The price of convenience

Edward Jay Epstein, who writes for Slate as the Hollywood Economist, tackles the issue of Mark Cuban's movie distribution plans today. He writes that Wal-Mart is the true stumbling block on the path to simultaneous distribution of movies to theaters, television and home video. It seems the company doesn't want to compete with other delivery methods, and has threatened to deny shelf space to studios that shrink the window during which movies cannot be distributed digitally.

"If more and more independent film companies follow Cuban's lead, the studio system of artificial delay could cost Hollywood a significant part of both its movie and its DVD rental audience," Epstein writes.

The true indicator of Cuban's success, however, will be the quality of what he releases. No amount of convenience will make people try one of his films over a studio creation if they are inferior. Upcoming releases by Stephen Soderbergh and others are promising, but it will take consistently top-notch product if Cuban truly hopes to shift the market toward his way of thinking. Stay tuned.


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