There are really only two different kinds of movies today. There are the big Hollywood tentpoles that we hear about as soon as they're an idea in someone's head. We discuss those to death for years until the weekend of their release. And then there are the indies that we hear about just before their Sundance debut. The critics who've seen those discuss them to death for months or sometimes years until the weekend of their limited release date. In both cases, the chatter can either build anticipation to the point where expectations can never be met or kill all excitement about something as a result of inevitable backlash.
But what if there could be a third kind of movie, one that we first hear about right before its release, in a format that's accessible to all? What if there could be a movie that arrives suddenly out of the blue the way Beyonce's new album did last week? Variety's Marc Greiser ponders this question and pretty much concludes that it will happen eventually. Could it really work, though?
It seems impossible, for a number of reasons. For one, moviemaking is a whole lot different than album making. There are a lot more people working on a movie, usually there's a lot more money and time involved and there's just not quite the distribution platform to aim something directly at the masses the way music is via iTunes. Sure, movies can go to iTunes and other digital outlets such as Netflix and Amazon, but none are quite as universally embraced as iTunes is for music downloads.
Even the indie movies are mostly becoming less surprising thanks to a large number of them showing up on Kickstarter or Indiegogo way ahead of their festival showing. There are a ridiculous amount of crowd-funded films in next month's Sundance program, to the point where a lot of the usual surprise of never-heard-of-before titles was lessened when the titles were announced earlier this month.
Those are little movies, though, and the true equivalent of Beyonce's album would be something huge. A new movie from the likes of Christopher Nolan, Michael Bay or James Cameron. It'd be like Disney suddenly unloading a Marvel or Star Wars installment without any promotion or leaks on the blogs. The only way that could be done is with a special kind of Marvel or Star Wars movie, a smaller, lower budget one-shot involving a no-name actor as a new or little-known character.
Does Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing count? I can't recall exactly how suddenly that was announced before its Toronto Film Festival premiere, but regardless it didn't hit theaters for nine months. And Whedon isn't a Beyonce-level filmmaker even after The Avengers. Another movie that comes to mind is Cloverfield, which still was teased like crazy and made us appreciate J.J. Abrams' mystery box idea for a few years (until the whole Khan situation with Star Trek Into Darkness). I expect he'll eventually try to produce another secret movie one of these days.
If there's any major reason we won't ever see a huge blockbuster dropped out of the blue, it's not because of the theater industry or the whispers of Hollywood rats. I think it's tie-ins. Licensing deals. Big movies tend to come out alongside merchandising and promotional partners that would be very difficult to either avoid or keep hush-hush. This isn't just about marketing, it's about extra side dough.
But who knows, maybe in 10 years those partnerships can be done in a special secret way that's all Internet based, just as the movie's release would be. And someone like Cameron could just make an all-CGI movie secretly in his basement -- well, not him, because he likes cameras too much -- or in Korea like the secret special effects done for Escape from Tomorrow.
It'll be tricky, but the first to come up with how to do it will be talked about as much as we're talking about Beyonce right now, so it's worth trying.
Could and should a movie ever be released like Beyonce's new album was?
Here are some responses received so far via Twitter:
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