Screener DVD's are GONE.... No More.....

Discussion in 'DVD Video' started by Allan, Oct 1, 2003.

  1. Allan

    Allan Guest

    Oct. 01, 2003

    Disappearing DVDs appear to be big problem

    By Martin A. Grove

    Disappearing DVDs: MPAA president Jack Valenti and other powerful
    forces in Hollywood have succeeded in eliminating DVD "screeners" as
    an Oscar marketing tool in the name of combating video piracy, but the
    repercussions from their victory will be felt throughout the industry
    for years to come.

    DVDs have been an integral part of campaigning not just for Oscars,
    but also for Golden Globes, BAFTAs, guild awards, critics groups kudos
    and top 10 list honors. Looking at Hollywood's disappearing DVDs, it's
    clear that without them most awards voters will now be seeing fewer
    contenders. With so much year-end product to consider, most voters
    won't have enough time to see it all at screenings. Ironically, the
    films likely to suffer most will be those from the majors whose MPAA
    membership will now prohibit them -- but not competing non
    studio-affiliated independents -- from mailing DVDs.

    The studios' specialized distribution divisions will be hurt the worst
    because like the nonstudio indies they've managed to achieve great
    success in recent years in all key awards races. One of the major
    factors contributing to that success has been their ability to get
    their smaller, lower-profile movies seen by the voters. DVDs have been
    the locomotive driving that success. Thanks to DVDs, independents have
    benefited from the at-home viewings their movies have received. Now,
    unfortunately, it's a whole new ballgame.

    DVDs -- references here to DVDs are also meant to include
    videocassettes, which were sent instead of discs by some distributors
    -- have in the last few years become a very valuable tool used in
    marketing films for consideration in a very wide range of awards
    races. It's not just voters in major competitions like the Golden
    Globes and BAFTAs who relied on DVDs as an alternative to attending
    screenings in theaters, but members of guilds like the Screen Actors
    Guild, the Directors Guild of America, the Writers Guild of America
    and the Producers Guild of America. All of these awards are enormously
    important to the entire spectrum of Hollywood talent -- actors,
    directors, writers, producers, cinematographers, editors, costumers,
    designers, musicians, etc. And let's add agents to the list, too.
    After all, agents earn commissions on the salaries paid to the people
    they represent. Winning awards isn't just an honor that gives you
    something to display on the mantle, it also adds to your bargaining
    power and, ultimately, to your earnings. Awards translate into money
    for a large number of people, none of whom had any opportunity to
    voice their opinion before the MPAA put an end to DVD mailings.

    On top of that, there are many media people in markets across the
    country who also were devoted viewers of such DVDs. Exactly how the
    DVDs were used is widely misunderstood. While there are Academy
    members and other awards voters who viewed DVDs at home so as not to
    have to attend screenings, there are others for whom DVDs were a
    valuable way to take a second look at films they'd already seen at
    screenings. DVDs enabled them to pay particular attention to
    performances that were generating a buzz or, perhaps, to consider
    other elements of films before casting their votes. In the case of
    films that opened earlier in the year, voters who saw them at that
    point were unlikely to see them a second time during the busy awards
    season. Instead of spending an entire evening to view a film a second
    time, they were able thanks to DVDs to spend 10 or 20 minutes just to
    look again at one aspect of a film -- perhaps, a supporting
    performance being promoted for consideration or to consider its
    screenplay or editing or costumes.

    What makes the DVD decision even worse is that this year has a newly
    compressed Oscar voting schedule that's going to make it exceptionally
    difficult even for very conscientious Academy members to see all the
    contenders arriving in late December. Under the circumstances, second
    looks at films in screening rooms are going to be all but impossible.
    There are, after all, only seven nights in a week and even the most
    devoted Academy members have families and jobs that make demands on
    their time. No one's likely to be out at screenings every night of the
    week. What people typically do is pick and choose what they're going
    to see at screenings. For some, two nights a week is all they're going
    to commit. Others will be willing to give up a third night. I wonder
    how many people can or will devote four or five nights to moviegoing?
    I bet it's a very short list.

