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Author Topic: About Those New Film Studios  (Read 904 times)

Gary James

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About Those New Film Studios
« on: 22 February, 2020, 01:44:37 AM »
Because fouling up the Mega City One thread with this isn't a good idea...
A new American financed Film Studio announced. Reading is the new Hollywood, apparently. 

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2020/feb/18/coming-soon-150m-hollywood-style-film-studios-to-reading?CMP=share_btn_fb&fbclid=IwAR1OhvKMmQMxRsCFM6FVQKjv42b5_t4r3sJZogELNyEymDRneLJ7IGHs1N0
Assuming planning permission goes as planned...

There's also a proposed studio near Bicester - not sure what stage that's at.

https://www.broadcastnow.co.uk/tech/two-major-tv-and-film-studios-to-open-in-oxfordshire/5135055.article
There's a lot to consider when seeing these announcements and although it is natural for first instincts to be punching the air and cheering, it is actually leaving me slightly conflicted. Is this a good thing for the economy? Certainly. Is it a good thing for creativity? Errr...
Look, we've been here before. Remember back in the eighties and nineties when all those comic book companies were launched? Remember the excitement and anticipation, when the possible avenues were all open, and the unlimited potential of the comic medium was finally going to be fully explored? Yeah? Do you remember what actually happened?

Endless tiresome, half-hearted superhero titles with no sense that any boundaries were being pushed. Hell, I would argue that the explosion of companies actually dragged comics (as a medium) back at least a decade. Instead of seeing what cool things could be done, people were spending their energy coming up with names which were variations on a theme (mainly Deathwhatever) or trying to clone whichever title was cool six months earlier.
If you want something closer to home, all you need do is look at the television channels which start off promising and then discover that they need to churn out hours and hours of garbage in order to survive. Not that I have anything against Channel 5 in particular, but damn - what happened? Seriously, how the hell did it fall so far from its statement before going on air?
I'm all for people going out and building new film facilities, but these have to have at least some super-commercial properties to work, and the worrying trend since the millennium has been a return to a product which hasn't really been creative in at least thirty years - the straight-to-video release. Only now we are seeing films released straight to DVD. Yay for progress.

If these are going to churn out endless cheap DVDs, or the streaming shows nobody cares about - really, really cares about, in a "defend unto death" way - then it may be the start of a slipperly slope which leads to the awful, talentless trash clogging certain channels being manufactured at an unprecedented rate. How many schlocky films about tornadoes, sharks, meteors, or other overused low-budget fodder, do we really need?

The intention behind these may be noble, but if history is anything to go by...
(I get bonus points for not derailing, right?)

Tjm86

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Re: About Those New Film Studios
« Reply #1 on: 22 February, 2020, 06:05:10 AM »
About 20 odd years ago similar announcements were made for "Dragon Studios" near Bridgend.  It got made but has a very chequered history and is nowhere near the size originally envisaged.  Considering the proximity of this new development to London I suspect that it will not auger well for Dragon.

I'm also always a little suspicious about American financed investment in the film industry.  Like the gaming industry there tends to be a chasing of tax incentives rather than growth investment at times.

Steve Green

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Re: About Those New Film Studios
« Reply #2 on: 22 February, 2020, 09:13:16 AM »
Just because something's been announced, it doesn't mean it's imminent or ever likely to happen.

There's a theme park in Kent that's been trying to get off the ground for 8 years - Paramount pulled out of the consortium, then were sort of back in allowing use of their IP...

Now currently scheduled to start construction next year.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Resort


As for the content.

Physical media has peaked, we're in the middle of a fight over streaming services, with companies booking out studio space to produce content, and new film/tv studios built to fill that shortage.

I think the bigger worry is what happens if one company 'wins' or there is a major crash/bubble bursts and we're left with lots of sheds that no-one wants to (or can afford to) use.

I don't watch much sci-fi/fantasy stuff these days, even though I have Netflix and Amazon Prime there's too much to wade through.

Obviously there's a market for it, but how long that can be sustained, who knows.

IndigoPrime

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Re: About Those New Film Studios
« Reply #3 on: 22 February, 2020, 10:43:16 AM »
We have a period of consolidation to look forward to, and it’s going to be nasty and happen very quickly. Streaming is by and large unsustainable at every point, meaning you need some other income stream to keep it viable. Spotify doesn’t make anything and is surely screwed in the medium term. I suspect Netflix faces a rocky future too. It wouldn’t surprise me if a major tech company eats Spotify at some point (perhaps Samsung). Netflix will just shrivel, die and disappear unless Apple, Disney, Amazon or someone similar sees enough value in the IP to buy the remains.

