As moviemaking becomes incrementally less expensive largely because of the rise of digital technology, a way will have to be found to showcase the burgeoning proliferation of films. The old big-screen theatrical model is giving way to video-on-demand via distribution services such as iTunes and pay-per-view TV channels. In the future, day-and-date VOD and theatrical releases of a given movie may become commonplace (if, indeed, a film is released theatrically at all).
Many of the Sundance filmmakers who once saw their indie cred as a steppingstone to Hollywood have embraced or resigned themselves to the fact that, because the studios are increasingly risk-averse and franchise-driven, their careers will likely be played out in the independent realm or on cable TV. As one producer here told me: “I can’t get studio funding for the movies I want to make. More and more of us are moving to television.”
If new and established filmmakers find themselves moving outside the big studio orbit, they may discover that more than a few movie stars, craving artistic challenges, will follow suit. There was no shortage of A-list actors represented at Sundance – Naomi Watts, Scarlett Johansson, and Nicole Kidman, to name a few. Thankfully, the Z-listers from previous years were in much shorter supply. I am still recovering from seeing Paris Hilton a few years back emerging from a stretch limo in her pink parka.