    Another problem Hollywood faces in an awards season without DVDs is
    arranging all the additional screenings necessary to make so many
    contenders available so that people could take the time to see them.
    There are, after all, only a handful of really good screening
    facilities in town. There is, as well, a second tier of screening
    rooms and theaters that are decent enough. And then there are the
    other locations -- the ones that aren't very good sites, but that get
    used anyway. Screening movies in locations that aren't up to par in
    terms of equipment, comfortable seating, proper air conditioning and
    adequate parking puts the films shown there at a distinct
    disadvantage. When you sit down to see a film after having had great
    difficulty parking or when the room is poorly ventilated and you know
    someone's trying to save money by not turning up the air conditioning,
    it's the movie being shown that suffers. Without DVDs, distributors
    will wind up having to settle for whatever screening facilities they
    can manage to get. Moreover, films might even end up getting fewer
    screenings than before since there will be so much more product to
    show now and not enough good places in which to show them. This, in
    turn, is likely to result in a two-tier system for filmmakers --
    high-profile heavyweights who will get the awards screenings they
    demand and lower profile hopefuls who will have to settle for what's

    Films that opened early in the year or even during the summer will
    have the advantage of already being in video stores by the time the
    awards season heats up. At this writing, it's unknown if distributors
    will be able to send out DVDs of movies that will already be in DVD
    release. If they can, those films will have an advantage in being
    available for second look viewing at home. They also will benefit from
    the fact that commercial DVDs contain special bonus features about the
    making of the movie. Typically, there are commentaries by the
    filmmakers or by prominent film critics on these commercially
    available DVDs. The DVD screeners that were sent out for awards
    consideration were limited in content to the film only. There were no
    special features on these now outlawed DVDs. Of course, even if the
    MPAA says that distributors can't send out DVDs of movies that are
    already in DVD release, awards voters could certainly go out and buy
    themselves a copy of anything they wanted to see at home.

    While distributors will save money on making and shipping DVDs,
    they'll wind up spending money now on additional screenings and on
    additional advertising to promote those screenings. The majors will
    have an advantage in that they can better afford those costs, but
    everyone will need to do as much as they possibly can on the screening
    front. After all, voters will have to know when and where the films
    are being screened. Most likely, distributors will also want to hold
    screenings in markets other than New York and Los Angeles. There are,
    for instance, Academy members who live in the Palm Springs area or in
    the Santa Barbara area. It's unlikely that they're going to drive into
    Beverly Hills to attend screenings two or three nights a week.

    As always, there will be a large contingent of Academy members
    vacationing in Aspen between Christmas and New Year's. In the past,
    some distributors have held screenings there. This year, with Oscar
    ballots going into the mail Jan. 2 and with no stack of DVDs awaiting
    Academy members when they return home, we're likely to see more
    screenings held in Aspen. There are, of course, a limited number of
    screening facilities there as well as a limited number of desirable
    screening hours over the course of those 10 days of winter holiday
    time. There's likely to be stiff competition for those slots.

    When Academy members return from their winter holidays they won't much
    time in which to see films before their nomination ballots are due.
    Those ballots are being mailed Jan. 2 and must be returned by 5 p.m.
    on Jan. 17. How many films can voters see? Well, let's consider the
    case of an Academy member who goes to Aspen with his or her family on
    Tuesday, Dec. 23 and returns home Sunday, Jan. 4 in time for their
    kids to return to school Monday, Jan. 5. If this family is anything
    like my own, the days immediately before they leave for vacation in
    December are going to be impossibly hectic and they're not likely to
    be saying "yes" to any screenings.

    If they're anything like the Groves, it's going to take them a few
    days to catch their breath on returning and to deal with the
    inevitable personal and/or business crises that just about anyone
    finds waiting for them post-vacation. That probably means that our
    sample Academy member's going to be able to attend screenings over the
    course of eight days -- Wed., Jan. 7 through Wed., Jan. 14. Yes, there
    will be those who will be out at screenings Mon., Jan. 5 and there
    will be a few who see screenings right up to the last moment and hand
    deliver their ballots on Sat., Jan. 17. But most people are only going
    to get to look at eight movies before they cast their votes. They will
    have seen some films earlier in the year -- certainly, Universal's
    "Seabiscuit," Disney's "Finding Nemo" and Focus Features' "Lost in
    Translation," just to name a few of the contenders that were early
    arrivals, will benefit from having been around for so many months --
    but there will be many new titles that they haven't had the
    opportunity to catch up with yet.

