Sample Lecture- Distribution and Reception in the Digital Age

Lecture Notes:
History of Radio, TV & New Media – Week 15 – Class 2) Distribution & Reception in the Digital Age

Assigned Texts for Lecture: Tryon, from Reinventing Cinema: Movies in the Age of Media Convergence – Chapters 4 & 6 (Ulearn)
Supplementary Reading (Suggested) – Anderson, Chris. “The Long Tail.” –

I. 1998 – The Blair Witch Project & The Last Broadcast

a. Broadcast = first desktop feature film – Satiric documentary – Show partial clip (approx 32 sec.):
b. Blair Witch = Horror – Show clip:
c. More than plot similarity – Mark a new advent in distribution and promotion
i. Witch:
1. Mockumentary on Sci Fi
2. Web sites claiming it was real
3. Grossed over $140 million at box office
ii. Broadcast:
1. 350,000 rentals at Hollywood Video first 30 days
2. Sold over 100,000 units
3. Aired on HBO & IFC
d. Used Internet to promote & distribute
i. An alternative to the theatrical system
II. The Long Tail
a. Chris Anderson – Wired
b. Digital distributors can profit in ways brick & mortar cannot
i. No physical limits on inventory
ii. Distributors make $$ by selling relatively few copies of obscure materials, because the is very little cost in making it available
iii. In fact, 98% of the inventory in a digital catalog sells at least once a quarter
III. Utopian Notions
a. Long Tail feeds into certain utopian notions
i. A. O. Scott suggests that we are coming to expect a limitless library of digital films that will be eternally preserved on the net
ii. This overlooks some issues inherent in digital archiving
1. Degradation of signals & obsolete formats – Digital product can still be lost
iii. Regardless, digital production, promotion and distribution are being embraced by independent DIY filmmakers as a way to bypass gatekeepers
IV. Case in Point: Uncovered: The Whole Truth about the Iraq War (2003) – Show clip:
a. Robert Greenwald organized parties using social networking sites
b. Volunteers would host parties and receive free DVD
c. Teleconferences to talk about the film
d. Yochai Benkler “… the emergence of a networked information economy.”
e. Political ramifications – Strategy adopted by Dean campaign – A new public sphere?
f. Provides a gatekeeper free alternative to traditional means of mass communication
V. Piracy
a. As digital distribution increased, so did talk surrounding piracy
b. Cited by the movie industry as number one concern
c. MPAA has targeted youth – college students – as enemy in war on piracy – attributes 15% of piracy losses to file sharing on college campuses
d. 2007 campaign of PSAs that make much of the poor quality of pirated films
VI. Bubble & “Day and Date” Release
a. Bubble (2005) = Soderbergh – Same day release – DVD, theaters & cable
i. Subverted the 6 month theatrical window
ii. Mark Cuban – smaller films & documentaries
iii. 6 month window was the result of whittling away – experimented with a variety of lengths up to 2 years
iv. DVD market changed things
v. Day Date threatens theatrical exhibition, but opens new opportunities for audiences
VII. Netflix: Show clip:
a. Film viewing and the computer
b. New ties between internet and film culture
c. Larger catalog – cinematic diversity
d. Changes the “temporality” of movie watching
VIII. Youtube
a. Video sharing – 2005 – new way for audiences to engage with one another and discuss films/media – wider communities
b. Also allows for distribution of fan based material
i. The traditionally passive viewer becomes an author/producer
IX. Remixes & Mashups
a. October 2005 – Robert Ryang – The Shining trailer – Show clip:
b. New models for thinking about intertextuality and film reception
c. Form of rebellion against the status quo in the entertainment system
i. Solidarity with the main text
ii. Commentary on Hollywood marketing system
d. These remixes have sparked copyright debates
i. Not the same as piracy – Not about stealing content – About how a movie is perceived – a dangerous form of paratext for Hollywood?
ii. Not all organizations are against remixes – some have welcomed them and made them part of their marketing (e.g. HBO and Seven Minute Sopranos)
e. Ultimately, fan made remixes and mashups offer the audience an opportunity to interact in terms of a new film culture, create and present alternative readings of texts and comment on Hollywood’s promotional techniques – Show clip:
f. Likewise, compilation videos like “100 Numbers” and “Women in Film” allow for a kind of critical discourse – they offer a site of contemplation– Show clip:
X. Summary of Key points
a. Digital technologies have:
i. Created new modes of exhibition & reception
ii. Challenged existing distribution methods
iii. Created a global networked audience
iv. Constructed the viewer as author
v. Hollywood has been uncertain in how to deal with this
1. Some have embraced this new digital culture and methods of discourse – others have not

Leave a Reply