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Movies

Slashdot Asks: Would You Like Early Access To Movies And Stop Going To Theatres? 144

It appears many major stakeholders in the movie industry want to bring new titles to you within days, if not hours, as they hit cinemas. Earlier this year, we learned that Sean Parker is working on a service called "Screening Room", an idea that was reportedly backed by Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg and JJ Abrams, to bring movies on the same day as they show up in theaters. Apple seems interested as well. It is reportedly in talks with Hollywood studios to get iTunes rentals of movies that are still playing on the big screen. Earlier this month, Bloomberg reported that several studios are exploring the idea of renting new movies for $25 to $50 just two weeks after they have hit cinemas.

None of such deals have materialized yet, of course, and also it needs to be pointed out that several movie companies have discarded these ideas before because they know that by offering you new titles so early they are going to lose on all the overpriced cold drinks, and snacks they sell you at the theatre. There's also piracy concerns. If a movie is available early, regardless of the DRM tech these companies deploy, good-enough footage of the movies will crop up on file-sharing websites almost immediately.

But leaving all those aspects aside, would you be interested in getting new titles just hours or a week or two after they hit the cinemas? Would you want to end the decades-long practice of going to a theater?
Movies

Apple Is In Talks With Hollywood For Early Access To Movies On iTunes: Bloomberg (bloomberg.com) 47

Apple is talking with Hollywood studios to try and get iTunes rentals of movies that are still playing on the big screen. According to a report from Bloomberg, "some studio executives have been pushing to allow home rentals as early as two weeks after theatrical debuts and are considering a deal with iTunes as one option." Bloomberg reports: The most recent talks are part of longer-running efforts by Cupertino, California-based Apple to get new movies sooner, two of the people said. Such an arrangement could help iTunes stand out in a crowded online market for movies, TV shows and music. While the iTunes store helped Apple build a dominant role in music retailing, the company hasn't carved out a similar role in music and video streaming. Hollywood studios typically give theaters exclusive rights to new movies for 90 days or more before issuing them on DVD or making them available for online purchase. One of the concerns about iTunes is whether it will be a secure platform for delivering movies that are still in theaters, the people said. While Apple encrypts iTunes video files so they can't easily be duplicated, it's possible to use a camera to record a movie playing on a TV screen. A leak of picture that's still in theaters would jeopardize returns for the studios and cinema owners.
Movies

Falsely Accused Movie Pirate Deserves $17K Compensation, Court Says (torrentfreak.com) 57

An Oregon District Court has sided with a wrongfully accused man who was sued for allegedly downloading a pirated copy of the Adam Sandler movie "The Cobbler." According to the court's recommendations, reports TorrentFreak, the man is entitled to more than $17,000 in compensation as the result of the filmmakers "overaggressive" and "unreasonable" tactics. From the article: The defendant in question, Thomas Gonzales, operates an adult foster care home where several people had access to the Internet. The filmmakers were aware of this and during a hearing their counsel admitted that any guest could have downloaded the film. [...] "The Court finds that once Plaintiff learned that the alleged infringement was taking place at an adult group care home at which Gonzales did not reside, Plaintiff's continued pursuit of Gonzales for copyright infringement was objectively unreasonable," Judge Beckerman ruled. "The Court shares Gonzales' concern that Plaintiff is motivated, at least in large part, by extracting large settlements from individual consumers prior to any meaningful litigation. "On balance, the Court has concerns about the motivation behind Plaintiff's overaggressive litigation of this case and other cases, and that factor weighs in favor of fee shifting."
Google

'The Circle' Trailer Looks An Awful Lot Like Google (cnet.com) 76

theodp writes: If you never got around to reading Dave Eggers' novel The Circle, the tale of a powerful tech company that bears a more-than-passing resemblance to Google (and has an Apple spaceship-like HQ) is coming to the big screen and the first trailer is out. The film has a release date of spring 2017, and stars Tom Hanks, Emma Watson and John Boyega. Remember, sharing is caring!
Movies

