Hollywood and the Movie Website Racket

As with the piracy issue, Hollywood has been a slow learner during the rise of the movie website.

A buddy of mine who works with search engine optimization (SEO) recently told me that the words "movie" or "film" are two of the worst search engine terms possible. Why? Because there are thousands upon thousands of websites out there devoted to film. hollywood Most of these websites are small, niche-like sites that distract the owner every once in a while in between the cares of life; they're the internet version of that old fixer-upper out in the garage. Oftentimes, some of the best stuff about movies can be found on sites like this. Some of my favorites include the brilliant Lazy Eye Theatre, the acerbic Burbanked, or the outrageously actress-centric Film Experience Blog. These owners write from their hearts, are often more knowledgeable than anyone ever armed with an Oscar ballot, and are absolutely more creative than the people on either side of the camera. Money is not their motivation - love of movies drives them. And in the case of Piper and Nathaniel, it drives them nuts. Beyond the multitudinous myriads of niche movie sites, there is a fairly large core of serious and professional movie websites. They range from news and and insider-gossip blogs like the magnificent Hollywood Elsewhere or The Movie Blog, to more straightforward news and geek stuff like the efficient and well-oiled SlashFilm or older stalwarts like Ain't It Cool News or CHUD. Up-and-coming pups like the ever-changing Obsessed With Film and First Showing fall into this more serious category as well. All of these sites, unlike their smaller and quirkier brethren, want to be taken seriously as movie authority figures and, to some extent, journalists. Which leads me to the situation with Hollywood. Since the dawn of the internet, there has been a battle between the old guard of traditional media (newspapers and television critics and coverage) and the rise of internet media (blogs and websites). Hollywood has, for the most part, consistently favored traditional outlets - they're easier to control through monetary means, have ties between parent corporations that can be manipulated or bartered, and have rules of fair play that can be enforced if necessary. The internet is a much more difficult thing to master for Hollywood. The thousands of movie websites out there cannot be bought so easily or cheaply. Almost all of them are single-owner sites that have no bosses or authority figures editorializing their content. And as for rules ... what stinkin' rules? When Obsessed With Film was approached by Fox on Saturday about my early look at the pirated version of WOLVERINE, we had two choices: take the material down from the site, or leave it up and risk the wrath of Fox. Since what we had up was in no way illegal, the only real risk we faced was being blackballed from future Fox materials and promotions. Given the disturbing state of much of their output lately, that might not seem like such a terrible compromise for the site's artistic license. However, we took it down out of respect for their wishes, not wanting to disturb the general order of things. For now, anyway. You see, Hollywood is much like any of the corporations recently bailed out by the sucker-punched American taxpayers - they don't want to see the end coming until it's far too late to stop it. Until now, Hollywood has continued to live in a vast and luxurious bubble by the ocean, expecting to be catered to by her cadre of worshipful admirers. News corporations, television stations, theater owners, and even some big websites all tenderly lick her waxed undercarriage in the hopes of getting a small portion of her enormous wealth. While I'm sure people like Peter Ciretta of SlashFilm or Alex Billington of First Showing certainly love movies, they also love having a job where they cater to Hollywood, rather than pump gas at Citgo for $7 an hour. And so they play ball according to Hollywood's rules, in turn reaping the benefits of such a relationship. But the internet is slowly changing that game in much the same way that it's changing the piracy of materials. In the old days, Hollywood could count on pressure to enforce its will upon movie news and review outlets. Even now, we see douche bags like Ben Lyons being coddled and bought for every idiotic phrase that slips out of his mouth. But for how much longer? You see, as traditional media outlets like newspapers rapidly sink into oblivion, Hollywood will only have those pesky movie websites out there to pump up the masses for the latest studio product. In that new world, those insignificant websites will now need to be Hollywood's new best friends. And that's a problem Hollywood needs to address right now. Most websites do not need to conform to the rules of conduct and decorum once afforded to Hollywood in the days of kiss-ass corporate journalism. Nearly all websites do not have bosses, deadlines, tie-ins, or even editors. How can something like this be controlled, massaged, or directed? Simply put, it can't. Sure, there will always be some websites that can suck goodies from Hollywood's cock as well as any traditional outlet. But there will always be a vast and rapidly growing ocean of movie websites out there that cannot and will not be bought, no matter how many times you blackball them or toss lawsuits in their faces. The internet simply cannot be controlled. It's time for Hollywood to learn to co-exist with the new media.

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All you need to know is that I love movies and baseball. I write about both on a temporary medium known as the Internet. Twitter: @rayderousse or @unfilteredlens1 Go St. Louis Cardinals! www.stlcardinalbaseball.com