10.20.2005

Distributing choice

I learned about Steven Soderbergh's new film, "Bubble," because Robert Pollard did the music for it. Pollard, leader of the now-departed indie rock juggernaut Guided by Voices, is frighteningly prolific, which makes being a fan an expensive and time-consuming task. He announced a new release and I ordered it, really only learning what it was I had ordered when it arrived yesterday. A bit of Googling revealed that this was part of a very interesting project.

"Bubble" is the first of six films Soderbergh will direct for HDNet Films, the company started by Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner to produce high-def product to be released simultaneously on theatrical, TV, and home video platforms. These films follow on HDNet's "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room" and "The War Within," and point the way toward a potentially revolutionary new way to produce and distribute films.

Soderbergh already has been a revolutionary presence in the film world because he cannily alternates between big budget films like "Oceans 11" and the smaller, more experimental films like "Schizopolis," funded by the large paydays of those mainstream hits.

Now, in joining with Cuban and Wagner, he is helping to provide what would seem to be the calling card of the future: choice. Those who don't want to head to the theater to see a new film can rent or buy a DVD. Those who would rather just see it on TV will have that option as well. Cuban is a lightning rod for criticism, and many have predicted the a quick and spectacular failure for this enterprise. Even if it does, it surely points in the direction entertainment will eventually head. Call it the Long Tail or just common sense, things are going to become more convenient, more varied and more diverse.

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