The big day has come and gone, as "Avatar" has officially been released into the wild. I actually haven't seen it yet, but only because I want to see it on a particular Imax screen and it was just insane there over the weekend. In any case, the worst reviews all say the same thing, unbelievable effects and a so-so story, but, then again, if you think about it, "Titanic" had a so-so story. On the flip side, the best reviews say that "Avatar" is going to be a major Oscar contender. Either way, the film is going to easily rank in the top 10 biggest grossing films of all time (some predict that it'll come second to only "Titanic"), it's a massive game-changer as far as effects are concerned and I think it's actually going to change the theatrical experience, which will, in turn, help indie film... I think. Read on and see if you agree.
Apparently there's a joke in Hollywood that goes like this: A filmmaker dies and goes to heaven. When he gets there, he notices a guy on a massive swooping crane, manning a huge HD camera... and he asks Saint Peter, "Hey, when did James Cameron die?" Saint Peter responds, "Oh, that's not James Cameron. That's God... he just thinks he's James Cameron". Personally, I love the guy. His biggest flop, "The Abyss", is awesome. I credit "Terminator" as one of my biggest influences and then there's "Aliens". F'ing "Aliens". What a classic. Now, 12 years after making the most successful film of all time, "Titanic", he's back... and he might just save theatrical film.
You see, the theatrical experience is dying. Sorry, it is. Really, there's no reason to go. I'm not saying that great films aren't being made, they are. However, there's no reason to go see them in the theater. The home experience is just as good... and better in some regards. I can pause the film to go take a shit or grab a beer. I can make whatever food I want. I don't have some 400 lbs sleaze bag sitting next to me. There aren't a bunch of loser kids texting constantly and, really, I've got STACKS of micro-cinema to watch, none of which gets released theatrically, and Hollywood fare comes out weeks, not months, after it hits the big screen, so... why would I pay $20 to go to the theater? James Cameron has the answer - offer something that I can't get at home.
James Cameron is a meticulous filmmaker, notoriously. And this meticulous filmmaker has decided to use 3D in a way that it's never been used before... to immerse you in the film. 3D has always been a circus act, a side show - "Put your glasses on now". Things poke out at you, jump in your lap or frighten you. Sure, "Coraline" did it, Imax does those nature films, but nothing like this. Cameron uses the technology to help you, the viewer, feel like you're in the film. To make viewing the film theatrically an experience... something you can't get anywhere else. THIS is revolutionary, THIS takes the idea of the theatrical experience to a new level, THIS is game-changing. I think people have tried before, but Cameron has now done it successfully. In the end, "Avatar" is going to pull in something close to $1Billion Worldwide... I mean, it hasn't even had its second weekend and it's already grossed over $275Million Worldwide. Seeing that, studios will try to replicate that. On top of that, eventually, all theaters will be digital and that's going to open up opportunities to immerse people further. Once that happens, you can go beyond 3D... we'll be delving into interactive film - text your own adventure. In 20 years, when we look back, I think "Avatar" will be looked on as the film that pushed the theatrical experience over the edge, much like how people look at "T2" as the film that really introduced CG effects. Oh yeah, and I also think this is good for indie film.
So, how could the film that purportedly cost half a billion dollars to make be good for indie film? Here's how - it's going to drive open the gap between theatrical and traditional film... and that's good for us indie guys. I think that if the theatrical experience gets driven further and further into being an immersive crowd experience, conventional film will become a whole other market. The theater will become a place where you can see concerts, live sporting events, big blockbuster films, all in a high-tech, 3D environment with THX True HD sound... and then there will be traditional film and traditional film's big market will be home entertainment. Sure, they'll get limited theatrical releases, but their bread and butter will be getting people to watch at home. As that happens, the existing gap between traditional studio films and independent films will shrink. They'll all be lumped together... which will change the way that the studios market and distribute those traditional films. They'll really start to look at how cable networks, video on demand and the internet can act as gateways to the living room. As they open up these new pipelines, they're essentially doing indie film a service... as those are the pipelines that we've been fantasizing about for quite some time. The studios WILL help us... but only after they help themselves.
Anyhow, that's all I've got for this week... as Friday's Christmas. Have a great Christmas everyone, we'll see you next week!