By Frank Moher
If Morgan Freeman wasn’t the coolest guy in Hollywood already, he certainly is now. This weekend, Freeman’s production company, Revelations Entertainment, joins with computer chip manufacturer Intel to make his latest movie, 10 Items or Less, available online for download. That’s the same 10 Items or Less that premiered in movie theatres just under two weeks ago. As of now, the net is no longer strictly the domain of ancient and/or obscure movies offered at unseemly prices, or grungy, illicitly made video copies that take forever to download from thepiratebay.org (while you wait for the copyright police to kick in your front door). Freeman’s is a real movie, and, on average, critics are saying it’s pretty good.
So this isn’t just a new version of rushing some embarrassment into the video stores before its awfulness stinks up the zeitgeist. At least not yet. One can foresee the day when bad, bad films skip the cinemas and Blockbuster and head directly to the web (in part because one can forsee the day, and not too far off either, when the cinemas have all been razed and the Blockbusters converted to hydrogen stops). But Freeman and his director, Brad (Lemony Snicket) Siberling, had the web in mind all along; they kept their movie small — focussed almost entirely on Freeman and co-star Paz Vega of Spanglish — shot it in 15 days, and spent bupkis. Which is maybe just as well: in its two weeks of release at 15 big-city theatres, 10 Items or Less has grossed just over $70,000 US.
In fact, after suffering the spectacle for decades of Canadians trying to make American films, we may have finally seen the obverse: these Americans have made a Canadian film — quirky, tiny, and seen by nearly no one. The only thing it appears to be missing is the weird sex. But if this downloading thing works out, even modestly, it could point the way to a solution for the Canadian film industry’s distribution woes — skip the theatres that they can’t get into anyway and show up on people’s iMacs instead. (Interestingly, the only distributor Freeman could find to go along with his unconventional scheme was Toronto-based ThinkFilm; do they have some other tiny movies they maybe want to push onto the net?) So, not only is Freeman the first Hollywoodite to stop whining about piracy and how everybody’s little kiddies are going to starve if it doesn’t stop, and instead respond creatively to the challenges presented by technology, but he may also have saved the Canadian film industry, and without even meaning to.
Man, that guy really is cool.
At a recent UCLA conference, Morgan Freeman and associates discuss
Hollywood and the Internet