Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos (California, USA)
Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos (California, USA)

By Wheeler Winston Dixon.

This article caught my attention about a week ago, and though I blogged on it then, it seems important enough to me to warrant further exploration. Under the headline “Netflix Will Rip the Heart Out of Pre-Sale Film Financing,” Schuyler Moore wrote in Forbes that:

“Netflix is working mightily to expand its reach worldwide, so far including Latin America, Canada, and the U.K., with Europe next up at bat. When Netflix is done, people in every part of the world will be its customers, and those customers will be able to toggle what language they want to watch a film in.  This trend corresponds to the shrinking of the piracy window (the time between the theatrical window and the home video window), so by the time Netflix has a worldwide reach, it will also probably be available day and date with the theatrical release.

This trend will have a huge effect on how independent films are financed.  Right now, independent filmmakers raise funds by selling their films through “pre-sales” on a country-by-country basis to local distributors, but a worldwide VOD reach will rip the heart out of these sales, because it will destroy the value of DVD and pay TV rights to the local distributors.

The net result will be that independent films will be financed by pre-sales to Netflix, not the local distributors.  Instead of going to the Cannes Film Festival, filmmakers could be going to Las Vegas for a digital convention in order to pre-sell VOD rights to Netflix.  Indeed, Netflix will likely expand from creating original series to creating its own large budget films, with the initial premiere on-line.  Netflix may be a vibrant, important source of new financing that disrupts the studio system and bypasses standard distribution channels.

This trend will also change how films are watched and how theaters compete.  In order to compete against collapsing windows and high-def, surround-sound, home entertainment centers, theaters are going to have to offer a better experience, and a big part of this is going to be 4D seats, which move to match the film (where you feel like you are flying when a jet is onscreen), and 3D sound, which seems to come from different angles at different times around you, like raindrops falling near you. I have experienced both of these, and the results are astounding. Theaters are going to have to get on this bandwagon or be relegated to bowling alley locations.”

The title of the article here tells all; it’s such an apt metaphor that it’s frightening. Netflix will indeed ‘rip the heart’ out of pre-sale film financing, but what Moore fails to consider here is the impact that this will have on national cinemas on a worldwide basis. Of course, Forbes is a bottom-line publication, a self-proclaimed ‘capitalist tool,’ and really isn’t interested in artistic concerns, or empowering anyone other than the already dominant global media forces.

This is the voice of mainstream Hollywood cinema talking here, and it admits to the existence of nothing beyond that. What happens to filmmaking in Sweden, France, Germany, Spain, Nigeria, Morocco and elsewhere is no concern of Moore’s, who seems to think that cinema is more a spectator sport than anything else.

It’s probably true, as Moore says, that “worldwide VOD reach will rip the heart out of these sales, because it will destroy the value of DVD and pay TV rights to the local distributors” but the problem with this of course is that it’s more concentration in the hands of a few – everyone wants the “master switch” as Adolph Zukor put it, and Tim Wu so effectively explored in his book of the same title.

So Amazon has destroyed all the bookstores, iTunes and Amazon together have destroyed all the recorded music stores, Netflix and Amazon have destroyed all the local video stores, and what we have left is a handful of worldwide conglomerates that essentially control all the content we read, listen to, or watch. This isn’t good for anyone, but I can’t help but wondering; when will it collapse? This isn’t the end game here, folks, it’s just a step somewhere along the line.

But when Moore argues that “in order to compete against collapsing windows and high-def, surround-sound, home entertainment centers, theaters are going to have to offer a better experience, and a big part of this is going to be 4D seats, which move to match the film (where you feel like you are flying when a jet is onscreen), and 3D sound, which seems to come from different angles at different times around you, like raindrops falling near you. I have experienced both of these, and the results are astounding. Theaters are going to have to get on this bandwagon or be relegated to bowling alley locations,” I just think he’s dead wrong.

This approach may work in the short term, but in the long term, as J.K. Rowling observed in a different context, it’s content that matters above everything else. This is just bells and whistles stuff, and there’s only so many ways you can be jostled around in a theater seat, or rained on, poked and prodded, and so forth. These tactics were tried in the 1950s by William Castle and others, when TV became a threat, and it worked for a while – even Alfred Hitchcock shot a film, Dial M for Murder, in 3D – but as he said later, 3D was a nine day wonder, “and I came in on the ninth day.”

