Roger Corman has always had a good eye for what’s on the cinematic horizon.
Not only was Corman one of the first directors and producers to really tap into the counter-culture movement in the 1960s, making films like “The Wild Angels” and “The Trip” that appealed to younger audiences en masse, but it has often been noted that studios eventually copied his distribution approach, too.
That started with “Jaws,” continued with “Star Wars,” while that practice is still in effect to this day. I recently had the chance to talk to Corman, during which time I asked for his thoughts on the current moviemaking landscape.
“It is harder to get films made now. You can almost divide the filmmaking process into two sections. One is the production and one is the distribution. Today with all the lightweight equipment it is easier and efficient to make a film than it ever was.”
“It used to take two men to carry the cameras around, and three mens to do the lightning. Now you can hold it all in one hand. The making of the film is easier.”
“The problem is the distribution. The medium and low budget films are more difficult because the $100 and $200 million films dominate the theatrical market so heavily that an independent making a medium or low budget film is essentially frozen out.”
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“Every now and then one will break through. But in general you’re dependent on DVD, which is sliding, there is still a DVD market, but it is slowly diminishing.”
“But also there’s Netflix and other companies like that. My 1970s film ‘Death Race’ was remade by Universal and I was talking to them, saying, ‘You’ve missed a lot of the point that made the first one so popular.’”
“And they were like, ‘The ones we are making now are for DVD. Do you want to make one?’ I did. It cost about $2 million. Which I think is still a lot of money, but for them is small.”
“When I was promoting it I was asked how it would be distributed and I said, ‘It will be released later on on Netflix.’ Universal had to say, ‘Roger, it is being released on Netflix on the same day.’ I said, ‘I totally don’t understand the business anymore’.”
“Netflix is so powerful that they can say, ‘We want this the same day you are sending it out’.”
I then asked Corman how he felt the battle between movie studios and Netflix will end. “They will merge together I think,” was Corman’s response.
“Theaters for the foreseeable future will always be with us. But the percentage, the piece of the pie, that goes to theaters is diminishing. The piece that goes to Netflix and similar companies is growing.”