Oscar Animated Short Nominees Online, No Longer

Replicas of Academy Award statuette in a gift store Hollywood

Replicas of Academy Award statuette in a gift store Hollywood by Antoine Taveneaux – CC BY-SA 3.0

 

If there is ever a good chance a film will make money, it is certainly quite rare to see it distributed online, for free, in full. Yet that is exactly where this year’s animated short Oscar nominees ended up, before commercial interests brought them back down.

The takedown was sparked by this supposedly leaked letter from Carter Pilcher, Chief Executive of Shorts International. Within it, he noted that the oscar nominated shorts were supposed to be shown in theatres until a few weeks after the Oscar telecast. Publishing them online now would probably have an impact on the number of people willing to pay to see them on the big screen. Indeed Pilcher claimed theatres were not attracting enough audiences and might pull the release.

That fact alone is surely enough to remind the filmmakers that their films are currently being shown in traditional, paying venues, and it makes perfect sense to wait until that run is finished before distributing the films online for free. However, some of his points are perhaps a little archaic in thinking – aka Hollywood thinking.

‘No feature length film would consider a free online release as a marketing tool!

This isn’t completely true as free or pay-what-you-want releases of various creative works are often used for that exact purpose. Exposing a film to the largest audience possible might be extremely advantageous for a small studio or independent filmmaker. Anyone with an internet connection can see your film. And just consider how many of those viewers are active in the industry. Indeed, the film itself will be unlikely to break even, but the benefits of that exposure in the long-term, especially in regards to future opportunities, are great, and worthy of consideration. While this is still a rare occurrence for feature films because of the higher budgets involved, the internet is full of freely distributed short films, so in their case, a free online release is actually quite common.

Disney or the producers of The Simpsons could easily afford to have their films online for free, but the smaller studios and filmmakers might be greatly disadvantaged by this in terms of commercial return. Pilcher’s request for all the films to be taken down is a fair one, reminding them that no one gains an advantage by having an online release.

I love seeing a film in an actual theatre – perhaps more than most, but here’s hoping they do come back online after their theatre run is over.

 

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