And as Daniel Lindvall, editor of Film International wrote me on this issue,

“Netflix was introduced on the Swedish market in 2012 and apparently has 1 million users in Sweden already (out of a population of 9.5 million). The most noticeable result so far is that the last of the non-chain ‘art house’ video rental shops here in Stockholm have closed down. But at the same time many thousands of the films that were available in these shops are not yet available on Netflix in Sweden, since they still have to buy rights for every country separately, which is too expensive for a small market when it comes to films that few people are likely to see.

Thus you can see some Bergman films on Netflix in the US but not in Sweden. I guess this will change given Netflix’s interest in changing it to further dominate the global market. As always, we are left with a choice between plague and cholera within the market system. And, again, the Internet proves to be a tool for concentrating media, not the dreamt-of opposite.

I really don’t believe 4D can have anything more than a limited future. After all, people don’t want to go on 2-hour roller coast rides generally speaking. I think most people want to sit comfortably and relax when watching a movie, even when it’s an action flick. As I always argue when film people seem to take for granted that more dimensions are always better – there’s a reason painting is a more popular art form than installations and that we don’t hang too many reliefs on our walls. And the cost of building and maintaining 4D cinemas surely must be too high to make this into a new standard.”

It’s obvious that I agree more with Lindvall than with Moore, but beyond that, it’s also disconcerting to note that in the end, Moore is probably correct in his prognostications for the future of cinema on a worldwide basis, 4D aside.

People would much rather watch from the comfort and safety of their living rooms than trek out to the theater for anything other than the most immersive spectacle; the clearest evidence of this is the complete collapse of video rental stores, even in such major cities as New York, a metropolis of eight million people, which seemingly can’t sustain more than few revival houses, and only one or two video rental locations, even though they offer the kinds of films you’re not likely to find on Netflix.

Why go out when you can have the images delivered with a touch of a button? Why bother to seek out anything new when there’s seemingly so much product – all of it pretty much the same, even the supposed “indies” – available on demand? You don’t need to do any exploring. We’ll do it for you, and not only that – we’ll put the films in nice little slots like “foreign” or “indie,” thus ensuring a miniscule audience. Along these lines, the Amazon “suggestion” feature on their website continues to amaze me, because of its utter lack of discrimination.

If you order one DVD of a French film, suddenly they recommend nothing but French films for you; order one Barbara Stanwyck film, and they think you’re only interested in films in which she stars; order a gothic thriller, and you’re inundated with offers for like material. Erase all of these possible options, and the suggestion engine comes up blank – it can’t figure you out. How come you like so many different kinds of films? Where’s the thread here that they can track? Why won’t you stick to a predictable pattern? And why do you want a DVD anyway, when there are these great films to stream, so easily, at the touch of a button?

What worries me even more here is the inevitable emergence of “reverse engineering,” which is already happening in books with Amazon Kindle, as Amazon tracks what books readers actually read, and which parts they skip; which parts they dwell on, and which parts they hurry through; which characters they seem to like, and which they find either “boring” or “objectionable.”

Already, Amazon – while embroiled in a long running feud with Hachette over book pricing, and thus marginalizing even mainstream authors – has begun to “suggest” to authors that perhaps a certain line of narrative pacing might be more preferable to readers, that this character or that is “unsympathetic,” and so should be jettisoned from the manuscript. The same thing is bound to happen with film scripts, pitched to Netflix execs in Las Vegas or wherever, with certain plot lines and themes deemed “uncommercial,” or reduced to the melodramatic minimums of such web series as House of Cards.

Sin_City_2_Una_Donna_Per_Cui_Uccidere_Jessica_Alba_Teaser_Character_Poster_USA_01_midWhy not put a proven star in the film – an international star, or maybe one for each country you want to appeal to? Do we really need this downer plotline? Hissable villains are OK, as are the cartoon malefactors of something like Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, but when it moves beyond cardboard, you’re in trouble. You’re asking people to do some of the work when they’re watching the film, and since most people simply want to go to the movies to escape – “popcorn night” – let’s keep things simple.

Netflix is really a commercial enterprise, rather than a business entity interested in creating art, but rather mere content or programming, one can easily see that it makes sense for them to follow the path of least resistance and greatest mass acceptance, and follow the Hollywood norm. So what chance do the films of emerging or marginalized cultures or ethnicities have in such a marketplace mentality? None.

Indie films will continue to be made – though it’s a mistake to call them films, in an era in which film has long since become obsolete – see this story from John Anderson of The New York Times for more on what happens to film originals after their makers have either moved on or passed on – but their place in the worldwide market has become ever more tenuous with each passing day. They exist because of the passion, against all possible odds, of reaching a wider audience, and yet they wind up in the free video on demand section of the so-called premium channels on cable, and now, they’re migrating to Netflix.

