Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Et tu Warner?

What can I say? When it comes to promoting ourselves and creating global communications networks, Montreal cannot be beat. Quebec has it's own brand of celebrity, it's own identity on the cultural world stage, and is very willing to promote local artists within itself. My complaints with Ontario and Western Canada are often that they have not embraced the publicity machine available to them, but rather have clamped onto what already exists in the US and then blame the CRTC when we are culturally threatened.

Culture is not only lifestyle and way of being, it affects industry. How the businesses will be run and with whom as partners. Under these circumstances, I couldn't help but shed a tear of pride when I learned that as a city, we rival China, the Phillipines and Lebanon for illegal video-piracy. Ah les francofolies....

In a bold move to get the current Heritage Minister to say anything on the subject of anything, Warner Bros. Canada refused to pre-screen any upcoming blockbusters such as the new Harry Potter due to the extreme likelyhood that the movies will be pirated and distributed on the internet. I read and re-read it unable to believe that this is the best way Hollywood can come up with to deal with the piracy issue. Videotaping in a theater is not currently part of our criminal code, likely (I feel) because our law-enforcers actually have things to do, criminals and terrorists to find and arrest, families to serve and protect, etc. That likely will change soon, but I can't help but feel that such behaviour does not deal with the overlying issue.

I will remind visitors to my pond that British studies found that the highest volume downloaders were at once the highest volume purchasers. I will say anecdotally that I far prefer to see a film in the theater than at home because of the huge screen and the ear-shattering thx surround sound that captivates me every time. You've got to make better movies though. There was no way in hell I was going to pay 13.50$ for the Garfield movie, I don't care who the voice of the cat was. I see streaming video on the internet, which if harnessed correctly can advertise just as much as tv, but in a different way. I also purchase the high-end dvd releases. I'm not just about the movie, I want the special features, the booklets, the interviews, all the gravy. Though I do want it as soon as possible and for that reason the internet is my friend, I also want it all. I am willing to pay for the experience or the full-release when it is ready. I am like many others.

Companies like Warner Bros. have to swim difficult waters. On the one hand, they have intellectual/creative property that they wish to be paid for if distributed. Fair enough, but are they somehow not being paid? Is it because movie theatres now resemble an extra-large tv with enough seats for most of your friends? Is it because a lot of the movies out there are simply put, crap? Yes. They are selling a product and the trappings of the product are an inherent part of the experience. I'm going to pay full price to see Spiderman 3. I want to see the effects and hear the music in huge gigantic surround. I noticed as well that it busted box-office records for most money brought in on opening weekend, even though it was widely available on the internet for several weeks before.

I'm interested in the art, and artists be they directors, actors, musicians, writers etc never suffer and never will suffer from having an audience. Distribution companies sell plastic. In either reels or discs, they offer us a medium on which to experience the art they have a stake in. It is these people who are threatened by audiences who can specifically choose how they consume their products. They could make better theaters with more reasonable snack prices and make deals with Joost and Apple to make their products available for purchase over the internet, but I doubt such reasonable measures will be embraced by film and art distributors. As such, downloaders will pay the price for uptight, culturally unaware exectives, much like pot-smokers bear the brunt of unprosecuted bankers who launder drug money and never see prosecution.

For now, I'm patiently waiting for the end of the day so that I can come back home and watch Season 2 of Twin Peaks, now available on DVD that I purchased at full price over the weekend. C'est la vie!

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