makes me miss the relatively rich experience of using microfiche in a public library. My fear – which may be an over-reaction, like you say – is that the internet will supplant actual aesthetic experiences out there in the world because people will become content with simulations.

    When I see a movie in a theater or go to a gallery, it is an aesthetic experience. When I watch a DVD or look at an artist’s work online, I feel more like I’m just gathering data. The very nature of the internet means that music and images must suffer a loss to fit the format. I’ve heard recordings where entire instruments were missing due to compression. I’ve also noticed that live music venues here in Toronto, while still doing okay, are certainly not expanding. I assume the internet has something to do with this.

    In my opinion the internet offers poor simulations, but I’m willing to accept that I’m being more than a little uptight about the whole issue. I certainly don’t mean to suggest that everyone should encounter art in the manner I think is best (repertory theaters, art galleries, et cetera). And maybe one day the internet will invent a way of experiencing simulated art in a way that is more compelling.

    The Devil: The two video stores I rent from keep every title that they buy. They only sell the multiple copies of new releases once the public has stopped insisting that THE NANNY DIARIES or whatever be available on the release date (with the exception of porn, which they tend to sell used copies of almost constantly; I guess there’s something about porn’s purposiveness that doesn’t make its archival value immediately apparent). From talking to the staff, neither of these stores is suffering. But then the big box stores never caught on in downtown Toronto the way they did in the suburbs.

  145. Jareth, I’m an optimist and I think what has you worried is exactly what will keep original art alive. People DON’T want to settle for the simulation. It’s great to have instant access and access to things that might not be available in your home town. But we seem to have heeded the warnings of sci-fi and never tend to let technology totally define us. Even the kids and their twitter are realizing their relationships are suffering, so we may see them get their act together.

    I don’t necessarily think the theatrical experience is where it’s at. The mainstreaming of cinema has led to truly horrible moviegoing venues but the quality of home theater suggests hard copies and possibly private viewing parties. Certainly theaters like Alamo Drafthouse and the New Bev, Egyptian and Aero in L.A. keep alive what cinema used to be, or in the case of the Alamo redefining it as something even better than ever.

    The photography example is perfect. People will know the difference between an original gallery and a JPEG copy. No one’s hanging JPEG’s on their walls, no matter how great the HD screens get. Heck, do people even really use those digital picture frame that cycle through your digital memory card?

    This thread has made me feel very good about my library. I’m overflowing five bookcases at the moment and felt a little self-indulgent. I’m always pretty good about going through and taking out those titles that I never seem to get around to watching, but the prospect of buying a sixth Ikea bookcase gave me pause. Now I know that it’s so future generations of post-apocalyptic scavengers will be able to find a copy of Black Dynamite on Blu-ray.

  146. That’s very reasonable, Fred. I appreciate you taking the time to respond. On days when I’m less inclined to be all grumpy about the issue, I can certainly appreciate the pushback or disillusionment that seems to be going on. Certainly here in Toronto vinyl is selling really well, and though our repertory theaters aren’t the prettiest, there are
    lots of them. Ditto art galleries. The best video stores in town are doing well precisely because of the social component that Casey suggested he is beginning to miss.

    A question for smarter people than me:

    It was mentioned earlier in this thread that the internet might move toward a model that resembles cable t.v., where your access to the internet is confined to a list of sites that you subscribe to. How would that work? Would the consumer pick her or his own list of sites, or would the whole internet be carved up into packages? Would Vern then benefit from subscription fees that are charged or would Clear Channel buy out his site and try to sell us Pepsi throughout their rave review of CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPOHOLIC 2: BACK IN THE HABIT?

    For the record, I am against this model, and I am glad that the internet evolved in a way that will make it difficult for corporations to buy up all the real estate on the web. I’m also grateful that some countries are trying to enact legislation that would keep access to the internet as free as possible.

  147. My music producer friend informs me today is Record Store Day. So, especially if you live in a big city, you should probably check out the scene. People are lining up on the sidewalk, celebrities are making appearances, the youth’s obsession with vinyl is killing the old-fashioned MP3 format, yay small business, etc..

    Unfortunately, I’m working all day so I am not able to participate, but the record store photos on FaceBook are interesting. Also, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IO7SYplYBVo

  148. I don’t get Record Store Day. It’s cool that they do something to make record stores and Vinyl popular again with da kids, but…I don’t know. I don’t get it. *shrugs*

  149. What is there to not get? It’s record stores trying to find a way to stay in business by reminding those of us who appreciate that part of our culture that they exist.

  150. I know, but just saying once a year “Visit record stores, we sell today limited vinyls, that only the people care for, who are already our regular customers anyway”, seems to me a little bit too much like preaching to the choir.
    It’s a nice idea, but unfortunately it will change as much as liking an article on Facebook. It’s also a little bit hypocritical from artists and labels to release these things only once a year and acting like they would care, but then spend the other 364 days with releasing their new stuff exclusive on iTunes and Co.

  151. Well, why don’t you shit all over birthday parties too, I’m sure there’s something hypocritical about only buying your kid cake once a year. An industry many of us value is trying a small gesture and those of us who appreciate what they do can celebrate and have fun along with them, or not. I don’t know what the limited edition vinyls are you’re talking about and I’m not into the bands that were playing at the store near me but I saw lots of kids having fun and buying CDs and if it doesn’t keep the electricity on a little longer at least some people had fun.

  152. Hey, if it’s really celebrated where you are, then it’s cool. Here we just have posters in the shop windows announcing it (if any), while advertising those 1-day-only vinyls and that’s it.

    I still don’t like that now everybody acts like they single handed saved record shops and hard audio media, when today they are all back to purchasing and distributing their shit digitally and not giving a fuck.

