Friday Links: Paramount, Moviegoing, Wikis

I’m in the last throes of the semester and ready to start thinking in earnest about spring semester and some writing projects that have been, shall we say, dormant for the last few weeks.   Here are some of the links that have crossed my radar over the last few days:

  • ProfHacker has an interesting post on a new wiki sponsored by the Modern Language Association for discussing “the evaluation of digital work.”  These questions have been the subject of debate at my university as we revise our promotion and tenure standards, and it’s good to see a professional organization such as MLA become more actively involved in endorsing digital work.  Obviously (for example), my blog has become a significant site where I have done work that might be defined as scholarly (or at least as a form of “service”), but we are just now developing a language for talking about materials that aren’t peer-reviewed journals that happen to be online.  This type of definitional work is valuable, however, not only for protetcing the intersts of younger scholars but also for imagining new forms of knowledge creation and dissemination.
  • The Auteurs recently tapped into my ongoing fascination with end-of-an-era listmaking with their recent thread calling for users to submit the “most memorable” movie images of the past decade.  A number of personal favorites showed up, including images from Punch Drunk Love and Eternal Sunshine, but this form of listmaking fascinates in part because of its collaborative nature and also because it places emphasis on how a single frame can convey so much information or have so much power.  The stills also provide a short visual history of the past decade in filmed entertainment.
  • Speaking of lists, Anne Thompson’s end-of-year and end-of-decade lists are also quite good.  I’m glad to see someone who shares my admiration for Spike Lee’s 25th Hour, a film that continues have incredible power as a commentary on post-9/11 New York.
  • Two divergent narratives are developing to characterize current moviegoing practices.  First, Patrick Goldstein looks at box office numbers and concludes that audiences are still enthusiastic about seeing movies on the big screen.  But according to a National Endowment for the Arts study, moviegoing is on the decline, with fewer adults reporting that they attended a movie in a theater last year.  The latter study seems, to me, to be a poor measure of the health of moviegoing, especially gven that it obscures the frequent moviegoers who attend movies often.  Nevertheless, the writers at Big Hollywood misread the statistics to suggest that there has been a 7% drop in movie attendance since 2002 and to further argue that such a drop can be attributed to Hollywood being “out of touch” with their ostensibly conservative customers.  Yeah, the same ones who elected Obama to be President about a year ago.  And the same ones who are eagerly consuming those movies on DVD, cable, and elsewhere.
  • On a related note, Variety reports that single-screen theaters are continuing to struggle in their competition with multiplexes.  I addressed this issue in passing in my book, noting that digital projection, especially, could hurt single-screen and smaller, independent theaters.
  • Finally, in one of the more compelling stories of the day, at least for low-budget filmmakers: Paramount has decided to open a division designed to focus on producing and releasing micro-budget films, focusing in particular on films with budgets of less than $100,000.  Filmmaker Magazine and Cinematical have bothe responded.  The decision is likely connected to Paramount’s recognition of the success of Paranormal Activity, which was made for approximately $15,000.  A number of commenters at Filmmaker Magazine are skeptical, speculating that Paramount may focus on developing genre films with a better chance at the kind of grassroots success that greeted Paranormal Activity and Blair Witch Project.  But it is nice to see at least one major studio investing modestly in supporting low-budget filmmaking.

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