Technologizer posts about Movies

Salon’s Matt Zoller Seitz reports on yet another analog artifact that’s given way to a digital substitute: Movie cameras.

Theaters, movies, moviegoing and other core components of what we once called “cinema” persist, and may endure. But they’re not quite what they were in the analog cinema era. They’re something new, or something else — the next generation of technologies and rituals that had changed shockingly little between 1895 and the early aughts. We knew this day would come. Calling oneself a “film director” or “film editor” or “film buff” or a “film critic” has over the last decade started to seem a faintly nostalgic affectation; decades hence it may start to seem fanciful. It’s a vestigial word that increasingly refers to something that does not actually exist — rather like referring to the mass media as “the press.”

Posted by Harry at 4:14 am

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Want to See Starz on Netflix? You’ve Got Until February

By  |  Posted at 7:38 pm on Thursday, September 1, 2011

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So much for Starz movies on Netflix. Negotiations between the two companies have fallen through, and Starz has announced that it’ll stop providing movies for Netflix’s streaming catalog on February 28, 2012.

Netflix had paid an estimated $30 million for Starz content in 2008, which in hindsight was a steal. Three years ago, Netflix had just started appearing on set-top boxes like the Xbox 360, and Hulu was still getting off the ground. To renew the deal with Starz, Netflix had earmarked $250 million, according to the AP.

UPDATE: Here’s a story by the L.A. Times’ Ben Fritz that says Netflix offered $300 million, but Starz wanted tiered pricing, which would charge subscribers a premium to view its content. Interesting, but not surprising, that Netflix didn’t want to go that route.

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Zediva’s Streaming Video Loophole Closed By Judge

By  |  Posted at 3:42 pm on Tuesday, August 2, 2011

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If you’ve been waiting for an invite to Zediva’s cut-rate streaming video service, it might be time to give up. A federal judge has granted a preliminary injunction against Zediva on grounds of copyright infringement, which should lead to the site’s closure in about one week, CNet’s Greg Sandoval reports.

Zediva launched out of beta last March, with streaming rentals of new releases for $2 per night, or $10 for a 10-pack. It offered new movies before they became available through Netflix and Redbox, and didn’t pay a dime to movie studios. The trick was to let each individual user rent an entire DVD player, along with the disc inside, remotely over the Internet. Zediva argued that it was just like a brick-and-mortar rental store, but with a different delivery method.

Not surprisingly, movie studios disagreed. The Motion Picture Association of America sued Zediva and argued that the service’s rentals were actually performances, entitling studios to licensing fees. U.S. District Judge John Walter concurred, and has given Zediva and the MPAA a week to work out the wording of an injunction.

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Google Music and Movies: Your Questions Answered

By  |  Posted at 10:09 pm on Tuesday, May 10, 2011

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That little green robot must be struggling to catch his breath.

In addition to unveiling two significant updates to its Android operating system on Tuesday – Android 3.1 and the next-generation Android Ice Cream Sandwich – Google took the wraps off its long-discussed Google Music service and launched a new movie service for Android, too. It was all part of Google’s annual I/O conference for developers, taking place this week in San Francisco.

So what are Google’s new music and movie services all about, and how will they work for you? Here are answers to all your burning questions.

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Is YouTube about to make a major push into streaming Hollywood movies? I dunno, but it seems inevitable that Google will do so–sooner or later, one way or another.

Posted by Harry at 10:28 am

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mSpot Movies Wants to Undercut Netflix

By  |  Posted at 3:00 am on Friday, April 15, 2011

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Netflix may be an unstoppable force in the streaming video business, but it’s not without weaknesses. The service’s selection of on-demand movies doesn’t compare to its mail-order DVD catalog, and if you want new releases, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

That’s why services like mSpot Movies are trying to get a piece of the action. Although mSpot Movies isn’t new, the service is now slashing prices in hopes of landing on consumers’ radars.

mSpot rents standalone streaming movies for the same $3.99 as other on-demand services, but the main draw is a “club” package that charges a flat rate per month in exchange for credits, which can be redeemed for on demand movies. Starting at $5 per month for 20 credits, good for up to four movies, the basic service is now half as expensive as it used to be. There’s also an $8 option for 40 credits, and a $16 option for 80 credits. Throw in the promise of new and recent releases, and mSpot seems like a decent deal.

But there are caveats.

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The Movie Studios Think Zediva is Illegal. Shocking!

By  |  Posted at 6:16 pm on Monday, April 4, 2011

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Last month, Jared wrote about Zediva, an online movie rental service with an absurd technological approach: Its founders have banks of DVD players and stream individual DVDs across the net at $1 a pop–including movies that are out on DVD but not otherwise available in any even theoretically legal form.

Shortly after Zediva launched, it discovered it hadn’t built enough infrastructure to handle the demand, and stopped accepting new members. Now it has a worse problem: The Motion Picture Association of America is suing the company on behalf of the major studios, saying that it’s illegally distributing movies. Oddly, the MPAA doesn’t appear to agree with Zediva’s “Hey, we’re just renting a DVD, like Blockbuster–we just happen to be doing it over the Internet!” theory.