But the amazing fact, as Lindvall points out, is that national cinemas are now in trouble in their own countries – they’ve been under assault by the Hollywood juggernaut for quite some time, but still have managed to fight back, and retain a corner of the market. Now it seems that even that is gone, and the future belongs to engineered entertainment, rather than individual vision.

I vividly remember Ingmar Bergman being interviewed by Dick Cavett back in the 1970s on American television – Cavett actually brought the show to Sweden for the episode, which was shot with a Swedish TV crew in English – and at one point in the conversation, Cavett asked Bergman “what you would happen if a producer came on the set and told you ‘you can’t do that’ in your film?”

Bergman seemed deeply surprised that the question was even being brought into play, but once he fully understood what Cavett was asking, his response was both forthright and the only possible response that an artist can ever give to financial forces that seek to rein her or him in.

“I would tell him to go to Hell,” Bergman responded, and we certainly need more of that today. In an era in which Netflix seems poised to take over the living rooms, and viewing habits, of not only the United States by the entire world, an entity interested only in profits and nothing else, we should seriously consider Bergman’s response, and think about what the consequences might be if we don’t heed his example.

But as long as the bottom line mentality rules, and the lowest common denominator is held out as the most desirable goal, appealing to the greatest number of people while offending the fewest, I think Netflix will continue to expand until it achieves its goal of global domination, and we’re all sitting in our living rooms, watching whatever Netflix thinks we want to watch – and after a while, we’ll probably think so, too.

Wheeler Winston Dixon writes regularly for Film International. He is currently working on a book on black and white cinema.

16 thoughts on “Netflix and National Cinemas”

  1. I wonder if Netflix will eventually be like McDonalds, offering only the equivalent fast food? Sure, right now, while they are busy cornering the market, they currently do offer small indies and some foreign films. But I honestly wonder if (in the long haul) Netflix will find it easier and more profitable to only offer the most mainstream films. It is important that people know the effect that Netflix is having on international and independent film production, just as we should have been paying attention to the disappearance of bookstores with the rise of Amazon.

  2. Although we have been aware of these dynamics, it is always chilling and disheartening to read this in print. Thanks for remarking on this nightmare, Wheeler. I wonder if at this point there is anything any of us can do about it? One now has to walk deep into East 4th. St. to find historic St. Marks Bookshop, a Village landmark that will no doubt fade away completely. And Kim’s, the last NY video chain, shut its last store. This is NY city we’re talking about. I encourage people to buy discs from Best Video, in Hamden, Ct (they have a website), the last truly privately-owned video store on the planet, as far as I can tell. But by all means support any other independent dealer you may know of. We’re talking not only about helping authentically free enterprise and the social world, but the future of what we see and read. This is reality, and one far scarier (to me) than silly post-apocalypse movies.

  3. Chris is absolutely right about this, and I thank him and Gwendolyn for their comments. The human aspect is completely missing in this new set-up; it’s just bottom line all the way. And this extends beyond movies to books, music, even food, as small cafés vanish to be replaced with McDonald’s — empty calories, no real quality involved. Megacompanies swallow other megacompanies — “get bigger of die” — in a quest to dominate the marketplace. It’s boring, it’s empty, it’s nothing but greed.

    I wrote all about this is my book STREAMING, but then it was about nineteen months before the fact, and there were still places to go for physical media — and now they’ve vanished. I wish I could say that I see some way around this, but since most people will simply follow the path of least resistance, I think we’re in for a Netflix world of emptiness – with the good stuff tucked away in the corners, or as Daniel notes above, not available at all.

    Hard to believe that this has all happened so quickly, but browsing in bookstores, video stores, or music stores, conversing with the staff, not to mention the virtue of competition between publishers, record labels, and DVD companies, is all going away.

    In the future, it’s going to be Netflix, Amazon, and Google, all relentlessly promoting themselves, erasing anything that isn’t resolutely commercial. Money is all that matters, right? Hang on to your hats, folks – we’re entering the new Digital Dark Age.

  4. Yes, but it is significant that we are denied any period of mourning as culture and humanity is swept away. There is an almost fascist and maniacal fervor (a false consensus) that insists that we all celebrate the “wonders” of the “freedom” of the new “information age.”

