Are We Changing the Way We Watch Our Films?

VODControversy has developed over the decision of big Hollywood studios to allow films to be downloaded through video on demand (VOD) services before they finish their run in theatres. According to the UK’s Guardian:

Sony Pictures Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, Universal Studios and Warner Bros are to release some films on a premium video-on-demand (VOD) service 60 days after their cinema release. At the moment, cinemas generally have an exclusive run of around 120 days.

As technology is rapidly evolving, it is affecting the way in which we consume our media. In Canada, VOD is nothing new and Netflix is becoming ever more popular. As consumers, our options are expanding, but should this be at the expense of more traditional media forms?

In protest to the studio’s decision, several big-name film-makers, including James Cameron, Peter Jackson, and Robert Zemeckis, have sided with cinema owners. According to James Cameron,

The cinema experience is the wellspring. If the exhibitors are worried, I’m worried. Why on earth would you give audiences an incentive to skip the highest and best form of your film?

There are those in the industry who see this as a positive shift. British producer, Stephen Margolis who heads Future Films recently released his film Flawless on VOD before it went to theatres to create a social buzz. He also sees this shift as a way to work with emerging technologies in a way that the music industry failed at so many years ago. He says,

The film industry has an opportunity to avoid some mistakes that the music industry made. It has to grasp reality and understand what the consumer needs are. With VOD, you can watch it when you want, you don’t have to book a babysitter, and it’s no longer a £100 evening, but maybe £15 or £25 for VOD.

There seems to be no doubt that there is demand for this new service, but how do we make sure that the people making these films get paid? And beyond the money issue, there’s concern that the theatre experience might be something that won’t be around for very long — or at least reduced to offering only the biggest of blockbusters. For many, going to the theatres is to experience a film in its truest form.

So what do people think? What’s the best way for you to view your films?