This age was also limited to one piece of media. Only when the finished piece was complete could it be duplicated, and even then only to a smaller scale on the order of thousands; just enough to be played by the projectors or broadcast systems across the country and the world.
But wait, there’s more. This was only a small piece of the process.
There was still the physical movement of the product; shipment of the film from the set to the post-production facilities, transferring from there to editing, moving on from there to duplication services, then onward to movie houses or TV stations where only then the consumer could view the finished product.
This process took time. And as even any sage Business 101 student can tell you, “time is money.”
And at the receiving end of it all was the content consumer, John Smith or Mary Malone who had to wait for just the right place (the local popcorn palace around the corner) or just the right time (Friday Nights at 8/7 Central & Mountain) to indulge in that little bit of escapist entertainment that was months or even years in the making.
The result of it all was that the Physical Age, while quaint, was ultimately archaic. Those were the good ol’ days, but only in an “I used to walk uphill in the snow both ways” sense. It wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be and there was room—a whole lot of it in fact—for improvements, streamlining, and efficiency.
A Changing Landscape
The Physical Age left companies mired in a tedious production process, and viewers of the resulting content were left tethered to limited technology and also more importantly to time. Yet as the years marched on, so came the innovations.
And with them came change.
Products that we take for granted today, and sometimes even make snide, snickering remarks toward (8-track anyone?) have moved us slowly toward the critical mass of a fully realized Digital Age; from stenophones to records, from records to cassette tapes, from cassette tapes to CDs, and from CDs to MP3s the march from the physical to the digital has had an effect (in ways both measurable and immeasurable) on the Home Entertainment landscape.
Mighty Morphing Content Changes
And then there was videotape, (remember VHS vs. Beta?)
At first perceived as a threat to movie houses, studios slowly realized that this new means of content consumption would not detract from their bottom line. Instead it was a boon. Box office receipts didn’t go down, they went up. And once a film was finished with its initial run in theaters it could enjoy a second life sitting comfortably on the shelves of millions of homes across the world.
Even better, films that underperformed in the theater now had a second chance to recoup the money spent to make them. Box office bombs now became successful (to the accounting department at any rate), and small obscure films had a chance to be seen by a wider audience and make a little money of their own.
And finally, from the perspective of the consumer, they were no longer beholden to treks out to the theater as the only means to watch their favorite films. It was a win-win-win scenario that, as time moved on, was really only beginning its early stages. And interestingly it quiet-like added a third option to the previous “when/where” scenario.
It added, “how.”