I suspect that Zediva’s improbable technological approach would have done the company in sooner or later no matter what. But with the studios ganging up against it, now I’m wondering whether it’ll ever get fully up and running in the first place.

 



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Zediva’s Fast Failure

By  |  Posted at 12:42 am on Thursday, March 17, 2011

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On Wednesday, Jared wrote about Zediva, a new movie-streaming service that offers new releases for cheap–by streaming them onto the Internet from banks of DVD players, without the permission or cooperation of the companies that own the content. He was worried it could turn out to be “another workaround that doesn’t quite work.”

Bingo! Or at least that’s the way it looks at the moment. The site went down, due to technical glitches that the company’s Twitter feed appears to blame at least in part on a mention on the Yahoo home page. (Being reviewed–pretty favorably–by David Pogue in his New York Times column probably didn’t help, either.) Then it came back up, but with a note explaining that the best prospective new members could do was to join a waitlist.

Now, some of my favorite Web sites and services have been crushed by unexpected demand upon launch. It’s practically a rite of passage. (Many come back up swiftly, and work just fine from then on–which always leaves me wondering, why couldn’t their proprietors provide sufficient infrastructure in the first place?) So it’s possible that Zediva will bounce back.

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Zediva: Streaming New Movies for Cheap Through a Sneaky Workaround

By  |  Posted at 3:00 am on Wednesday, March 16, 2011

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Movie studios are skittish about giving their new releases to bargain rental services like Netflix and Redbox, but that’s not a concern for streaming video startup Zediva.

The service, which moves out of beta today, streams new movie releases for $2 a piece — half the price of new releases from iTunes, Amazon, Vudu and Blockbuster On Demand. You can also purchase a 10-pack of rentals for $10 total.

Zediva shaves down its pricing by cutting movie studios out of the equation. Instead of negotiating streaming rights, the company buys up DVDs at retail and uses place-shifting technology to stream the video out of a Silicon Valley data center. Think Slingbox on a massive scale, but with DVD players instead of cable boxes. (I got a mental image of some guy running around, swapping out all the discs, but Zediva assures me that it uses a carousel mechanism to change movies.)

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Warner Bros. Stuffs Movies Into iPad/iPhone Apps (Or, the Fanciest DRM Ever)

By  |  Posted at 9:45 am on Wednesday, February 16, 2011

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In a world of Netflix, Redbox and cheap iTunes rentals, Warner Bros. has hatched a new plan to entice you to purchase more movies.

The studio is now selling movies as standalone iOS apps, starting with Inception and The Dark Knight. Both apps are free to download, with the actual movies available as in-app purchases. Buying the film unlocks streaming and downloadable versions, along with bonus features such as games, trivia and soundboards. While watching, you can also send and view status updates on Facebook and Twitter.

If you’re keen on the idea of buying a movie once and owning it for all of your devices, Warner Bros.’ apps are not for you. The in-app movie is completely separate from iTunes (and for Inception, $2 more expensive, at $12 for the full movie), so you’re forever bound to an iPhone or iPad. At least with iTunes, you can watch the movie on a computer or Apple TV.

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Now it’s Hulu’s Turn to Step on Netflix’s Toes

By  |  Posted at 5:48 pm on Tuesday, February 15, 2011

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A rivalry between Hulu and Netflix continues to silently brew. Where the two streaming services once had distinct roles — Hulu for television, Netflix for movies — they are increasingly overlapping.

To that end, Hulu just added 800 movies to its Hulu Plus subscription service, courtesy of Criterion Collection. The high-brow cinema of Orson Welles, Jean-Luc Godard, Federico Fellini and more can now be yours to stream for $8 per month.

The films will be uninterrupted by commercials, which will only roll before the movie starts. The free version of Hulu will get some Criterion Collection movies on a rotating basis, but they will be broken up by ads.

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Star Wars 3D Will Be a Moment of Truth

By  |  Posted at 3:32 pm on Wednesday, September 29, 2010

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Unlike the most die-hard Star Wars fans, I have no strong opinion on whether Star Wars should be re-released in 3D, but when the conversion is finished and released in 2012, I think it will be a pivotal moment for 3D movies.

This is only partly because of Star Wars’ ability to draw a crowd. Of course, Star Wars 3D will bring people to theaters — assuming 3D hasn’t been dismissed as a cheap gimmick in two years, and that’s not a given — but it will also prove, or disprove, that 2D-to-3D conversion can be done in a way that doesn’t completely stink.

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Want Avatar on 3D Blu-ray? First, You’ll Need a Panasonic TV

By  |  Posted at 8:58 am on Friday, September 3, 2010

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Nine months after Avatar’s theatrical release, it’s still regarded as the pinnacle of 3D entertainment. So it’s too bad that only buyers of Panasonic 3D televisions will get the movie when it’s released on 3D Blu-ray in December.

