INTRODUCTION


Imagine after watching Val Kilmer's new action movie, "The Saint," you and your date are walking out of the theater discussing your likes and dislikes of the movie while you're desperately searching with your straw for the last pool of soda hidden amongst the ice in your drink cup. You walk past the film's poster and you remember how you clung to your date's arm during the suspenseful climax of the movie, so you search for the director's name. Upon finding it, you notice a line of code under the name -- www.thesaint.com. You can't recall what it means but you remember seeing it on a lot of movie posters and magazine ads lately. Your date solves your personal mystery, by explaining that code is the film's address for its World Wide Web site. You recall hearing about the Web but seem as misty as the humid evening you two walked into.

While in the car, your date further clears your mist, explaining that the Web has become a popular spot for movies, whether it's the $65 million "The Saint" or the $2 million "Secrets & Lies." The Internet (that word triggers your memery) has become a burgeoning frontier for movies since 1995. Back in 1995, only 17 movie sites were established (Stalter 43). Now, nary a movie is released without its own seperate site or part of a film distributor's site. Your date lists the three advantages for advertising movies on the Web:

The early Web sites, your date explains, was nothing more than a few production stills of the movie, a cast/crew list and a run down of the plot. It seemed that is was just a novelty to be on the Web, and content wasn't important.

That has changed.

Your date cites a New York Times article that states, "movie makers have graduated from creating simple promotional Web sites for their big screen extravaganza's .... Now movie Web sites must offer contests, prizes, 3-D environments, interactive games, and e-mail forums to draw a crowd" (Ryan HM21). On top of all that, most sites offer sound bytes and quicktime clips from the movie, if the computer has those capabilities.

Sensing that this discussion isn't going to end any time soon, you ask your date if you two wanted to get a bite to eat. Ignoring you, your date tells you how democratic film Web sites are. Small, independent distributors can tout their film by including critical acclaim and a history of the project, while large, Hollywood studios can offer colorful behind the scenes information, games and contests. Both David and Goliath can use the same medium without inflating their marketing budgets.

You pull into Steak'N'Shake while your date tells you why distributors like Web sites. Once inside, your date refers to another New York Times article that explains why film distributors, big and small, like the Internet, "Internet users are said to be young (18 to 40) and educated, with lots of disposable income" (Barboza D6). Your date orders a vanilla shake and you order a burger and fries.

The shake provides temporary silence from your date, yet you find yourself intrigued by the discussion. An independent distributor's Web site's aim may be more selective than a major studio's Web site, but that doesn't mean bigger is better, your date says while you finish the last of your burger.

Your date seems anxious to discuss some current independent and Hollywood film sites that are intriguing. Knowing that this is going to be a long lecture, you order another plate of fries, sit back and ...

Listen to your date's independent film discussion.
Listen to your date's Hollywood film discussion.
Conclude the date.
Decide to go home.