Tricks or Treats?

This blog ought to be subtitled “my brother was right,” because it is inspired by a September visit to his New Jersey home, during which he showed off his new home theater and predicted that motion pictures would soon be released via pay-per-view. So I tipped my hat when I read the article in my Sunday San Francisco Chronicle that reported on the home-release strategy behind the new political video, “Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price.”

The article by my colleague Joe Garofoli (he and I are both Chronicle staff writers) goes into the WalMart saga and the pro and con on the video, so you should read his piece if that is your concern.

I mention the article because I agree with my brother that home release is the shape of things to come, not just for political theater but for all forms of entertainment and information. Nor should it come as a surprise that mass media — under which I include Hollywood film studio — may be followers rather than leaders in home release. The studios have less incentive to pioneer new distribution. Their marketing engines can deliver a mass audience even for works of dubious merit (fresh in my mind is last night’s viewing of Zorro, to which my boys cajoled me into taking them at a waste of $25).

So the path to home release will be blazed by underground and low-budget videos, political pieces of every hue, niche videos (like “The Art of Racing,” a DVD release noted by the New York Times (registration required)), and the various flavors of pornography.

Home release will therefore offer neither salvation nor damnation. It will just become a new set of tricks or treats in the evolution of “big-screen” media (a topic I addressed in a Chronicle article of my own a couple of years back).

Tom Abate
‘Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media