Monday, March 31, 2008


This piece was done the day after the Oscars and I neglected to post it before but here it is because apparently my prediction came through; Carib is planning on showing 'No Country...' again even though its now on DVD!

It’s been quite a week for the cinema industry, both local and abroad. It should have culminated Sunday with the brilliant ‘No Country for Old Men’ winning the Oscar for best picture. Arguably, this marks the first time in a decade that the outright best film of the year actually won the award. Locally, the popular Viewer Choice film rental chain has decided to close its last store and the implication is that DVD piracy is to take the major blame. It has been on the radio especially Nationwide with its morning hosts splitting opinions (Naomi Campbell admitting she watches them and Emily Crooks vehemently against). This reminds me of the argument Palace Cineplex carries against persons who sell DVDs on the streets.

A discussion I had with two friends ended up with them siding with Palace Cineplex. One has repeatedly sent letters to that organization to find out about certain films being shown or not being shown. He outlined a detailed and irreverent reply he got back, therefore he was satisfied that Carib, for instance, was doing all it can. My other friend outlined customer loyalty schemes that he’s been able to benefit from, and so forth. However, both were clearly stumped when I posed one question: how does this affect the quality of films shown, especially come Oscar time, because it is my unwavering view that Carib has no justification for showing ‘No Country…’ only after its Oscar success. It has been guaranteed a mere two days but given how ideal this film is to our viewing choice I’m sure by the time this article comes out, it will still be at theatres. I have made no contact with any organizations for this article but if such a film isn’t available for one to watch locally (even though it was released internationally in November, 2007) and DVD rentals get it a bit later, how does a curious movie fan get to see it then?

The answer is of course through piracy. While we’re now pondering if FLOW is monopolizing the cable industry, no one is looking at Palace Cineplex trying to dictate how, when and if we watch certain films (and raising prices isn’t helping either). The price of admission for one to watch a film is as horribly high as a Whopper at Burger King now and if you add snacks then you’re bound to spend over $1,000 for yourself alone. A DVD on the street goes anywhere from $200-$300 and in a lot of cases, the quality is good and you can watch the film any amount of times you desire without extra charge.

Now, if you’re Palace Cineplex, of course this isn’t benefiting you. I’m not sure how Viewers Choice and other DVD rental stores can blame piracy as the films people mostly buy off the streets are those currently in theaters or on the way, not—and I can’t stress this enough—films released months ago. DVD rentals and going to the cinema aren’t a vital necessity for people so trying to blame an entity for doing something you do more promptly and cheaper isn’t the issue. A good marketing strategy and customer involvement is. My DVD rental store continues to have my support mainly for the great customer service I get there. I go to Carib even if I buy a pirate DVD for reasons having less to do with the actual film but for a social one. The man in the street who sells pirate DVDs will never encroach on this so, once our laws are changed to accommodate them, then they can all enjoy a slice of consumer spending. That ensures that the neglect of a film like ‘No Country…’ by Carib can go unnoticed by us movie-goers and at expense of that entity’s conscience alone. I haven’t even touched on the myriad of online sites that allow an avid watcher like myself to, for example, watch ‘Penelope’—a charming romance starring Christina Ricci—a full week before it was re-released in North America (it was viewed at a film festival in 2006) and may not even be shown locally. I believe in this system of having a choice and that is exactly what these alternatives provide.

It’s now up to Palace Cineplex to analyze why it takes them so long to get certain films locally especially when Carib has five different screens. I believe better marketing and more discounts and external customer feedback will greatly assist them in this venture.