“Girl Walks Into A Bar”: The Future?

March 16, 2011

In 2000, my former business partner Barnet Bain and I developed and produced a film entitled Quantum Project for a website called Sightsound.com. Quantum Project was the very first original film ever to be financed and produced for exclusive Internet distribution. The film was 32 minutes long and starred Stephen Dorff and John Cleese. (Working with Mr. Cleese was, by the way, just as fascinating and fun as you might imagine it would have been).

Now, 11 years later, I just read with interest an article by Bob Strauss about a film entitled Girl Walks Into a Bar that is being billed as the first feature-length film made specifically for the Internet.

(A friend of mine once told me: “Stephen, you’ve done some projects that have been ahead of their time which, by the way, means that as of right now, you’re wrong!”)

That unfortunately accurate and humbling truth aside, Girl Walks Into A Bar features an impressive cast including Carla Gugino, Zachary Quinto, and Josh Hartnett. The film is available for free on YouTube and already has had almost 270,000 downloads. I heartily congratulate the film makers for their courageous and pioneering work. As my Aussie friends would say “Good on you!”

Quoting from Mr. Strauss’ article, Girl is “a comic noir mystery, made up of 10 narratively interlocked scenes of 10 minutes each. This enabled natural commercial breaks, which have been filled on YouTube by presenting sponsor Lexus.”

Whether or not this is the future of movies is one of the great debates now being discussed and dissected by film fans, distributors, and financiers. Will people really want to sit for 90 minutes to 2 hours watching a movie on their computers or isn’t the future of that kind of entertainment better accomplished in discreet segments such as the format chosen by Girl?

In other words, isn’t a television format better suited to the Internet than a feature format?

In fact, Girl‘s director Sebastian Gutierrez is quoted in Mr. Strauss’ article as saying the YouTube exhibition of his segmented film is “not much different from the Network TV model.”

From Bringing Back The Old Hollywood:

Movies On The Internet: Here To Stay or Fleeting Trend?

One of today’s raging debates revolves around the possibility of the Internet becoming the prime delivery mechanism for movies.

People under thirty are so accustomed to watching entertainment, including movies and television, on their computers that an assumption is growing that the Internet will soon become the single biggest and most important distribution outlet for movies.

There is no question that most of us over the age of forty were not raised in the computer age; therefore, we don’t have a history of downloading movies and watching them on our computers. An important question for us baby boomers and generation x-ers then is whether or not we will adopt the habit of downloading films to watch them on our computers.

A further assumption being made is that boomers and x-ers will eventually pass from the scene, thereby eliminating all resistance to the Internet becoming the prime distributor of films.

I believe that the far more intriguing question revolves around the pervasive power and influence of the Internet itself. Whether or not the Internet overall will continue to dominate the way it has over the last ten or fifteen years is certainly an intriguing debate to have.

For those of who love movies, however, the questions become much more specific:

Will boomers and x-ers “get with the movie program” on the Internet?

Will young people who watch movies on their computers continue to do so as they age, as many are now assuming? Or will the isolation of the technology affect them later in life as well?

Simply put, what if the experience of watching movies on computers is only a passing trend?

Many people seem to automatically assume that the Internet will now dominate movie entertainment until the end of time.

Maybe it will, but what if it doesn’t?”

What of the return to investors if films no longer play in theaters?

To those of us who grew up in movie theaters, is that experience going to disappear forever? Are we OK with that?

What happens if people eventually get tired of watching movies alone on their computers and decide they really want to get out of the house and go to a movie theater? Will theaters still be around?

Please join us as we debate the fate of new movies.


 

 

 

 

 

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Asha Hawkesworth March 16, 2011 at 10:20 am

We watch movies over the Internet, but we use our Roku box, which we adore. We’re Netflix subscribers, so if a film or show is available to view instantly, we can watch it whenever we want, without a disk. I think this model is actually the future, because who wants to sit and watch on a computer? I did that once, and it wasn’t enjoyable. I have an investment in a TV with a larger screen and far better resolution, and better sound. Given the popularity of “home entertainment” systems with surround sound, I don’t think this is going away.
The really wonderful thing about Roku is all the channels that are popping up, which you can subscribe to. If you pay for Amazon’s, you can watch pretty much anything in the universe, but it does cost more. I would think that even a Spiritual Cinema channel for your subscribers would be wonderful. No mailing, no disks. Just stream the films. We are at the beginning stages of that technology, though, and not everyone has a Roku or similar device just yet, but it is catching on. Several of our friends now have one.

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Stephen Simon March 16, 2011 at 11:35 am

Hi Asha..Thanks so much for the comment and rundown about Roku which sounds terrific…And I hear you about watching films on big screen TV rather than on the computer…As I commented to Brian earlier this week when he posted the info about theaters charging no admission, all that might be well and good for consumers at some level—but how do films get financed at a decent enough number with no theatrical presence?….do we just say goodbye to movie theaters and that whole experience? (I hope and think not–Friday’s blog will address that issue as well…the theaters are fighting back!)….the whole revenue chain of movie financing blows up without a theatrical presence….except for subscriber-supported outlets such as HBO….this is what makes everything right now so challenging and so much fun at the same time…what are we going to do…when?….how????…as Sherlock Holmes would say-“The game is afoot!”…thanks so much again for your contributions here, Asha…..hugs…Stephen

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