Tuesday Links*

A few quick links while I recover from a grading marathon, take a deep breath, and prepare to travel to New Orleans for this year’s Society for Film and Media Studies conference, where I will be participating in a panel focused on “Teaching Across Media.” It’s a workshop, so my talk will be relatively brief (about ten minutes), in order to allow more time for discussion. The talk will focus primarily on my Adaptation Project, which requires students to adapt a scene from a play into film, an activity that asks them to engage with the discourses of medium specificity. It’s a fun assignment, one that seems to bring out the best in my students, so hopefully our conversations about the challenges of teaching media outside their disciplinary homes will be rewarding. Now for some links:

  • Box office analyst Richard Greenfield chastises theater owners for charging 3-D premiums and for their huge mark-ups on popcorn. To some extent, this is nothing new. There has always been a huge mark-up on popcorn, which is why candy-smuggling is such an important skill. But $13.50 for a child’s matinee ticket to see a crappy 3-D film like Mars Needs Moms isn’t cool, especially when those theatrical windows just keep getting shorter and shorter.
  • And when you can get access to some of Warner Brothers films on Facebook, there’s even less incentive to hop in your car and head down to the local multiplex. As Matt Dentler points out, Warner has created an “app environment on Facebook that allows for movie downloads directly on the social networking site.” Each download is $3 or whatever the equivalent is in Facebook credits (the future gold standard, I’d imagine). You’ll have 48 hours to watch, will be able to pause, rewind, and control how you watch. You’ll also be able to have full Facebook functionality, so you can chat with your friends while watching The Dark Knight for the 37th time. To be fair, Matt points out that indie films and documentaries, which often build followings on Facebook, might be able to take advantage of this form of direct distribution. The Hollywood Reporteralso has a short blurb.
  • Of course, given that most of us watch the majority of our video content online, Warner is only going where the customers are. PricewaterhouseCoopers calculates that people 44 and under (thankfully I’m still in that category) consume the majority of their video online, while people 45-59 close behind. Other numbers in their survey are revealing, with only 12.9% of the population reporting “purchasing” content via VOD, while 42% obtained DVDs via Netflix and 23% or so still went to bricks-and-mortar video stores.
  • But while digital access is exciting, there are questions about the durability of access. Paying $3 for temporary access to a film via Facebook VOD is well within historical practices (Blockbuster rentals are roughly competitive with those prices). But now Harper Collins is telling libraries that they can only allow 26 viewers to check out a digital copy of their books before the library’s access to that book expires. Cory Doctorow eloquently argues why this is completely antithetical to the tendencies of librarians around the world.
  • And speaking of expiring media, Michael Chabon’s next novel will apparently be partially set in a used record store. This news excites my inner geek on about four different levels. As Chabon himself explains it, perhaps “the entire novel is just a pretext for spending as much time and money as I possibly can in used record stores.”
  • And one more nod to my geekiness. REM’s latest video, “Oh My Heart,” was directed by Jem Cohen, one of my favorite contemporary directors.

Update: I changed the title to reflect the actual day this entry was written.

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