    If you spend even one moment mourning the demise of bookstores, books, record stores, DVDs, DVD stores, newspapers, critics, independent movie theatres and arthouses, etc. and make even a peep about the fact that library books are actually being removed from university libraries (!), you are unfairly characterized as uncool, old, and out of date, an old man on the front lawn shaking his fist at so called “progress.”

    No mourning is allowed. There is a lockstep fanaticism that insists that we all jump onto the digital bandwagon as if streaming is as important an the invention as electricity. Few people see how Netflix has an effect on what films will be made (or not made) in the future. Blogging, streaming and digital culture have value, but discussing the significance of a violent rupture in everything we value is verboten. There is a lot wrong with repression of mourning and debate.

    Furthermore, because public mourning about the dismantling of culture as we know it is effectively stifled, the swelling tide of false consensus rules the day and cuts short any public debate about the radical dismantling of art and the humanities. We all know what happens when debate is fully stifled. Sure, one can freely blog and stream, but when New York city has no bookstores and newstands . . .clearly ignorance and capital have won the battle.

    There is much at stake that goes far beyond this article and Netflix. This is indeed the New Dark Ages, but we are not even allowed a moment to reflect upon or mourn the vast & significant losses of this radical shift away from the humanities and humanity itself.

  5. It is so true, Gwendolyn. To mourn is to be a crank. Just go with the flow. Things will work out. What we face is the idea from Brave New World Revisited–there is no need for the new tyrannies to resemble the old. The end of sources of real culture fits perfectly with the death of real politics, the demise of trade unions, the hopeless future with deindustrialized society. Minus genuine discourse and a sense of what constitutes politics (it’s NOT the grubby fixation on who-won-what), we see capitalism ascendant even as it destroys us and itself.
    I was on a short trip recently and noted the huge amount of overdevelopment everywhere. There are endless sleek strip malls, some very posh. But I failed to spot a single sign of human culture–books, music, film, magazines. We now buy nothing but expensive clothes, furnishing we don’t need–false value triumphant. Of course we used to talk of a culture INDUSTRY, and that’s still pertinent. But I’ll settle for it, at least the old one, that saw its audiences as adult and with some dignity.

  6. Ah, Chris! Ah, Gwendolyn! How true, how true, how totally true! And yet Wikipedia defines the “digital dark ages” as “a possible future situation where it will be difficult or impossible to read historical electronic documents and multimedia, because they have been in an obsolete and obscure file format.”

    See, they don’t get it all! The “digerati” never will – they’re just 1s and 0s. That’s one problem, but that’s not the main problem. The main issue is the loss of community, conversation, face to face shared ideas – in short, human social and artistic contact. That’s gone now, up to the cloud, so to speak – thanks to you both for these valuable and sensitive comments.

  7. What a terrible shame. Wheeler, you really drive home the core of the issue when you talk about the lowest common denominator being held out as the most desirable goal. Building on Christopher’s comments about capitalism, it’s about money, and where is the most money to be had? It has always been and probably always will be in appealing to the lowest common denominator. Not just appealing to it, but creating it, cultivating it, and expanding it. Capitalism has gradually shifted the power to create culture out of the hands of the people and into the hands of large entities with endless resources, where it becomes not art, but mere entertainment that continues to push the lowest common denominator lower and lower.

    This is not whining and complaining. The emperor has no clothes, and the multi-billion dollar corporations that now create our culture can’t afford to have too many people talking about it. Which is exactly why we should, loudly and publicly.

  8. Very passionate and thought-provoking article, Wheeler. Time and time again, we are seeing consumers choose convenience over experience, quantity over quality, and predictability over originality. I think there will always be a demand for traditional film making and film going, but there is no denying that the rise of Netflix has caused that market to shrink in exactly the same way Amazon and iTunes have changed the market for book and music stores. I think it’s interesting that you mention how theaters have tried to adapt to consumer demand with 3D, high definition, surround sound, and now even 4D experiences. Even in my small local theater, I’ve been noticing this trend. It’s not enough to sit and watch a well-made film. People are beginning to expect the bells and whistles. You’re right to say that it isn’t going to reverse any time soon. Still, I do think opportunities to enjoy traditional film will continue to exist. At least, let’s hope so!

  9. While I agree that it has always been about appealing to the lowest common denominator, Daisy, the idea of it now ONLY being about expanding the canon of LCD is a point well taken. Capitalism ascendent, yes, but I simply don’t see capitalism destroying itself. Rather, I see it morphing into social and cultural fascism beyond anything Huxley ever imagined in Brave New World.