Gary James

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Re: About Those New Film Studios
« Reply #4 on: 22 February, 2020, 11:38:30 AM »
I'm also always a little suspicious about American financed investment in the film industry.  Like the gaming industry there tends to be a chasing of tax incentives rather than growth investment at times.
Everywhere that starts up tax incentives for film and television production inevitably ends up churning out things like Sharknado. It is interesting that you bring up the gaming industry, as that - as far as a cursory glance tells me, anyway - hasn't seemed to have had the same over-production of garbage shelf-fillers, but I'm hardly in a position to properly check at the moment.
Maybe the memory of all those boom-and-bust events in the past are keeping things in check.
Just because something's been announced, it doesn't mean it's imminent or ever likely to happen.
Quoted for truth.
However, you don't go announcing something which has already cost a ton of cash without having some idea of the way forward. We don't, at present, have anywhere near the amount of information on these studios to be able to say anything definitively, which is why a degree of healthy caution is for the best.

Physical media has peaked, we're in the middle of a fight over streaming services, with companies booking out studio space to produce content, and new film/tv studios built to fill that shortage.
You can laugh at this all you want, but it speaks to that thought perfectly - Grandpa in my Pocket, the CBBC show which ran a few years back, was filmed in an old industrial space of some kind according to the creative personnel involved. It (still) looks far better than that suggests, and even something as large as the Dawn of the Dead remake in the US used non-standard "studios," making the proposals even more odd....

I think the bigger worry is what happens if one company 'wins' or there is a major crash/bubble bursts and we're left with lots of sheds that no-one wants to (or can afford to) use.
And we might end up here. Disney, Apple and BritBox (yeuch - that's a horrible name) are late to the party. While everyone else is getting their coats and calling their rides, these clowns are just wandering in. There are more stragglers, but those three are the big names, with - certainly in the case of the former two - deep pockets and big egos.
Netflix may be the most important player, as it has already proven itself involved in original content production across the globe - The Kid Who Would Be King isn't without serious problems, but it is fairly entertaining all the same, although iBoy is ridiculous, awful b-movie fodder - so we might be okay if the right people are in place.
We should keep in mind the cautionary tale of Polphail, and where planning on something expected to arrive in the near future can lead.
We have a period of consolidation to look forward to, and it’s going to be nasty and happen very quickly.
I had the Godfather theme in my head as I read that for some reason...

Streaming is by and large unsustainable at every point, meaning you need some other income stream to keep it viable.
It has always been clear that there are behind-the-scenes things going on with streaming film - maybe it is because the BBC has so expertly crafted their own insular little bubble, free of all advertising, but the plethora of recognizable logos and brand names speaks to something else in streaming: the ad dollar is hard at work shaping entertainment.
I may be wrong, and I'll hold my hands up to that if someone wants to bring out a statement saying they haven't accepted any cash for placement, but the feeling I get is that there is money going in from *cough* unconventional means. Not saying anyone is doing anything wrong, but...

Spotify doesn’t make anything and is surely screwed in the medium term. I suspect Netflix faces a rocky future too.
Isn't Netflix, by now, "too big to fail" as the news media loves to put it? I can see people pouring money into it merely in order to keep the name viable, as there is soooo much potential there - not that it is really living up to that potential, but it is certainly impressive in places.
And Spotify... Damn. I learn something every day.
Everyone is probably already aware of this, but... It isn't the backers who are going to get burned if things turn to shit. Investors will be kept happy, and any jobs created are going to make the companies look good no matter what - the creators, the people killing themselves to make cool, entertaining stuff which they pour their souls into, are going to be the ones to get screwed over if / when things sour.

Steve Green

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Re: About Those New Film Studios
« Reply #5 on: 22 February, 2020, 11:57:12 AM »
The Kid Who Would be King wasn't Netflix, it was Fox.

Re:Britbox being 'late to the party' - the BBC/C4/ITV tried to develop a similar VOD service in 2008, back when Netflix were posting DVDs.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kangaroo_(video_on_demand)

Competition regulators said they couldn't and the rest is history.