    If DVDs were still part of the awards equation, they would have been
    able to look at more films at home. It's also likely that they would
    have, at least, sampled an additional number of titles by watching the
    first 20 or 30 minutes and then deciding whether to see the rest or
    move on to the next. That was an approach that worked in favor of
    smaller films that were good, but that had to be discovered because
    they didn't have big stars or weren't from a superstar director. Now
    those films will suffer -- unless they're from a non studio-affiliated
    independent who is able to mail out DVDs for awards consideration.

    In the end, by doing away with most DVDs, there will be a major impact
    on Oscar nominations in that voters will be endorsing a smaller field
    of pictures because they haven't seen them all. The Academy and the
    studios could hold screenings around the clock, but getting people to
    sit there and watch them will be the problem. And even if voters did
    show up for double feature Oscar consideration screenings into the
    night, how fair would that be to the films that were shown second
    rather than first when people weren't falling asleep?

    The lack of DVDs shouldn't really affect voting for the Golden Globes
    because members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. attend screenings
    throughout the year. Studios hold special HFPA screenings and press
    conferences with their films' stars and, as a result, this group isn't
    likely to suffer from not having DVDs to view at home. The HFPA
    members I've known over the years have all been very diligent about
    seeing films and, in fact, seeing them as early as possible. They
    definitely do their homework and not having DVDs probably won't matter
    much to them.

    There's likely to be a considerable impact on the BAFTA vote, however,
    now that DVDs are history. In some cases, films competing for BAFTA
    consideration aren't already playing in theaters in London. DVDs were
    the best solution to seeing them. Now an increased schedule of
    screenings will have to do the job. Good screening rooms in London
    will definitely be in demand.

    Guild members of all sorts are bound to be complaining as they get
    closer to holding their own awards events. Guild members who are
    working on films in production early next year are going to be
    hard-pressed to find the time to attend screenings. DVDs were a big
    help to them, too.

    Critics groups and media people compiling top 10 lists will also be
    grumbling about how they can't get a second or third look at all sorts
    of obscure films that they're thinking of honoring. Well, actually,
    some of the most obscure films will be coming from the non
    studio-affiliated independents that can still send out DVDs, so watch
    your mail.

    The disappearing DVDs will really pose problems for a wide range of
    other Hollywood residents -- the housekeepers, hairdressers,
    manicurists, pool men, gardeners, nannys, doctors, dentists, bank
    tellers, gas station attendants, stock brokers and all those distant
    and close relatives of Academy members, who turned up like clockwork
    every Christmas Past to ask if they could borrow some more DVDs
    just-for-the-weekend and then returned them four months later. These
    people are going to be up in arms and perfectly miserable about the
    MPAA's action.

    Of course, the MPAA probably regards them all as pirates or, at least,
    as potential pirates. And maybe they are -- or, more properly now,
    were. If they were, there will be less piracy and the MPAA can pat
    itself on the back. On the other hand, what if piracy persists? What
    if doing away with DVDs doesn't stop the pirates? What if the pirates
    are clever enough to find some new way to obtain movies? The
    postproduction process is often cited as a big security problem. So is
    the use of video cameras in movie theaters. In fact, the MPAA's own
    director of Internet anti-piracy enforcement, Tom Temple, recently
    made news by saying that 80% or more of the movies that have been
    pirated and posted on the Internet got there after being shot with
    camcorders in theaters. Actually, now that there will be more
    screenings of awards contenders, the pirates -- or, at least, those
    who own very small video cameras -- will have more opportunities to
    surreptitiously shoot copies of them. Yes, I know that we all get
    searched now as we enter screening rooms -- it's like going to LAX,
    but without having to fly anywhere -- but the real pirates apparently
    know how to get their equipment inside.

