November 16, 2006

Weinsteins to me: drop dead

Bob and Harvey Weinstein have just inked a deal to give Blockbuster exclusive rights to rent its DVDs.

I suppose there's a business rationale to this, but it's a pretty big FU to consumers. I was going to compare it to a publisher only allowing Barnes and Noble to see its books, but it's worse than that, because the distribution models for DVD rentals have changed so much. Many people now -- me for instance -- subscribe to services that charge a monthly fee for movie rentals. So while I could find a Barnes and Noble if I wanted a particular book with no extra cost other than maybe a little time, renting a movie from Blockbuster, rather than Netflix, means paying extra to see a film that otherwise would have been covered under my existing agreement.

Beyond that, the convenience of Netflix means a movie has to be pretty extrordinary for me to seek it out elsewhere. Right now, my queue is maxed out at 500 films. If I watched two a week it would take me five years to get through them all. So I've got plenty on my entertainment plate already.

Weinstein says that among the movies covered by the deal will be Bobby, The Nanny Diaries and The Protector. All three of those are movies I'm not likely to see in the theater, but that would go right into my queue if possible, possibly fairly high up (will The Nanny Diaries show Scarlettboobies?). But none of them are so essential that I'm going to shlep to Blockbuster when I already have 500 other options just waiting to be automatically delivered to my house.

As far as I can see, all Weinstein is really doing is limiting the audience for its films.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


Yeah, isn't their job supposed to be to distribute films, to you know, as many people as possible? There goes that Independent Spirit Award.

No offense, but if the Weinsteins wanted you dead, you'd be blogging even less.

The biggest prob w/the deal is Blockbuster's refusal to carry, chain-wide, unrated or NC-17 rated films.

Or, at least, that would be a problem if the Weinsteins still chased cutting-edge art fare. Blockbuster's probably the best outlet for the quickie CGI crap and faux-important Oscar-bait they're priding themselves on, these days.

Looks like BB only gets exclusive rental rights for 3 years. So, given our packed queue, we'll probably still be seeing the movies in about the same time.

Looking at their offerings, the only one that looks remotely interesting is Killshot, and that's mainly to see how they fucked up the book and how much crazier Mickey Rourke is this year. Don't think I'll be feeling this loss anytime soon.

I can only imagine this deal was done to put some cash into the Weinstein Co. pipeline, in order to finance upcoming film projects. But that doesn't make sense, given that the Weinsteins have been loudly bragging (most recently to the Wall St. Journal) about how many brilliant investments they've made, and how much money their new company is worth. (I believe they referred to one digital investment as being worth nearly a billion dollars.) Unless... unless... Could the Weinsteins be duping gullible journalists and inflating the scope of their success? I dunno. That seems so unlike them.

Uh, if they wanted everyone on earth to watch the movies they'd give them away. The goal is to maximize profits, not viewers. The right deal with Blockbuster could easily do that.

I don't know if the Blockbuster deal will necessarily increase profits over the long term, though. It seems to me like the deal has one huge unintended consequence -- namely, it alienates the creative types on whom the Weinsteins rely. The Weinsteins may not care whether everyone gets to see their movies, but writers, directors, and actors do. I mean, if you have the choice between shopping a product to a studio that'll release it widely on home video, and one that'll only release it to one supplier, which one would you go to? Especially if that one supplier has a reputation for "cleaning up" movies' sex and violence? A lot of the movies that the original Miramax released -- "Priest", "Kids", "Clerks", et. al. -- might've wound up elsewhere if the Blockbuster deal had been in place back then. I dunno. They're smart guys -- I'm sure they thought of this. But it does seem to me that they're giving up one of the nice perks of being an indie -- namely, the ability to push the envelope and release films without a rating.

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