    With regard to my observation that we are not even allowed a period of mourning and grief for the many things lost in the over-zealous shift to digital, I assume we are in stage one, denial and isolation, and many of us are moving on to anger. There is massive denial that there has been a significant cultural loss. It is much like telling a person in grief (for a dead loved one) to quit moaning and whining because “nobody died.”

  10. I could not agree more. Netflix is starting to dominate in every possible aspect. Take for instance their new show, “Orange is the New Black”, which is now beating HBO shows in ratings. Why is this happening, and what can we do about it? I am STILL in disbelief over the fact that Blockbuster doesn’t exist anymore. In my experience, going to Blockbuster to pick out a movie to watch was always the fun part of the movie night experience. What happened?

    Half the movies on Netflix I have no interest in. Not sure if Netflix can even obtain the rights to half the stuff that comes out, which is one positive. However, yes, I can see movie theaters becoming just has obsolete as bookstores have become. Is this because people are simply too lazy to go out of their homes to buy a book or watch a movie?

    Movie theater prices have gone way up, so that could be a factor. For a family of 4 to go to the movies these days, it costs anywhere from $40-80, depending on whether or not popcorn/soda is involved. It’s steep, especially when you can watch a movie on Netflix with your own popcorn and soda for about 10 bucks.

    Something definitely needs to change here, and I hope you’re right when you say that you don’t think this is the end of the road. Poor Indie movies are going to crash and burn if Netflix truly is the new wave of the future.

  11. Veronica, it does seem that people are not going to the movies much anymore. Perhaps they are home binge watching from Netflix! But instead of responding to the problem of decreasing movie theater attendance, by, say, making better films, instead the movieplex is invaded with methods to put bodies in seats by adding 3D and 4D, often to pretty awful films. The movies offered are so infantile: animated films, superhero films, just infantile fare. So you cannot blame spectators for choosing to stay away. I love going to the movies, but it is no longer much of a fun experience to go to a big movie plex (unlike an arthouse) what with the crashing loud and stupid films and the lack of respect for our intelligence. Mainstream movie theaters are neither inviting in terms of movie fare, nor in their appearance. (They often remind me of old time carnival horror houses, but not in a good way. They seem like creepy dundgeons and you hear all the loud rumblings and screams from other halls. Not much fun really.)

    And yes, apparently we are all too lazy to go to bookstores when books are so easy to buy online. Amazon is very aggressive on price point. People often browse stores as if they are libraries, you can see them on cell phones making their purchases online.

    I do think also you are right about the steep price of going out to movies, at least for a large family. I am amazed to see how much parents spend for on concessions, which have always been where the local theater owner actually makes any money. People spend a minor fortune for soda and popcorn.

    But you never know. Hope springs eternal! Things change rapidly and sometimes inexplicably…..maybe good movies will return to films if exhibitors lose their stranglehold on distribution and screens, and I am sure indie filmmakers will figure out new ways to finance and distribute their work. They always do!

  12. The thing is when you say Amazon, iTunes and Netflix have destroyed music stores and video rentals etc you make that sound like a bad thing. Yes it is bad for the people who ran those establishments but actually it is progress and progress isn’t always negative. As a consumer I get a better service and price from Amazon so that is good for me. The advancement of technology has allowed these changes to occur and we must move with them or be lost. Yes at first the negatives are more apparent but over time we will wonder why we ever bothered with the hassle of going to a video rental shop – or with VHS in general for that matter!

    As for the points about cinemas being relegated to “bowling alley locations” I am from the UK and cinemas are a very different thing in this country than they are in the US, I can’t speak for the rest of Europe but I have had very different experiences here and in America. For a start the cinema in the UK has become prohibitively expensive – an adult ticket can cost up to £14 -that’s about $22! For two adults and two children to go to the cinema before they’ve even bought premium priced popcorn it’s a massive treat and not something a family can do once a month. (Plus outside of big cities cinema complexes tend to be located on the outskirts of town next to bowling alleys!!)

    So to get Netflix for such a small price per month and not have to pay those high ticket prices is much more cost-effective. This is not the consumer’s fault but that of the cinema companies and film studios. Sure I feel bad for the independent studios who will struggle but they will always find a way when they have keen funding and produce quality cinema. I would happily pay $25 to see a work of quality than $20 to see another Michael Bay atrocity!!