    While it's commendable that the MPAA is eager to stop piracy through
    the misuse of DVD screeners, the Association might also want to
    consider beefing up its legal department to help prosecute pirates who
    are unlucky enough to get caught. A case in point is one Kerry
    Gonzalez, who according to news reports earlier this week was
    sentenced by a judge in New York for uploading Universal's "The Hulk"
    to the Internet several weeks before it opened last June. You'll
    recall that the Internet exposure for the unfinished version of "The
    Hulk" that Gonzalez posted resulted in widespread negative criticism
    of the film and its visual effects prior to the opening of Ang Lee's
    finished version of the movie.

    What happened to Gonzalez? Judge Gerald Lynch of the U.S. District
    Court for the Southern District of New York sentenced him to six
    months of confinement at home and three years probation plus a $2,000
    fine and a $5,000 restitution payment to Universal. As badly as
    Vivendi Universal may need that $5,000 to help reduce its debt load,
    I'm wondering if it's really sufficient? There were people complaining
    last summer that the Internet posting of "The Hulk" did major damage
    to its boxoffice prospects. It ended up grossing about $132 million
    domestically, which certainly wasn't horrible. In fact, Universal did
    quite well with "Hulk" considering the reception it got when it
    opened. Nonetheless, I can't help but think that $5,000 in restitution
    doesn't entirely cover the ticket sales that were probably lost as a
    result of all that negative Internet exposure made possible by

    Actually, I wonder if I'm the only one who thinks Gonzalez's
    punishment doesn't quite fit the crime? After all, if video piracy is
    so terrible and costly a crime that Hollywood's willing to shoot
    itself in the awards foot trying to contain those digital dogs,
    shouldn't there be stiffer penalties for the bad guys? It's hard to
    tell if Valenti and the MPAA are unhappy with Gonzalez's sentence. The
    MPAA president, a colorful character I've enjoyed interviewing in the
    past and still consider to be a terrific Washington ambassador for
    Hollywood, was quoted as saying that the sentence was "serious and
    (with) permanent consequences." Well, sure. But reports said Judge
    Lynch could have sent Gonzalez to prison for three years and fined him

    I'll be very honest here and tell you that if I were thinking about
    pirating a movie and I read that they caught this other guy who did
    that and they put him away for three years and fined him a
    quarter-million dollars, I'd think twice about following in his
    footsteps. On the other hand, if the downside's only $7,000 in
    payments and six months of sitting home -- probably watching other
    pirated movies on the Internet -- I'm not so sure a gambling man (not
    me) wouldn't be inclined to take his chances.

    In any event, DVDs are, for now, history. Maybe Hollywood will find a
    way out using disposable DVD technology in the future. Regardless, the
    awards races will go on. More money will be spent on screenings and
    ads. Everyone will see fewer films and vote for the best ones they
    see. Some good films won't get what they deserve. And it will all make
    for good conversation as we sit in the dark and wait for all those
    extra screenings to get underway.
    Allan, Oct 1, 2003
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  2. Allan

    You Guest

    Fox News just posted a piece about this, too.


    Screener Shock: Oscars Make Controversial Decision

    Yesterday, Jack Valenti — who's been the head of the MPAA longer than
    nearly anyone else in the group has been alive — made headlines with a
    controversial decision.

    This year, studios are being asked not to send screening tapes or DVDs
    of their films to members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and
    Sciences. All the big studios, most of which have few Oscar nominees,
    have agreed to do this.

    I can't say I agree with this decision. It seems designed as a measure
    by the large monolithic studios to blunt the advance of independent
    films at awards ceremonies.

    Without "screeners," studios such as Miramax, Fine Line, Focus,
    Paramount Classics, Lions Gate, Artisan, Fox Searchlight and others
    would not get their films into the hands of the largely older and
    passive Academy voters.

    "The Pianist," for example, would not have gotten the attention it
    deserved last year without a screener that Academy members could pop
    into a VHS player.

    Many movies could suffer from this change in policy. Among them:
    "Thirteen," "The Station Agent," "Lost in Translation," "Winged
    Migration," "Whale Rider," "American Splendor," "Pieces of April,"
    "Swimming Pool," "Bend It Like Beckham," "Le Divorce," "The Company"
    and "The Magdalene Sisters."

