Impact of DVDs on film aesthetics

There’s a very interesting article by Mark Cousins about the implications of the ‘DVD revolution’ on the film industry in the March issue of Prospect.

DVDs are apparently the “fastest growing entertainment technology of all time,” and Cousins suggests some reasons why this technology has been embraced when the introduction of CDs took much longer. For what it’s worth, I would add to his reasons the different habits of (a) collecting and (b) repeat viewing/listening that have applied to films and albums respectively in the past.

But the interesting bit is in Cousins’ identification of two impacts of the revolution: that weekend box office figures have become an “ancillary revenue stream” rather than the be-all-and-end-all; and “the very idea of what [kind of film] is makeable changes.” “Isn’t it inevitable that filmmaking aesthetics in the future will be more widely influenced by DVD’s appetite for context and rearrangement?” he asks.

Cousins’ vision of a new market regime has films being made for audiences with greater regard for contextual information, elements designed to be discovered only on repeat viewing, more opportunities for alternative viewings, and an emphasis on long shelf-life rather than immediate gratification. It sound’s like a cinephile’s — or should that be movie-geek’s — utopia.

As such, it’s possibly unlikely to happen on a grand, mainstream scale. The appetite of the film industry media for short-term excitement and ‘this month’s thing’ will not disappear overnight. But if Cousins’ vision opens up new financial models to support a sub-set of non-mainstream films, that would be welcome in itself.

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