  13. Louisa, when you write – “the thing is when you say Amazon, iTunes and Netflix have destroyed music stores and video rentals etc you make that sound like a bad thing. Yes it is bad for the people who ran those establishments but actually it is progress and progress isn’t always negative. As a consumer I get a better service and price from Amazon so that is good for me. The advancement of technology has allowed these changes to occur and we must move with them or be lost” – all I can say is, hard core!

    Do you know Amazon treats their employees who make life so “good” for you? Then read this – a report from the UK – or perhaps this – or perhaps this from The Guardian – yes, Amazon makes it easy to order books, records, films, true enough, which is “good” for you – but at a fearful social price.

    But you feel that “the advancement of technology has allowed these changes to occur and we must move with them or be lost. Yes at first the negatives are more apparent but over time we will wonder why we ever bothered with the hassle of going to a video rental shop” – or a bookstore, or a record store, or a movie theater – or interacted with another human being – or bothered to leave the house at all. This isn’t progress – it’s the Digital Dark Ages, in which humanity is being swept aside. You’re only thinking of yourself here, not the larger picture. Thousands of jobs have been lost, and a whole slice of our shared culture with it. It’s sad.

  14. This is a great article, lots of food for thought. First of all, we subscribe to Netflix – I feel kind of bad about it now– but while I do enjoy the service, I don’t feel they’re poised for world domination. The movies are mostly older, but not classics and their navigation system is really clunky, kind of like texting on an old school phone. I would never have dreamed they were much of a threat.
    You’re right about video and bookstores disappearing. It’s very sad, but at least the library is hanging in there. Here’s something I’ve noticed after being a librarian for many years. The library works really hard to stay current with what’s trending, from computer access for patrons to downloadable eBooks and music. And no matter what anyone tells me, I can’t believe people will eventually abandon real books. About 4 years ago, everyone got Nooks and Kindles for Christmas so there was a huge rush to that venue. After the novelty wore off a lot shiny new electronic readers began collecting dust.
    One last comment on your theory about movie theatres, Four D will be a flash in the pan. The problem with theatres is partly the fact that they have too much competition, Netflix etc. But they’ve also done it to themselves. It costs a small fortune to take your family to the movies anymore. Popcorn for the gang is a week’s worth of grocery money, not to mention the fact that people in the theatre are noisy and rude. Of course I’d prefer to sit in the convenience of my home and watch subscription T.V.
    We live in a consumer run society, whoever offers the best deal, regardless of whether it damages our culture, will get the most business. Don’t know how to change that. Come up with a better mouse trap I guess. Thanks for a well written and thought provoking post.

  15. Wheeler, thanks so much for this great article. It’s an important topic and very timely. At first, I liked Netflix, but now I’m beginning to realize it’s just another evil empire. Who cared about the demise of Blockbuster? But all three of the quirky independent video stores in my neighborhood have shut down in the ten years I’ve lived in Brooklyn. And Netflix isn’t even as good as it used to be. A lot of the Criterion titles which used to be available for streaming are no longer available. Also, their DVD titles aren’t as extensive as they at first appear. I’ve got six titles in my cue with “Very Long Wait” next to them. More and more, the only alternative to Netflix is the public library or buying the DVD.

  16. John, thanks for your comment, and needless to say, I agree with you entirely. It’s more than clear now, especially with Netflix’s recent deal with Adam Sandler (!!) to produce and star in four new streaming movies that Netflix is interested only – only – in the bottom line.

    Netflix doesn’t have time for artists – really, who wants to think, right? Foreign films? You mean from other countries? Gee, I hear that some of these films are in black and white, and even if they’re in color, they have subtitles, and they’re not even in English! And a lot of them were made before 1990! Who’d want to watch them? They might contain an original idea or two, and we can’t have that. What we want are successful franchises – yes, that’s it – more of the same. The stuff we liked last time.

    And it’s true — most people will just go to films like Gone Girl, or Dracula Untold, or any other of the mainstream fare on offer, and be entirely content with that. But for the rest of us, the range of films is narrowing down. So, as you say, there’s really only one way to avoid this: buy the DVD.

    But the kicker is that soon DVDs and BluRays will be obsolete, as everything
    goes streaming. Netflix and the rest of the conglomerates don’t want you to own
    anything; they just want you to rent from them, eternally. And the visual quality is
    much, much poorer. My students are running into this problem too. Netflix
    doesn’t even have Jean Renoir’s Rules of the Game on streaming!!

    So, the moral of the story is — buy every DVD you can – now. Otherwise, you’ll be watching Law & Order marathons and Adam Sandler movies – but isn’t that what you wanted? Of course it is. Or at least Netflix thinks so.

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