Download Reinventing Cinema: Movies in the Age of Media Convergence PDF

TitleReinventing Cinema: Movies in the Age of Media Convergence
PublisherRutgers University Press
ISBN 139780813545479
CategoryArts - Film
File Size1.5 MB
Total Pages229
Table of Contents
1:The Rise of the Movie Geek: DVD Culture, Cinematic Knowledge, and the Home Viewer
2:The Screen is Alive: Digital Effects and Internet Culture in the 1990s Cyberthriller
3: Wall-to-Wall Color: Moviegoing in the Age of Digital Projection
4: Desktop Productions: Digital Distribution and Public Film Cultures
5: Toppling the Gates: Blogging as Networked Film Criticism
6: Hollywood Remixed: Movie Trailer Mashups, Five-Second Movies, and Film Culture
Document Text Contents
Page 2

Reinventing Cinema

Page 114

D E S K T O P P R O D U C T I O N S 1 0 3

take it and do with it as you will.”27 In fact, Greenwald later backed up
this pledge when he made all the interviews from Outfoxed available via
Bit Torrent and the Internet Archive, where individuals could use and
remix them under a Creative Commons license without obtaining
permission, even at the risk of having individuals create videos that
convey opposing arguments.28 As digital distribution was increasingly
becoming a possibility, debates frequently focused on internet piracy,
especially in a cultural moment in which the FCC, then headed by
Michael Powell, was seeking to allow further consolidation of media
ownership. These discussions of piracy continue to inform much of the
discussion of digital cinema, to the point of shaping many of the deci-
sions made about new technologies, including the selection of Blu-Ray
as the new high-definition DVD format and the use of watermarks in
digitally projected movies so that pirated copies of films could be traced
back to specific screenings and specific times.

More often than not, debates about piracy are cast in terms that sug-
gest a “war” over the control of media content, suggesting that this battle
is as much ideological as it is technological, and piracy is invariably cited
as a number one concern of the movie industry. In some sense, this ideo-
logical battle is pitched through press releases and articles that likely exag-
gerate the amount of money studios lose every year to digital piracy. In
fact, in his comments at the 2008 ShoWest Convention, NATO president
John Fithian devoted about one-third of his speech to piracy. Evoking one
of the more quotable lines from Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be
Blood, Fithian stated that “somebody else’s straw is in our milkshake, and
they’re drinking it up. That straw is movie theft.”29 Fithian’s comment
depicts theater owners as the hapless victims, memorably represented in
Anderson’s film by the evangelist Eli Sunday, who is defeated by the ruth-
less capitalist Daniel Plainview, who has sucked Sunday’s oil wells dry. The
metaphor sets up what Fithian portrays as an epic battle against criminals
who are profiting by stealing from the industry.

According to PC World Magazine, the MPAA reported $6.1 billion in
annual piracy losses, positioning piracy as a significant threat to indus-
try stability, although these estimates seem to vary widely, with Fithian
reporting that theaters would have sold 100 million additional tickets
in 2007 were it not for piracy.30 In his discussion of illegal file-sharing,
J. D. Lasica describes a Hollywood old guard hopelessly stuck in the
past, aware perhaps that the game has changed but unprepared to do
anything—other than making draconian but ultimately ineffective
legal and technological efforts—to adjust. Significantly, as the subtitle
of Lasica’s book suggests, the “war” to combat piracy often targets the
youth of the Millennial or “digital” generation. These attempts to cast

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1 0 4 R E I N V E N T I N G C I N E M A

blame on teens and young adults led to the MPAA reporting that 44 per-
cent of Hollywood’s piracy losses could be attributed to file-sharing col-
lege campuses and using these numbers to seek legislation that would
severely restrict file sharing on college campuses. While it later turned
out that the MPAA numbers were greatly exaggerated—the MPAA later
put the total at approximately 15 percent—the Hollywood argument
relied upon a generational conflict that blamed unruly youth, who in
fact remain some of the studios’ most loyal customers.31

In addition, the MPAA and other organizations made use of public
service announcements (PSAs) designed to educate audiences into rec-
ognizing the negative effects of piracy. In some of these PSAs, youth-
oriented stars, such as Jack Black and Christopher Mintz-Plasse
(“McLovin” in the teen hit Superbad), present mock lectures suggesting
that piracy will take money out of their pockets. The McLovin PSA,
directed by Superbad’s Judd Apatow, is especially instructive, with Mintz-
Plasse playing a variation of his hyperactive, nerdy character and com-
plaining that piracy is making him so broke that he can no longer
engage in recreational drug use. In this sense, the video uses an (ironic)
image of teenage rebellion in order to dissuade teens from downloading
movies illegally. However, a more compelling set of PSAs sought to
depict pirated copies as vastly inferior to DVD copies. In June 2007, the
MPAA and the city of New York announced a plan to combat piracy that
included a series of consumer-oriented PSAs depicting scenes from clas-
sic movies such as Titanic and The Sixth Sense being recorded by a cam-
corder in a theater.32 In each case, the quality of the recording is poor,
with scan lines detracting from the visual pleasure associated with both
films, but what is most memorable about the videos is that they feature
disruptive audience members coughing to drown out key dialogue or
walking in front of the camera to block the image, precisely the unpleas-
ant moviegoing experiences that the theaters themselves have fought
against for years in their competition with home entertainment. The
fake trailers conclude with green ratings bands with fictional ratings
such as PS for “poor sound” and RO for “Ripped Off.” In this sense, the
PSAs present a highly contradictory message, one that educates against
piracy but only by presenting the crowds at theaters as an unpleasant
distraction that will detract from a viewer’s enjoyment of a movie, pre-
cisely the opposite of the desired message of the advertisement.


While the house party model has been one of the most familiar
approaches to digital distribution, Mark Cuban’s day-and-date releasing

Page 228

About the Author

Chuck Tryon is an assistant professor at Fayetteville State University, where he
teaches film and media studies. He has published essays in Film Criticism,
Rhizomes, Pedagogy, and Post-Identity and in the anthologies The Essential Science
Fiction Television Reader and Violating Time: History, Memory and Nostalgia in

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