Distribution Is King Redux

Last night we watched “Active Measures” on Hulu.

You didn’t see it. It’s had little impact. Because Hulu has few subscribers. To tell you the truth, I wouldn’t have seen it either, except the outlet gave me a three month subscription to view another of their shows.

Last weekend Michael Moore opened his new movie in a trove of theatres and almost nobody went to see it, despite glowing reviews, because movies are passe, kinda like books.

What I mean by that is the book business did its best to be antiquated. You can get all the music for ten bucks a month, but you pay almost as much for a digital copy as you do for a hardcover, that’s winning? Of course not! But I’m really talking about the trophy of having a book published. I’m not talking fiction, for that I refer you to the aforementioned price issue, but with non-fiction, why in hell would you want to write a book, especially with today’s publishing constraints? You write it and it’s published a year later and it’s already out-of-date, whereas you can write and have your work published immediately online and be part of the discussion. But you’re playing an old game, an east coast traditional game, kinda like Kavanaugh boasting about Yale, that doesn’t wash on the west coast, where the public universities are good enough, albeit going up in price, and the goal is to get into Stanford so you can change the world as opposed to impressing your parents’ friends.

It’s about reach. And right now the number one place to reach eyeballs is Netflix, because it has the most subscribers! If Michael Moore’s film had debuted on Netflix it’d be a sensation, instead it’s a flop. I’m not going to the theatre, this is not 2002, my time is too valuable, only retired boomers go, and those who cherry-pick films, like “RGB,” are small in number, the grosses are anemic, and when the flicks hit streaming services all the publicity is depleted, there’s a tsunami of new product to gain your attention. So Michael Moore invented a format, the political documentary, and got stuck in distribution, to his detriment.

Then again, are you interested in cash or reach? You’d better be interested in reach, because that’s what it’s all about these days. It’s hard to gain the public’s attention, and you’ve got to regularly appear to keep it. Why is it rappers know all this and everybody else does not? They embraced the internet, gave it away for free and now they rule. Unless you’re planning to immediately disappear, always temper cash with distribution. You need the reach.

So “Active Measures” lines up Trump’s connections with Russia. It’s pretty convincing. Including talking heads that are elected officials, and the President of the United States according to Fox News, Hillary Clinton. It’s not perfect, it’s a little too fast-paced, but even if you leave the Trump stuff out the insight into Putin is both fascinating and important for our myopic citizens who believe the world ends at the coasts of the United States. Imagine the buzz if it were on Netflix! Might even change the course of conversation!

The movies are dead unless they’re two-dimensional cardboard cut-out superhero dreck. If you’re making a movie for theatrical distribution, forget about it. If you can’t sell it to a streaming outlet, preferably Netflix, put it on YouTube, give it away. Didn’t you learn the lesson of the last decade? You gain notoriety first, cash second? It’s got to be available, the barrier to entry must be low.

As for the cineastes lamenting that Netflix releases films day and date, i.e. on TV the same day as in theatres, welcome to the future, even if you don’t want to be here, this is the way it is. Having to go to a theatre to see a film is like having to navigate without a smartphone. That’s right, no Waze or Google Maps. Hell, you’d probably stay home rather than go out, get the point?

Disinformation does not only apply in politics. You want to play in the biggest pool, in the largest arena, you want to make it easy for people to partake, they’ll sample, but they may not stay, but that has to do with quality. And you never want to hinder word of mouth, that’s what sells your product. And movie distribution is all wrong, films come and go. Whereas if something starts to percolate, at first word of mouth is slow, then it picks up, your product must be AVAILABLE!

We heard about “Active Measures” at a Labor Day party. Didn’t see it, still wouldn’t have seen it if I didn’t get the free Hulu account. You see I have too many choices, time is at a premium, there’s so much on Netflix I still haven’t watched, it’s not the seventies, I’m not bored staring at the four walls.

As for Moore’s movie, I used to be a fan, I still am of the man, but I didn’t see the last movie, wouldn’t go to a theatre and by time it played on TV it was passe.

But no one will acknowledge these truths. Because media is controlled by boomers, posting film grosses and not Netflix ratings, which are not given by the company anyway. And media is always last to the phenomena, the stuff on Netflix that captures the youth.

As for its competitors…

HBO’s audience is too small and Amazon doesn’t have traction yet.

Welcome to the twenty first century, one of winners and losers. There is no middle ground. I’m paying two hundred bucks a month for cable and Netflix and Amazon Prime… How many outlets do you expect me to shell out for? It’s a game of musical chairs I tell you, get in it quick distributors and be wary of getting knocked out. As for price…you start low and then raise, you cannot build a business worth anything on an elite audience only.

And you cannot triumph in today’s over-messaged world unless your product is available to all on demand. That’s it, forget the past, it’s screwing up your vision.

I’d tell you to immediately watch “Active Measures,” but you don’t have Hulu.

As for “Fahrenheit 11/9”? I HAVEN’T SEEN IT!

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