Last week, I laid the table for a discussion of the future of distribution by laying out some of the challenges and opportunities presented by the new technologies of digital media, from the proliferation of devices to the ease of piracy to the lower costs associated with the production of content. In that first article, my focus was on how these emergent technologies have changed our consumption of all filmed narrative (really, all filmed media), and allowed for the proliferation of different formats, such as the short internet video.
Today, I’d like to zoom in more closely on the theatrical release, the traditional model of distribution for feature films and, supposedly, an institution under threat from the development of digital media. Though the theatrical release as our primary channel for the consumption of feature films – and, indeed, its importance in the development of what we understand the feature film to be – may be an accident of history, it has nonetheless made possible the most ambitious and far-reaching expressions of the filmed narrative. Though not appropriate for all such narratives, I believe that it would be an artistic loss to both filmmaker and film watcher were the theatrical release to disappear.