Netflix Says People Watch Same Amount of Movies Regardless of Perceived Quality or Depth (news.com.au) 159

Two of the most common issues people have with Netflix is: the movie catalog is shrinking, and the quality of the movies aren't that great anymore. Netflix says it is aware of those issues, and it thinks, in reality, those factors don't really matter much as people end up watching the same amount of movies as they always have. From a report:According to the Netflix exec, subscribers spend about the same time watching movies on the service regardless of the depth or perceived quality of the movie library. "No matter what, we end up with about one-third of our watching being movies," he told the audience. Mr Sarandos cited two contrasting examples of the United States and Canada as proof of such behavior. In Canada, Netflix has five major deals with movie studios to use their content while in the US the company basically has none, with the exception of the recently signed Disney deal. Despite US subscribers having far less access to movies from big studios, both countries spend roughly the same proportion of their time on the service watching movies. Netflix believes that by the time many blockbuster movies make it onto the platform -- many months after being released in the cinema -- a majority of fans have already seen them. "If you were passionate (about a movie), you've already seen it," he said.
Television

Most DVR Owners Are Recording Live Sports, Survey Says (cnet.com) 137

A new survey by Thuurz Sports, a company that works with TV providers to increase the size of sports viewing audiences, finds that 84.1 percent of DVR owners record live sports, many of them as a "backup" for when they might miss the end (or the beginning) or the game, and a majority (58 percent) to skip the ads. From a report on CNET: "Over the past decade, DVR viewing has undermined certain elements of the TV business. Reacting to this threat, sports TV executives have rightly focused on the genre's relative strength, calling sports programming 'DVR-proof'," says Brian Ring, the consultant who created the survey for Thuuz, in the press release. "Sports are best viewed live, but this survey highlights the fact that most fans with DVRs regularly use. Most TV shows and movies these days are available on-demand from various sources, but live events, particularly sports, are considered among the most "DVR-proof" since there's more value in seeing the result live.
Movies

Free TV-Show Streaming Hurts Online Sales, Research Finds (torrentfreak.com) 67

New research from Carnegie Mellon University shows that online piracy is not the only worry for TV distributors. Based on Downton Abbey streaming and sales data provided by PBS, as reported by TorrentFreak, the researchers find that free legal streams can significantly reduce download sales. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that free streaming options should be banned. From the report: The researchers were able to estimate the impact in a natural experiment, since PBS was required to pull the free streams for all episodes at the same time. This means that some were streamable for more than a month, while others only for a week, or two. In addition, they had sales data for several seasons, allowing them to make an alternative comparison between years, where the streaming windows varied. In both cases, they show that free streaming cannibalizes download sales. "Our analysis in our primary specification indicates that availability in the free streaming window reduces EST sales by 8.4%. Using an alternative specification we find that free availability reduces EST sales by 9.9%," they write. The negative effect is not unexpected. However, it doesn't mean that it is wrong to offer free streaming in the long run, as there are several positive side-effects. That's where the puzzle starts to get complicated.
Movies

British Film Institute To Digitize 100,000 Old TV Shows Before They Disappear (bbc.com) 124

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: Thousands of British TV programs are to be digitized before they are lost forever, the British Film Institute says. Anarchic children's show Tiswas and The Basil Brush Show are among the programs in line for preservation. The initiative was announced as part of the BFI's five-year strategy for 2017-2022. "Material from the 70s and early 80s is at risk," said Heather Stewart, the BFI's creative director. "It has a five or six-year shelf life and if we don't do something about it will just go, no matter how great the environment is we keep it in. "Our job is make sure that things are there in 200 years' time." The BFI has budgeted $14.3 million of Lottery funding towards its goal of making the UK's entire screen heritage digitally accessible. This includes an estimated 100,000 of the "most at-risk" British TV episodes and clips held on obsolete video formats. The list includes "early children's programming, little-seen dramas, regional programs and the beginnings of breakfast television." The issue for the BFI, Ms Stewart added, was also to do with freeing up storage space. "We have a whole vault which is wall-to-wall video. If we digitized it, it would be in a robot about the size of a wardrobe," she said.
Media

