sailing down to amazon

Milos Stehlik (milos@interaccess.com)
Mon, 8 May 2000 16:20:50 -0700 (PDT)

This has been an interesting and instructive discussion, and in some ways
frightening to those of us who choose to operate in the margins of the
cinema rather than the mass market.

For me, the most frightening mistruth which is propagated by the online
video services (and over the past few years, I've dealt with virtually all
of them, and all of them are peopled by energetic and very nice
individuals) is that "they have everything."

In truth, they don't have everything, and never will have everything,
because to "have everything" means dealing with lots of small and sometimes
difficult vendors, and lots of "product" that doesn't have UPC barcodes
(their mantra) and doesn't always arrive when it should.

But the perception that they are "one stop shopping" is enough for most
people, and they offer good service and discounts and have one-click
ordering (now patented).

It's no different than Blockbuster, which also came out with the
"everything idea" and proved that videos can be rented like McDonalds
hamburgers. In fact, Blockbuster has very little except the mainstream
releases, even in those areas where they would be well-served to respond to
the demographics. But they have titles in depth, and they and Hollywood
Video have, in a few years, wiped out the independent video retailer who
was often more receptive to independent films and took more risks on
"difficult" films which might take some time to earn their investment.

The problem is that the independent and foreign art film and documentary
market is a very small market and we all need those few cross-over films
which might get a slightly broader audience and fuel the machinery for a
while. None of us are a public corporation which is losing money while
generating revenue and garnering market share. And it's those cross-over
films and the money in the library or individual's budget which they
consume, leaving even less for those of us already in the margins.

But for most people Walmart is enough, just like for most people wanting to
rent a foreign film, the 100 odd most-popular-selections at a local
Blockbuster is enough. There are, of course, 1000s of foreign films on
tape, but most will never know it, and never have a chance to discover
them.

I've shopped at amazon and barnes and noble when I knew what I needed, but
I've always discovered a new book at a local bookstore.

Unfortunately discovery of what is challenging and new (or old) does not
seem so important in today's emotional landscape. That's sad, because all
of us can think of hundreds if not thousands of films out there which have
not had a chance to find their audience.

Milos Stehlik
Facets Video