A Response to Hollywood’s Anti-Video-on-Demand “Open Letter”


This week’s news that DirecTV is launching a new, premium video-on-demand service, in which films that have been in theaters for as few as 60 days would be offered for home viewing (with a comparatively hefty $30 price tag) was mostly met with a collective shrug around here — mainly because the first movie on the menu is the tepid Sandler/Aniston effort Just Go With It, and seriously, who the hell would pay $30 to watch that sludge? But the notion of this collapsed “window” (the norm is about four months, though it was six or more in the VHS era) has got some filmmakers and suits all in a huff, and on Thursday, 23 of them signed their names to “AN OPEN LETTER FROM THE CREATIVE COMMUNITY ON PROTECTING THE MOVIE-GOING EXPERIENCE.” You can read it here. I’ve taken the liberty of drafting an open response (which I guess you can co-sign, in the comments, if you want?) after the jump.


First things first: seriously, Shawn Levy? You had the chutzpah to sign a letter from the “creative community”? You directed the Pink Panther remake, dude. And you’ve got some nerve too, Brett Ratner — I’m surprised you had time to take part in this letter, what with your busy schedule of wrecking fine film franchises. Let’s make a deal, gents: You guys make a movie worth seeing, and then we’ll talk about “protecting the movie-going experience.”

Now, to the rest of you: I’m always amused when insulated industry types start to wax rhapsodic about the “movie-going experience.” When was the last time any of you actually went to a movie? And before you answer — I’m not talking about premieres or industry screenings. I’m talking about going to the movies. With us. Y’know, the commoners. Because here’s how it goes: First, you go buy your tickets, which are — for those of us not making millions of dollars churning out sequels to movies about ’80s toys — kinda pricey! And that’s just a regular ticket; we have to pay more if we’re seeing one of the countless movies with unnecessary 3-D tacked on (thanks for that, Cameron), and then come to find out, the theater is showing it in “RPX” or some other inexplicable “best picture, best sound” premium bullshit that we have to even more for (shouldn’t they be showing all of their movies with the best picture and the best sound?). So we spend a small fortune on the tickets, and we go to the snack bar, where a soda, a candy, and a bag of corn goes for about the same price as a gourmet meal, and then finally, our wallets empty, we go in to watch the movie.

And how does that go? Well, once we’ve sat through the hour or so of random commercials and Army recruitment ads/Kid Rock videos and trailers for other big, loud, terrible-looking movies — many of them directed by those of you who signed this letter (seriously, the notion of Michael Bay, James Cameron, and Roland Emmerich despairing of a system that shuts out “all but the most commercial movies from theatrical release” is downright laughable) — the movie finally begins. And the people around us start with the talking to each other. And the talking to the screen. And the talking on the phones. And texting. It’s pretty annoying, Hollywood millionaires!

So by the time your evening is over, you’ve blown a nice chunk of change on inflated tickets and overpriced snacks, all for the privilege of watching a movie with a bunch of loud, terrible, text-happy jerks who see movies not as an art, but as background noise. Here’s the news about this premium-priced video on demand: those of us who would do it already aren’t going to the theaters anymore. We’re just waiting out the three to four months it takes it to come to DVD or VOD, where we can make our own snacks and we know everyone in the room will shut the hell up when it starts. (That means you, Grandpa!) If a movie we’re really excited to see (not that Sandler/Aniston thing, but y’know, something good) were made available before that, yeah, we might spring for it.

Point is, settle down. Some of you aren’t getting my money anyway. (How ya doin’, Zemeckis.) And if your concerns extend beyond your own pockets (dubious), don’t despair. This is is not the death of movies. Movies will be just fine, because movies are (sometimes, anyway), wonderful. Movies aren’t the problem. Going to the movies is.

Sincerely, Jason T. Bailey, Esq.