Film stocks are vanishing, but the image remains, albeit in a new, sleeker format. Today, viewers can instantly stream movies on demand on televisions, computers, and smartphones. Long gone are the days when films could only be seen in theaters: Videos are now accessible at the click of a virtual button, and there are no reels, tapes, or discs to store. Any product that is worth keeping may be collected in the virtual cloud and accessed at will through services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant.
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The movies have changed, and we are changing with them. The ways we communicate, receive information, travel, and socialize have all been revolutionized. Streaming: Movies, Media, and Instant Access reveals the positive and negative consequences of the transition to digital formatting and distribution, exploring the ways in which digital cinema has altered contemporary filmmaking and our culture. Many industry professionals and audience members feel that the new format fundamentally alters the art while others laud the liberation of the moving image from the “imperfect” medium of film, asserting that it is both inevitable and desirable. I argue that the change is neither good nor bad; it’s simply a fact.
Hollywood has embraced digital production and distribution because it is easier, faster, and cheaper, but the displacement of older technology will not come without controversy. Streaming illuminates the challenges of preserving digital media and explores what stands to be lost, from the rich hues present in film stocks to the classic movies that are not profitable enough to offer as streaming video. It also investigates the financial challenges of the new distribution model, the incorporation of new content such as webisodes, and the issue of ownership in an age when companies have the power to pull purchased items from consumer devices at their own discretion.
Streaming deals with the 21st century shift to digital production and distribution, explaining how the new technology is affecting movies, music, books, and games, and how instant access is permanently changing the habits of viewers, and influencing our culture.
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Wheeler Winston Dixon, James Ryan Endowed Professor of Film Studies and professor of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, is coeditor-in-chief of the Quarterly Review of Film and Video and the author of numerous books, including A History of Horror, Visions of the Apocalypse: Spectacles of Destruction in American Cinema, and Film Talk: Directors at Work.