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Blonde on Blonde

The inside scoop on the outside story. Write to Blonde at blonde@radsoft.net.

Monday 2 December 2002

Do DVD regions suck? Do they ever, GI. They are only put on earth to make Jack Valenti look as if he is doing something, especially early in the release of movie to home players. The unions got scared out of their minds that video cameras and VCRs were going to steal all their stuff and they wouldn't get royalties that most of the movie biz is built on.

That's the way they pay people for the time they invest in a movie: You get minimal pay (unless you have a name bigger than the studio) but you get 'royalties' - some miniscule amount each time the picture, advert, whatever 'plays'.

And believe me, that is where the money comes from. You *could* make a boatload of cash from one picture, if it's really popular as a rental, or on the telly, etc. Generally you make what they should have paid you in the first place.

But the studios think they should get the biggest part of the money a movie makes, as it's akin to the 'R&D' money that drug companies get.

But the movie companies don't actually put a lot of cash into a movie - hence the folks like Golan-Globus and similar were able to get movies made at very little risk.

They pre-sold the rights, especially distribution rights, at the back end, and distribution rights here in the States on the front side. They actually managed to get people, many of whom were on the edge of falling off a career entirely, to do cameos and guest star stuff. They got 'name' directors. They sold TV rights everywhere. And that is what financed their pictures.

At least one of the 'name' directors used the Alan Smithee alias when he realised what he was shooting was schlock. There was a little 'gem' called Dr Heckyl and Mr Hype starring Oliver Reed - who was basically not able to get anyone else to work with him. It was understandable, when you consider they had to put 'minders' on him at all times. The rushes I saw looked gorgeous, but the entire story was junk, bits 'borrowed' from every Jekyll and Hyde movie ever made. It was released directly to tape cos they needed the money to finance another picture.

Think 'pyramid scheme'.

They often were able to get washed up folks like Reed to work in a picture that they could pre-sell in Asia, the Middle East (both Golan and Globus were Israelis) and when asked why they were working in the States instead of their home patch, it was always the 'talent pool'. They eventually hooked up with De Laurentis' daughter to make the sort of overblown thing that De Laurentis was known for - as a theatre release it was problematical, but on tape...

And remember: 'home' tape decks were still very expensive at this time, so the rights to 'direct to telly and tape' were very valuable. Especially when you remember the hotels were just getting the video tapes in and in order to keep the cops at bay they posted and had to show a lot of not-XXX rated stuff. And they needed turnover more than quality.

Let's face it: while a bored woman on a business trip might pay for a movie, the ladies were just getting to the level they made business trips at all, when they weren't just along to keep the boss happy (wink wink). The solo business man was likely to rent a lady along with the movie. And those things don't really have a plot, just a 'screen treatment', cos you have to build the naughtiest bits at the places where the renter is wound up and ready to go. And the limited treatment, meaning the rentee (a lady usually), knew how to build the hour or whatever time was rented.

I hate region codes!

When I bought our first video game console I could play all the Japanese games I could find. There were no region codes. And as long as I didn't mind that the characters spoke no English, I was free to get 'em when and where I could. When I bought the Playstation, it couldn't play Japanese games without a 'mod' chip which A) violated my warranty (as if I cared); and B) could actually damage the game box, if the guy doing the mod didn't know what he was doing.

Valenti insisted the game console folks follow suit with the movie folks, so 'greedy people' couldn't 'bootleg' US games and resell them. It was just at the time that CD burners for computers came out - also a pricey item and one that few folks even dreamed of owning.

But the game consoles have almost always had dual uses, which was how they sold the pricier things. You could play your CDs on it - just in case you didn't own a dedicated CD player yet. They've done the same thing with DVDs. The games consoles have managed to get the DVD games players to actually play 'regional' DVDs.

There was a bit of buzz around when the first released PS/2 had no regional lockouts. We had one of the first 500 released, but by the time I found out that those were released by 'mistake', we had sent the thing back to Playstation to have them fix a video problem.

And I wasn't bootlegging games either - I just wanted to play Japanese games, and they were ones that most likely wouldn't ever be released here anyway. In practice I was correct and many of the games I wanted to play were never ever released in the US. They tested a couple of them here and they weren't sell-throughs, so they have now decided not to continue releasing them.

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