Wednesday Links

Grades are in. Conferences are done. Summer is pretty much officially here. Here are some links to stories I’ve been following:

  • There has been quite a bit of discussion of the news that Netflix has passed BitTorrent as the website that takes up the most bandwidth on the Internet. NewTeeVee uses the news to speculate whether this means that Hollywood has “won” its battle against movies being distributed on peer-to-peer networks like BitTorrent, a question that seems to gloss some of the larger questions about Netflix’s heavy investments in streaming content. Both NewTeeVee and the Washington Post emphasize the fact that cable companies are threatening to charge Internet users based on how much data they consume, rather than using flat monthly fees. Also worth noting: NewTeeVee points out that the explosive growth of Netflix in Canada has forced the company to lower the quality of its video streams to account for the somewhat more restrictive bandwidth costs there.
  • The IFC blog has an interesting discussion of how digital projection will affect art house and independent theaters, speculating that the high cost of conversion–approximately $60,000 per screen–could make it difficult for many independent theaters to survive. This is something I saw as a concern when I wrote Reinventing Cinema, and it appears that the challenges are becoming even more complex, especially given that many independent filmmakers are producing movies solely on digital, without any existing film print. The article also points to Anthony Kaufman’s discussion of how indie and art house theaters often thrive by building communities around the cinema–he cites the example of Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse and Florida’s Enzian Theater. Also worth noting: Roger Ebert’s Newsweek column, which discusses the decline of communal screenings of “quality cinema” (which deserves a longer blog post).
  • Ebert’s comments make Robert Altman’s cynical Hollywood satire, The Player, seem all the more prescient. I love teaching the film, and show the opening sequence often as a powerful example of how long takes can be used. Now Jim Emerson has an extended reading of that shot, complete with a reminder that the fictional studio’s slogan, “Movies: Now More than Ever” is a reference to Nixon’s 1972 presidential slogan and Altman’s citation of that slogan in his 1975 film, Nashville.
  • I’m still hoping to do some work on the role of online video in the 2012 presidential campaign, and so I’m intrigued by the YouTube Town Hall, where politicians can post two side-by-side videos presenting competing positions on a specific issue, and users can then vote on which position they prefer. Winning videos would then be posted to the Town Hall Leader Board (via TechPres).
  • Sone news about a couple of creative cowdsourced and crowdfunded movies. First, the Australian film, The Tunnel was released. The film was funded by selling each frame of the film for $1 to raise the $135,000 budget. Like some other crowdfunded films, The Tunnel will be released via BitTorrent, illustrating that not all peer-to-peer distribution entails piracy. The film will also get a limited theatrical release and Paramount Australia and Transmission Films will conduct a DVD release.  Salon also has an update on Iron Sky, the Finnish space Nazi parody, noting that filmmakers have announced an April 2012 theatrical premiere.

Update: via @KelliMarshall, a Tech Crunch article on Netflix’s bandwidth numbers. The TechCrunch article has some amazing graphic depictions of how “peak period” internet traffic is divided. Well worth a look if you’re interested in the changing media landscape.

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