Netflix Finally Gets Download Option (netflix.com) 105

For years, people asked Netflix to give them the ability to download movies and TV episodes. Though this might not seem like that big of a deal in many regions where internet connectivity is cheap and omnipresent, same is not the case everywhere, especially in developing regions. Netflix is finally addressing this need: the on-demand media streaming service said Wednesday that people can now download shows on their Android and iOS devices . From the company's blog post: Just click the download button on the details page for a film or TV series and you can watch it later without an internet connection. Many of your favorite streaming series and movies are already available for download, with more on the way, so there is plenty of content available for those times when you are offline.It's worth pointing out that the offline playback -- or the ability to download videos isn't available on desktop platforms. Also, it appears that a heck lot of shows currently don't have this feature -- as of today.
Piracy

Aussie Internet Pirates Are The Best Customers (torrentfreak.com) 48

A report commissioned by the Australian government has found a drop in piracy rates for 2016. The fall is being attributed to improved availability of legal streaming alternatives, but as TorrentFreak points out, the report also reveals that the much reviled Aussie pirate is often the industry's best customer. From the report: Streaming, on the other hand, increased from 54% to 57% year on year, with TV shows and movies making the biggest gains. "The proportion of internet users who streamed TV programs increased from 34% to 38% (making TV the most commonly accessed content type via online streaming) and the proportion of internet users who streamed movies increased from 25% to 29%," the report reads. This year the most-consumed content were TV shows (41%, up from 38% in 2015), music (39%, down from 42% in 2015) and movies (33%) and video games (15%). When all four content types were considered, the survey found that consumers streaming content on a weekly basis increased significantly, with 71% doing so for music and videos games, 55% for TV programs and 51% for movies. [...] However, in yet another blow to those who believe that genuine consumers and pirates are completely different and separate animals, the survey also reveals that millions of pirates are also consumers of legitimate content. In 2016, just 6% of Internet users exclusively obtained content from pirate sources. And there was an improvement in other areas too. When the survey presents figures from internet users who consumed content in the period (instead of just 'all Internet users 12+'), 37% consumed at least one unlawful file, down from 43% in the same period in 2015. Using the same parameters, 9% consumed all of their files unlawfully, down from 12% in 2015. But while there have been improvements in a number of areas, the volume of content being consumed illegally is not coming down across the board. According to the report, an estimated 279m music tracks, 56m TV shows, 34m movies, and 5m video games were consumed in the three month period.
Media

Amazon Wants To Include Live Sports as Part of Prime Membership (geekwire.com) 77

An anonymous reader writes: Amazon's next Prime membership benefit could be the ability to stream live sports. The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that Amazon is in talks with leagues like the NFL, NBA, MLB, and a handful of others about live game rights. The fact that Amazon wants to stream live sports isn't a new development. But the Journal did have a noteworthy tidbit: Amazon could offer a "premium, exclusive sports package" to those who pay for a $99 per year, or $8.99 per month, Prime membership. Amazon is exploring streaming rights to multiple sports at a variety of levels. The Journal reported that Amazon wanted to exclusively license NBA's League Pass streaming product; it is also reaching out to traditional broadcasters like Univision and ESPN about the content they own but don't end up airing on TV.Amazon was also recently exploring deals with Indian Premier League, a cricket match league. In a recent interview with David Remnick of The New Yorker, Reed Hastings said that one of the most difficult decisions for him has been to not do live sports. He said Netflix doesn't want to move away from movies and TV shows, and only focus on improving the quality of the shows and user experience.
Star Wars Prequels

