You can say what you want about the revolutionary aspect of Wayne Wang releasing his film, The Princess of Nebraska, on YouTube. However, a true unprecedented aspect is the fact that A.O. Scott has reviewed the film this weekend for The New York Times. When’s the last time this great paper ever reviewed a new release that wasn’t opening in a theater in Manhattan? I can’t think of any (though no idea if this will only run online, or be made available in print after the weekend). From Scott’s review:
Is the YouTube release of a feature-film by a well-known director a gimmick or a harbinger of things to come. A little of both, probably, but the viewing experience is not bad. Mr. Wang employed a wide aspect ratio, and if you blow the image up to full screen and select the “high quality” video option, you can appreciate the cinematic qualities of his work, which are emphasized by his incorporation of images captured on Sasha’s cell phone. Even with a big desktop monitor and a good pair of speakers or earphones, it isn’t quite like going to the movies, but the movie itself may benefit from the comparison, since it would be easier to skip if you had to buy a ticket.
Over at the San Francisco Chronicle, G. Allen Johnson takes an in-depth look at the Princess release strategy. Johnson speaks at length with Wang and others:
Consider those 13 films that opened Friday. While “W.,” “Sex Drive,” “Max Payne” and “What Just Happened” have Hollywood advertising might behind them, smaller films, such as “Ballast” (an indie drama set in the Mississippi Delta), “Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story” (a political documentary) and “Callback: The Unmaking of ‘Bloodstain’ ” (an indie comedy directed by San Francisco native Eric M. Wolfson) must compete with far less ad money and a far lower profile.
By hitting the Web, “Princess” neatly avoids a 14-way street fight for moviegoers’ dollars.
“The Internet’s ability to provide free streaming video is going to radically redefine independent film’s access and availability to its audience,” Magnolia’s Ray Price said last month in a statement announcing the deal with YouTube. “It provides a new platform, which can free us from the ‘Top Ten’ mentality in the same way that FM radio did for the music business.”