DGA Deals with AMPTP and Without a Box Goes Amazon

January 17, 2008

Happy New Year to everyone!  A couple of week’s rest over the holidays and now we’re back, ready to face 2008.  Two industry-related items in the news today really caught my attention.  One of them made me think there’s light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.  The other made me feel a little sad.

That the Director’s Guild of America was able to successfully negotiateDGA logo a tentative deal with the AMPTP in only six days (albeit, after weeks of informal behind-the-scenes talks), is nothing short of amazing and goes a long way to instilling hope that perhaps now the WGA and the AMPTP can get back to the table and reach a deal so everyone can get back to work.  See the DGA’s press release for more details. Keep hope alive!

But then I received an e-mail from the people at withoutabox.com, announcing they had been purchased by IMDb.com. Which is owned by Amazon.com. The e-mail sounded upbeat enough (I bolded some of the text):withoutabox logo

Dear Jane,

We’re happy to let you know that Withoutabox has reached a definitive agreement to be acquired by the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), an Amazon.com subsidiary. This presents a great opportunity for all our independent filmmakers, festivals, and industry professionals. The new arrangement preserves the vision that Withoutabox has championed for eight years, teaming it with the Internet’s number one destination for film lovers and film insiders.

 As Filmmakers and self-distributors, you can look forward to more ways to help reach your audiences and monetize your work.  As Festivals, you can look forward to more powerful tools to scout, collect, select, and schedule films, plus access to a vast audience of movie lovers that only IMDb can deliver – more than 50 million visitors a month. As film Sellers, Sales Agents, and Acquirers, you can look forward to unprecedented information, discovery, and connectivity at your fingertips, across the entire landscape of commercial and independent film.

The day-to-day operations of Withoutabox will remain much the same, including the entire management team, our experienced staff, and the dedicated customer service you love.

We look forward as always to seeing you at festivals and other industry events.  Happy New Year.  Here’s to new beginnings!

I know that everything changes, that’s life, but I’m still saddened by this purchase. I’ve used withoutabox, for a film festival I worked, for filmmaker clients, and I really liked it. Yeah, so the navigation wasn’t always the smoothest or the most intuitive, but still, it’s a good site. It’s been all about the festivals, it’s been all about independent films. It’s indie! And now…not so much. They say much will remain the same, but I don’t know that I buy into that. They’re corporate now.  Nothing wrong with that, just a little sad to see them lose their indie-ness.

Don’t get me wrong. Amazon and IMDb are great sites. I use them both constantly. But there’s something about this continuing pattern of vertical integration of entertainment web sites that troubles me. 


WGA Strikes for Slice of Internet Pie, Uses Internet Publicity

November 11, 2007

This has to be one of the most ironic of ironies, right?  The WGA is striking the AMPTP about Internet residuals, among other things, and are doing an excellent job of using the Internet to support their efforts.   You’ve got to admit, no matter which side of the picket line you may find yourself supporting, that the writers are winning when it comes to using the Web for publicity. 

There are a number of great blogs covering the strike, including Variety’s Scribe Vibe. The standout, however, is the unofficial United Hollywood blog, formed by a group of WGAUnited Hollywood Blog’s Badge strike captains.   In addition to posts and open letters by various WGA members, they share messages and pictures they receive from fans.  They’ve got badges, like the one seen here, for supporters to place on their websites, and a ton of links to other related sites, including a site called Strike Swag that is selling solidarity bracelets and tees, and even mentions plans for a men’s bikini brief (lord, please end the strike before it comes to that!).

And then there’s the WGA’s video coverage on YouTube. wgaamerica is posting daily videos of strike activity and getting lots of viewers.  Even Ask the Ninja has joined in the conversation, in his own unique way.

The writers clearly understand the power of the InteAMPTP logornet to promote their product — in this case, their position and the fight for their livelihood — to the public.   

I’ve been looking for a similar Web publicity blitz  from the AMPTP’s point of view. My search results haven’t turned up much.  The official AMPTP’s website has put up a FAQ to address questions related to the strike, and they do appear to update their “breaking news” section to state their position, but that doesn’t pack the same publicity punch.  I haven’t been able to find any good pro-AMPTP blogs.  If anyone knows of  some, please post the links in comments.  It strikes (no pun intended) me very odd that the AMPTP hasn’t taken their position on the argument over residuals for digital downloads, pay-per-view, and Internet streaming, publicly, to the source, and to their ultimate audience — on the Internet.

It begs the question:  who has a better understanding of the value and reach, not to mention the potential revenue, of the Internet?