Gary James

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Re: About Those New Film Studios
« Reply #6 on: 22 February, 2020, 12:10:45 PM »
The Kid Who Would be King wasn't Netflix, it was Fox.
I stand corrected. It's difficult to think of great things from Netflix as everything seems to bleed into one giant mass of entertainment - as if there's a design "style" which largely overrides any auteurism. Even when proper Big Names get involved, the end product isn't quite what ends up on the big screen. That's a whole 'nother puzzle though.

Re:Britbox being 'late to the party' - the BBC/C4/ITV tried to develop a similar VOD service in 2008, back when Netflix were posting DVDs.
That they couldn't get clearance originally still makes them behind the pack. I've seen a lot of people state that they can't afford more than one streaming service (although there are undoubtedly some willing to shell out for two or three), and arriving, as they have, outside the momentum of others doesn't bode well. It is difficult to see where the added value, aside from dusting off old episodes, is going to be.

Steve Green

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Re: About Those New Film Studios
« Reply #7 on: 22 February, 2020, 12:22:30 PM »
I just think it's a little unfair on them - still a terrible name though, most people would be unaware of Kangaroo, so just think they're being reactive and late to the game.

It wasn't their fault that someone but the mockers on it before it had a chance to fly.

Whether it would have made any difference/slowed the rise of Netflix is debatable - and the same for Netflix's long-term survival too.

Amazon's service is more of a bonus, whether people think of that as a recurring streaming cost like Netflix or Disney+, I don't know.


Gary James

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Re: About Those New Film Studios
« Reply #8 on: 22 February, 2020, 12:31:21 PM »
Amazon's service is more of a bonus, whether people think of that as a recurring streaming cost like Netflix or Disney+, I don't know.
I would place Amazon Prime in a different category to everything else as, unlike the others, they also have physical presence in shopping, digital services (their AI, hosting, and whatever else), and sell things such as the Echo. This puts them into a far more stable position overall. That what the company has set out to do from the start is slightly insidious is largely irrelevant - they wanted to take out the competition (starting with bookshops, then taking on ebook publishers), and there's no sign of that changing. Amazon is a shark with a voracious appetite - and about the same level of nuance as well...

IndigoPrime

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Re: About Those New Film Studios
« Reply #9 on: 22 February, 2020, 12:55:24 PM »
Disney, Apple and BritBox (yeuch - that's a horrible name) are late to the party.
Apple and Disney will be fine, because they have deep pockets. Amazon, as noted elsewhere, is in a similar position – bolstered further by its hosting arm. (Google is in a similar space.) Britbox… I don’t think that’s going to be viable long-term. (iPlayer _might_ have been, had it been spun off as a subscription concern five years ago. Now, it’s also on a hiding to nothing, especially if the Tories demolish the BBC and thereby stop new programming entering the archives.)

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Netflix may be the most important player
But skating along, making no money, investing huge sums, and watching as its most-watched shows are removed from it by other players looking to enter the market. Netflix might be able to survive, but it’s in for a hell of a time.

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Isn't Netflix, by now, "too big to fail" as the news media loves to put it?
No company is too big to fail. Some would require a hell of a change in circumstances, though; and those – very few in number – are the ones that will survive in this industry in the long term. That’s why Apple Music and even Amazon’s rubbish music service will likely outlive Spotify. (Google’s a different beast – Google Music will probably limp on until Google gets bored with it. But then it will be shuttered without fanfare, as per the likes of Reader.)

It’s always hard to make predictions in this space, but Netflix has nothing backing it up. Yes, it has some decent shows, but it also has a worrying tendency to cut things off, and makes dubious purchase decisions. Historical draws like Friends and The Office are also being removed. So the only thing Netflix can do is ramp up more expensive production, but in the knowledge it’s probably reached saturation for subscriptions and is now surrounded by a large number of players competing for a finite amount of people’s cash.

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And Spotify... Damn. I learn something every day.
Spotify’s main chance is that it’s objectively the best in kind. On that basis, someone might buy it and keep it going – but it’ll need to be someone with deep pockets, and it’ll also only happen as and when Spotify’s on the brink. No-one would touch it right now at an insanely over-inflated price tag. After all, it makes almost nothing. And every benefit it offers is a feature someone else could clone, assuming they can be arsed. (On the basis of what I’ve seen, Apple sort-of can. No-one else is really that fussed from the major players. Google and Amazon in particular appear to have ‘least effort possible’ approaches to music streaming.)