    (And I’ve never been a birthday fan)

  153. I know my local music store has a healthy dose of vinyl records (new and reissues), every week so RSD is a good way to bring new faces in, and reward those who already collect. If there’s anything a record collector will tell you, its that buying vinyl is addictive. I started two years ago, and it was RSD that got me hooked. So it’s a good thing, CJ, and the people that dig it don’t just stop buying after the one day. Also, most new vinyl releases come with an mp3 card or cd, so why not go that way?

    But i do hate the assholes that hog the RSD exclusive just so they can eBay them. I didn’t get shit this year because of the sleazy motherfuckers just grabbing handfuls without even browsing the selection first.

  154. I can see how addictive vinyl could be. Living in New York, it’s everywhere, from stoop sales to flea markets to junk shops, and at dirt cheap prices. For a buck you can take a chance on a record you’ve never heard of just because the cover looks awesome. But the Catch 22 is, the vinyl in New York might be infinite, but the space in my apartment is not. With all my books and movies, I just don’t have room for records, which are just about the bulkiest and heaviest things you can collect. I had to make a choice many years ago not to give in to the temptation of vinyl. I know that all I have to do is buy one record and the floodgates will be wide open.

  155. As someone who makes beats as a hobby I much prefer the textures and fatness that the sound of wax provides over CD’s. Sometimes when I sample from CD’s the end product almost sounds soul less in comparison to my vynil sampling and I have to rely on a shit load of EQuing to get that layered sound that only vynil could provide.

    I don’t know about dirt cheap prices in NYC though. At least where I’m at (Uptown) people tend to actually overcharge for them since they’re such a rare commodity now a days. It’s actually one of the reasons I don’t have as extensive a vynil collection as I wish I had and just mostly records that I’ve had since the early 90’s. I can’t be going to lower manhattan all the time just to buy some records cause I fucking loathe the downtown area.

  156. I don’t even look at vinyl in record stores, not that I really find myself in them these days. I just meant you can’t walk 20 feet in Brooklyn in the summer without somebody selling crates of them off their stoop. Plus, I live about a block from the Brooklyn Flea, which is like the Promised Land for cratediggers. You should come to Brooklyn some Saturday, Broddie. We’ll buy some dusty old shit, have an Asian fusion hot dog, and grab a beer.

  157. I might have to take you up on that offer sometime Mr. M.

  158. Ohmygodnonononono

    May 10th, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    “I think putting all the blame on the studios is slightly unfair since a huge reason these guys want to move over to a subscription model is the rampant piracy going on at the moment.”

    Mode7… Ask yourself why there’s (the excuse of) rampant piracy. You’ll have to blame the industry and their greed again. Think about it, please, because it takes as long as this article to explain it and I don’t want to write that much.

  159. You recognize thus considerably when it comes to this topic, made me for my part believe it from numerous various angles. Its like men and women aren’t fascinated unless it is something to accomplish with Girl gaga! Your individual stuffs nice. At all times maintain it up!

  160. It’s interesting how much has changed in the five years since I wrote my first comment underneath this entry. It’s not just that the streaming situation got a lot better, also the video store grim reaper got a lot busier. I just got the news, that 2 of the last 3 video stores in my area are about to close by the end of the year. That sucks on too many levels, especially since one of them was literally around the corner. Literally, literally. Like I had to leave my house, go around the corner and there it was! Took me less than 5 minutes! The last available one over here is a bit too far away to randomly rent movies on a whim.

    On the plus side: They gonna sell all their movies and games in the next few months.

  161. One of the 2 remaining video stores in my city has turned into a fucking candy store. If that is not an insult I don´t know what is.

  162. Well, at least you can buy there the stuff that you later smuggle into the movie theatre.

  163. We don´t have to smuggle candy inside.

  164. Well, then I got nothing.

  165. In Illinois and some other states, there is a very successful business called “Family Video” that does really well. So I have like two only 5 mins from my house. It’s pretty rad.

  166. Woah, here’s a topic I think a lot about.

    I would say that the idea of people having their own locally stored copies of art is the aberration, not the fact that we’re shifting (back) away from it. VCRs are recent, recorded music is recent, even the printing press was a relatively recent invention compared with the history of the written word. Markets like the record industry and video rentals were brief bubbles that were destined to burst as soon as a vastly more efficient means of distribution came along.

    I’m a physical media fetishist myself, and you can find me crying about record stores closing on other forums. But the changes happening are 1) inevitable, and 2) good. I don’t know much about the film industry but digital distribution has sure as shit been great for musicians. They can get their work into the hands of listeners more easily, and get paid for it more directly. (Surely there is an equivalent phenomenon at work in the DTV market?)

    There are musicians who release albums on hand-painted cassettes, or altered laserdiscs that play on turntables. You can stream their shit for free on bandcamp, or pay them $5 or $10 bucks for a physical artifact that is *actually* unique. It’s not a market that can sustain 3-4 family owned brick and mortar businesses in every town, but it can sustain the artists themselves, and that’s what matters in the long run. (I’m particularly sensitive to the pernicious narrative spread by record industry execs about how much digital distribution has hurt artists, when in fact it just limited their ability to steal the artists’ money).

    I really think we’re entering a cornucopia / golden age / renaissance of artistic expression, and it’s largely fueled by the digital revolution. Non-corporate video stores are a particularly tragic casualty of it. “Tapes are dead, you have to change your entire stock to DVD….[a few years later] oh, you’re still recovering from that? Throw out the DVDs, Blu Ray is here!” But I really don’t get how you can fight the inevitability of it. It just makes no sense for everybody to have their own copy of the same string of 1s and 0s on a piece of plastic.

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