For an undisclosed period of time, Avatar will be bundled with Panasonic’s 3D televisions, and won’t be sold through any other means, Twice reports. Panasonic wants to make the movie available to people who have already purchased a Panasonic 3D TV, but is still working out the details. Avatar could be bundled with Panasonic 3D Blu-ray players and home theaters as well, but the company  wouldn’t confirm whether this is going to happen.

Avatar isn’t the first 3-D movie to be given exclusively to a single television brand — Samsung bundles Monsters vs. Aliens, and Panasonic has offered Coraline and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. TV makers lock down these deals to convey the idea that 3D content actually exists, and Hollywood studios like the deals because they provide a guaranteed return on the 3D investment.

But as CNet points out, Avatar will likely be the first live-action 3-D Blu-ray movie available in the United States. It’s a big deal, and locking it down to one TV maker is a short-sighted move by Panasonic and 20th Century Fox, one that puts their own interests ahead of 3D’s greater well-being. The exclusive Avatar deal might boost Panasonic’s sales this holiday season, but when prospective buyers learn that almost every other 3D Blu-ray disc is also tied down to specific televisions, at the expense of having lots of movies on store shelves, they might sour on the idea of 3D TV altogether.



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A Path to Save Blockbuster?

By  |  Posted at 9:50 pm on Tuesday, December 1, 2009

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Is copying Redbox’s strategy a way for Blockbuster to survive? I’m beginning to think so.

Earlier this week, I rented from a Redbox for the first time. I have walked by these kiosks in our area for well over a year now, and in recent months they’ve become quite numerous — Redbox lists 19 of them within 10 miles of my house alone. The allure of a movie for just a buck a night is just too good of a deal to pass up.

While entering my selections into the kiosk — Star Trek and Angels & Demons — I couldn’t help but wonder why Blockbuster wasn’t doing the same thing. Heck, it costs you $5 to rent these same movies at their stores no matter whether you return them the next day or however long your local store allows the movies to be out.

It’s for this reason why Blockbuster is struggling. In this new world, it no longer is worthwhile to have a storefront because of the overhead costs. Think about it. Netflix has considerably less infrastructure costs because all its business is online and only needs shipping warehouses to serve its customers; Redbox has even less overhead since it essentially freeloads off the locations where its kiosks sit.

There’s just no way that the company can be on a level playing field with its competitors because of this. Tuesday’s news of the company partnering with NCR to place 200 “Blockbuster Express” kiosks in Duane Reade Drugstores across New York City could arguably be Blockbuster’s path to salvation.

When the company is done, about 2,500 kiosks will be up and running around the country. Each will hold about 900 DVDs, which will give the movie retailer an opportunity to offer a wider selection than that of Redbox, which can only hold about 500 discs.

As the company moves to this system, it will allow Blockbuster to continue closing down its retail locations, which have become its Achilles heel. This will stink for those employees that could soon find themselves out of a job, but its just a reality of our modern digital economy.

It’s going to be very interesting to see how Redbox responds. Blockbuster eliminated its competition by simply being able to offer a broader selection of movies than its smaller competitors, and now the company that arguably pioneered the movie rental kiosk finds itself in the same situation.

One thing it has so far as an advantage over Blockbuster is scale — some 17,500 kiosks are located in McDonald’s, Wal Marts, Walgreens, and other grocery and drug stores around the country. Blockbuster will need to quickly ramp up to legitimately compete.



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Gaming in Theaters Sounds Cool, Won’t Be Easy

By  |  Posted at 11:51 am on Wednesday, September 30, 2009

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theaterscreenAs a gamer, I’m enamored with the idea of playing a shoot-em-up on a 50-foot screen, surrounded by Dolby audio. And I can’t be the only one.

Unfortunately, these incidents are rare, but on Monday and Tuesday, the stars will align, and Sony will let people in four U.S. theaters try the upcoming (and universally lauded) Uncharted 2: Among Thieves for the Playstation 3.

If you don’t happen to live in Rosemont, Ill., Bellvue, Wash., San Francisco or Thousand Oaks, Calif., there’s good news: In a Reuters interview, Mike Fidler, Sony’s senior vice president of Digital Cinema Solutions and Services, suggests that this isn’t a one-off thing. In explaining that he wants more theaters to go digital, Fidler said that gaming “will be an important part of that equation.”

From Fidler’s remarks, it’s easy to dream up gaming nights, or perhaps the ability to rent out a theater for an evening of Killzone 2. A Canadian chain already does this during off-peak times, for the totally reasonable price of $169 for two hours and up to 12 people (a movie ticket doesn’t cost that much less at that rate).

Not to be a party pooper, but I see a major roadblock here. The best big-screen games — shooters and racing games — can at most be enjoyed by four people at a time, and even splitting the screen reduces the coolness factor. Given that a movie theater is designed to entertain lots of people, you’d be looking at minimal playing time with any more than a dozen participants. And let’s face it, most games aren’t that fun to watch from the sidelines.

If Sony does get the Playstation 3 into more theaters, I’m sure the Uncharted 2 event won’t be the last of its kind, but for most of us, I have a feeling that any significant gaming time in a theater will remain a fantasy.



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