    For several years now the Hollywood establishment has found itself
    outplayed at Oscar time by indie companies brandishing quality films.
    This no-screener rule seems to be its best new defense against quality
    movies getting award attention.

    But the big studios should be warned: In the record business, the
    promotion of commercial blockbusters over artistic endeavors at Grammy
    time has left that industry in a mess and a huge sales slump.

    The movie studios should be wise enough to realize that the widest
    selection of films possible made available to Oscar voters makes for a
    richer experience on the night statues are handed out. No matter what
    they do, "Pirates of the Caribbean" or "The Italian Job" are not going
    to win Best Picture.
    You, Oct 1, 2003
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  3. You know, poor poor Hollywood people - they'll just have to get off
    their butt cheeks and go to screenings. That is the price they have to
    pay for being a member of the Academy (or whatever awards organization).
    Of course, they DON'T have to pay, that is the point - the screenings
    are all free, whether at private screening rooms or at theaters. The
    Academy Awards has somehow managed to exist all these years without
    benefit of screeners. The fact is most of the people who get them sell
    them for profit to used DVD stores - one can find these "screeners"
    everywhere in Los Angeles come December. Then, suddenly, these
    "screeners" show up as bootlegs on eBay (Chicago being the prime example
    last year).

    Martin Grove is simply upset he won't get his free DVDs. It is so
    typical of today's Hollywood whiners, those who expect and GET
    everything for free so that they don't actually have to leave their
    homes and, heaven forbid, actually put forth a little effort in terms of
    seeing films. It didn't used to be like this. I've been in this
    business in one way or another for over thirty years and sometimes this
    whining over nothing is really nauseating.
    Brockhurst Pertwee, Oct 1, 2003
  4. Allan

    Usenet Guest

    Here's a solution.

    A)this year business as usual. SCreeners!

    B)future years = Divx

    1)make it so that every member of the acadamy (voting members) would be able
    to get a Divx player

    2) send the screeners in Divx form strictly movie (perhaps no chapters) and
    2.1 sound (OK maybe 5.1 for films with MEGA soundtracks)
    when disc goes into player it will see if coded for vialid acadamy
    voter. if so it plays

    at end of season after awards go out they are all blocked.

    There's only one hope left for the Star Trek movie franchise.
    It is a letter located between P and R in the alphabet.
    "Brockhurst Pertwee" <> wrote in message
    > You know, poor poor Hollywood people - they'll just have to get off
    > their butt cheeks and go to screenings. That is the price they have to
    > pay for being a member of the Academy (or whatever awards organization).
    > Of course, they DON'T have to pay, that is the point - the screenings
    > are all free, whether at private screening rooms or at theaters. The
    > Academy Awards has somehow managed to exist all these years without
    > benefit of screeners. The fact is most of the people who get them sell
    > them for profit to used DVD stores - one can find these "screeners"
    > everywhere in Los Angeles come December. Then, suddenly, these
    > "screeners" show up as bootlegs on eBay (Chicago being the prime example
    > last year).
    > Martin Grove is simply upset he won't get his free DVDs. It is so
    > typical of today's Hollywood whiners, those who expect and GET
    > everything for free so that they don't actually have to leave their
    > homes and, heaven forbid, actually put forth a little effort in terms of
    > seeing films. It didn't used to be like this. I've been in this
    > business in one way or another for over thirty years and sometimes this
    > whining over nothing is really nauseating.
    Usenet, Oct 16, 2003
  5. Allan

    Evil Guest

    Allan <> wrote in message news:<>...
    > Oct. 01, 2003
    > Disappearing DVDs appear to be big problem
    > By Martin A. Grove


    They discovered the fact that 90% of the preview .mpgs/DivX files on
    the internet come from industry insiders. Appretnly, they discovered
    this by putting a digital watermark on the dvds they sent out. How
    much harder is it to put on separate watermarks and punish the person
    responsible for the dvd?

    not that i care much one way or another.
    Evil, Oct 17, 2003
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