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Everyone is probably already aware of this, but... It isn't the backers who are going to get burned if things turn to shit.
That’s always the case, but then those people have money to burn. They play the lottery. They cash in when things aren’t working out. But that’s also why whenever I see a company taking VC money, I get twitchy. 1Password doing so recently made me shiver, although that company maintains it’s an ongoing viable proposition. We’ll see.

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the people killing themselves to make cool, entertaining stuff which they pour their souls into, are going to be the ones to get screwed over if / when things sour.
Well, they’re already screwed. Musicians get fuck-all from streaming. I’m friends with someone in a well-regarded indie, and he noted years back the Spotify cheque for a quarter was enough for the band to have “a nice meal”. By contrast, then-sales from iTunes were quite something. (Probably not these days.) So musicians need to have aliterate revenue streams: a Bandcamp store to encourage people to buy rather than stream; merchandise; live shows; even radio play. Those who can’t do these will have to resign themselves to working on music in a broadly hobbyist fashion.

These extends beyond music, though, to a wide range of media: news; magazines; comics; books; games; even – to some extent – TV and movies. People are diminishingly interested in ownership, and increasingly reluctant to pay anything at all. That doesn’t suggest a bright future for quality media – and we already see the cracks across entire industries, from the fine details (poor editing in television or print) through to more major concerns (abrupt cancellations).

Gary James

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Re: About Those New Film Studios
« Reply #10 on: 22 February, 2020, 02:36:27 PM »
iPlayer _might_ have been, had it been spun off as a subscription concern five years ago. Now, it’s also on a hiding to nothing, especially if the Tories demolish the BBC and thereby stop new programming entering the archives.
This may just be me, but I've noticed - and I haven't made a poll anywhere to check, but it has been the case for so long that it may be an inherent flaw - their streaming is awful. Really, really awful. Nothing else comes even close to how annoying it is to watch things on iPlayer. Everything takes forever to buffer, and even then it is juddery, has annoying glitches every so often, and makes watching a chore. I would do anything not to watch a show on iPlayer...

If they can fix that, then... maybe they have something. If the Tories get their way and axe the radio shows it will at least have a USP, but even that isn't a surefire reason for people to be drawn to it.
All4 is still demanding that I install Flash to watch certain things, despite Flash's death being imminent. Not all streaming services are anywhere near equal, and some are positively backwards in their set-up. (And I really hate saying this, but maybe a quick and merciful death to a few services isn't so bad if it improves everyone else's game)

Some would require a hell of a change in circumstances, though; and those – very few in number – are the ones that will survive in this industry in the long term.
The change seems to be thought of in terms of 5G (from what I can gather skimming articles), but this was pretty much what was said about 3G - and that didn't really live up to any promises. The prospects are amazing if the technical hurdles can be overcome, but even the addition of x number of mobile devices added to the pool of subscribers isn't really (in pure numbers) going to bump any company up enough, and that's assuming they aren't already subscribing to a service which allows multiple devices - which most are, if I'm reading the terms and conditions of the major players correctly.

I’m friends with someone in a well-regarded indie, and he noted years back the Spotify cheque for a quarter was enough for the band to have “a nice meal”. By contrast, then-sales from iTunes were quite something.
I was laughed out of the room when I suggested it back in... 2008? (actually, I have no idea) but having artists, writers, musicians, film-makers, and other creatives band together - a reworking of the original promise of United Artists - outside of the structured models already in place, seems to be more attractive with every passing year. Yes, there are problems with that, but owning what you create? That's real tempting.
There are mentions of a YouTube walkout I've seen that indicates people are starting to think in joined-up terms, but it woulld be nice to see more concrete plans put in place other than "lets hope the monolithic service we are using doesn't get pissed off at us." It would take an incredible amount of organization, but I don't see why it couldn't work.
That doesn’t suggest a bright future for quality media – and we already see the cracks across entire industries, from the fine details (poor editing in television or print) through to more major concerns (abrupt cancellations).
I know this is banging a broken drum, but... If creatives could be convinced to put out their own work - as some are doing with Patreon - in a more organized fashion, then the hold over properties (and copyright) which large institutions have aren't going to screw over both creators and fans. I have problems using things such as Patreon (mainly that it feels like I would be imposing on people by asking for money EVERY MONTH), and other, more casual deals - especially those which are one-time payments - don't offer the ability to maintain an audience across works.
A middle ground - something that can only be achieved through stepping away from giant corporations - is the best of both worlds, and this is something which doesn't need studio space necessarily. For all the streaming services, satellite and cable channels, and hard copy releases, there is still a lot of people who are struggling to get genuinely interesting works made available to the public. And no, putting something out on Creative Commons and asking for donations isn't a long-term viable option.
I'm trying not to feel like there's more drawbacks than benefits in companies looking towards Britain for their production needs, but everything tells me that the next few years are going to see lower returns for time spent creating.
And yes, I have a vested interest, but I'm hardly significant enough to have any say in what large companies are going to do regardless.

