Attending the Cannes film market 2009 was rather like attending the Midem music trade fair around the year 2000. Although the market is suffering from a serious funding problem, the single major issue is not being addressed. Nine years ago, major label music executives had heard about MP3 files and basically chose a combination of either of three options: 1) ignore them; 2) try to create a proprietary system to sell music online; and/or 3) sue the people with brighter ideas.
Cannes 2009 was amazing for the lack of serious discussion about online distribution. It is happening already without the industry, through bit torrent sites. So why aren’t the major studios making more movies available? Why aren’t distributors already aggressively promoting download sites? Why aren’t the indies clubbing together to manage their rights while there are still opportunities in the market? Why aren’t entrepreneurs being brought in to try out some new ways of spreading movies across the web?
Instead of that, I heard lots of in-fighting between producers, distributors and theatre chains about just about everything but the Internet. It’s the elephant in the living room no one is talking about. Too many years of easy funding has perhaps dulled their sense of urgency. By the time they decide to react, it will be too late. Just like the majors in the music industry, they will wake up to a situation where the audience will decide for them.
To those that say, “Yes, but the rights issues are complicated. It takes time”, I reply that this is true. So why didn’t they start ten years ago when it was obvious which way the wind was blowing?