IndigoPrime

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Re: About Those New Film Studios
« Reply #11 on: 22 February, 2020, 06:46:09 PM »
iPlayer’s fine here. Our main bugbear is the BBC oddly ignoring its own remit for accessibility by not providing subtitles on the Apple TV app. But the main thing is the BBC’s huge archive, which could have once been a major commercial draw. Now, it feels too late. As for All4, it’s a disaster. (The nightmarish advertising means I never bother. Heck, the pre-roll ads on Amazon Prime are bad enough; and the ident stings on NOW TV were enough to make me cancel. I’m not going to sit through adverts these days.)

The change seems to be thought of in terms of 5G
That makes no sense to me. Perhaps there is some massive untapped mass of people not yet subscribed to a service, but these days everything’s based on VC capital and endless growth. The latter of those things is impossible, and when companies hit that plateau, funding often vanishes. At that point, the Spotifys of this world are fucked.

Owning what you create: agreed. But this band does own about half its back catalogue (including almost all of the profitable bits). The problem these days is in monetising that when no-one wants to buy anything. (Said band is fortunate in having a hardcore of fans, quite a few of which are old gits happy to buy vinyl and CDs. God knows how things must be for a bunch of 20-somethings otherwise in similar circumstances from a career/reach standpoint.)

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I know this is banging a broken drum, but... If creatives could be convinced to put out their own work - as some are doing with Patreon - in a more organized fashion, then the hold over properties (and copyright) which large institutions have aren't going to screw over both creators and fans.
Which is true. But how many Patreons do you support? How many newspapers do you subscribe to? How many magazines? How many albums do you buy rather than stream. (I mean this in a general sense, note, Gary – this isn’t a personal pile-on!)

We are very quickly heading back towards a benefactor model, and that’s shit. No-one’s owed a living, of course, and that includes all creative types. But to leave ourselves in the position where magazines have to appeal to lowest common denominator reading, and where much of the creative fare we grew up loving may be effectively impossible in the future to make a living from, is deeply depressing.

Gary James

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Re: About Those New Film Studios
« Reply #12 on: 22 February, 2020, 07:41:07 PM »
The problem these days is in monetising that when no-one wants to buy anything.
That's one of the things I've struggled with - mostly on a moral level - and have never quite figured out.

But how many Patreons do you support?
Before the Big Interruption I was able to chip in - a little, mind you, and hardly enough to qualify as anything other than token payments - to three Patreons. When everything fell apart I even messaged them to explain why I was ending the payments, which is probably the rather more depressing aspect in retrospect.

How many magazines? How many albums do you buy rather than stream.
Oh gods... It is actually rather terrifying to tally up how many titles - DWM, SFX, Sci-Fi Now, Total Film, PC Gamer, PC Zone, the Meg, and more comics than is probably healthy...

As for albums, I'm still strictly purchasing CDs. I'm likely in the minority, but I've got a liking for physical media - there's something deeply satisfying about seeing them properly arranged, and I'm unlikely to break that habit any time soon. The only times I've broken from this has been when a band has released an album on their site - Nine Inch Nails, for example.

But to leave ourselves in the position where magazines have to appeal to lowest common denominator reading, and where much of the creative fare we grew up loving may be effectively impossible in the future to make a living from, is deeply depressing.
This is the big, utterly infuriating threat that is hanging over much of media at the moment. While there has always been (I'm going to be as polite as I can here) "niche" viewing - Charles Band, Troma, Asylum - it seems worse at the moment. When intelligent publications are released (Death Ray, though that is a few years ago now) it seems that there's a countdown to cancellation tied to how thoughtful and clever the writing is.

I have no answers for any of this, and I doubt there are answers.