Thanks To the Princess, Han Wasn't Always Solo (cnn.com) 143

rmdingler writes: It seems the chemistry was strong with these two. It is interesting to note how long it took this to emerge, as by today's standards, it doesn't rise to nearly the same level of scuttlebutt. Almost 40 years later, Carrie Fisher told People magazine that she and Harrison Ford had an affair on the set of the 1977 film 'Star Wars.' "It was Han and Leia during the week, and Carrie and Harrison during the weekend," she said. "After stumbling on often angst-ridden journals she kept while filming on location in London, she felt the time had come to open up about the formative experience," reports People magazine. "'It's been 40 years,' explains Fisher, who went on to write The Princess Diarist, excerpted exclusively in this week's issue."
Piracy

Police Raid Pirate Site, Seize 60 Servers Following MPAA Complaint (torrentfreak.com) 60

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: When it comes to shutting down pirate sites, few groups have a longer history than the Motion Picture Association of America. The Hollywood organization has dozens of pirate scalps under its belt and today is able to claim another. Serving more than a million users every day, FS.to was one of Ukraine's largest pirate sites. Ranked the country's 21st most popular site overall, the movie-focused platform attracted the attention of the MPAA and local rights holders alike. That has resulted in one of the biggest raids ever seen in the country. According to the cyber crime division of Ukraine's national police, an operation shut down the platform Monday following a complaint from Hollywood. The authorities say that 19 people suspected of running the site via a network of local and offshore companies were arrested. The operation to shut the site appears to have been significant. Raids took place at the offices and homes of the suspects, plus datacenters where equipment running the site was installed. Thus far around 60 servers have been seized from a range of local ISPs but the operation is still ongoing so the tally could increase. Local sources indicate that the authorities have linked local Internet company Ferazko Holding Inc. with FS since it owns several of the site's domains including FS.to, BRB.to and FS.ua.
Sci-Fi

'Stranger In a Strange Land' Coming To TV (ew.com) 227

HughPickens.com writes: EW reports that Paramount TV and Universal Cable Productions are teaming up to develop Robert A. Heinlein's classic 'Stranger in a Strange Land' into a TV series on Syfy. The 1961 sci-fi book, set in the aftermath of a third world war, centers on Valentine Michael Smith, a human born on Mars and raised by Martians, who, as a young adult, has returned to Earth. The true driving forces of the novel are religion and sex, which Heinlein's publisher at the time wanted him to cut out. But as the author noted to his literary agent, if religion and sex were removed from the text, what remained would be the equivalent of a "nonalcoholic martini." "From my point of view, Stranger in a Strange Land isn't just a science fiction masterpiece [...] it also happens to be one of my favorite books ever!" says NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Chairman Bonnie Hammer. "The story is timeless and resonates more than ever in today's world. As a fan, I can't wait to see it come to life as a world-class television event." A previous attempt at adapting Heinlein's novel came in 1995, when Batman Returns' Dan Waters penned a script designed for Tom Hanks and Sean Connery.
Movies

More Code In Movies: Nmap Meets Snowden (nmap.org) 73

After Saturday's story about the code samples in the new movie Arrival, an anonymous reader reminded us of this classic essay at Nmap.org: For reasons unknown, Hollywood has decided that Nmap is the tool to show whenever hacking scenes are needed... While Nmap had been used in some previous obscure movies, it was The Matrix Reloaded which really turned Nmap into a movie star!
Nmap.org has a tradition -- the first person to notify them when new Nmap appears in a new movie wins a signed copy of Nmap Network Scanning "or a T-shirt of your choice from the Zero Day Clothing Nmap Store." (The site adds that "movie script writers, artists, and digital asset managers are also welcome to email Fyodor for advice.") And Nmap.org just added another film, Oliver Stone's new movie about Edward Snowden. In one early scene, Snowden is given a network security challenge at a CIA training class which is expected to take 5 to 8 hours. But with the help Nmap and a custom Nmap NSE script named ptest.nse, Snowden stuns the professor by completing everything in 38 minutes!
According to the site, even the movie's trailer features Nmap. Anybody else have their own favorite stories about code in the movies?
Movies

How Stephen Wolfram Devised Interstellar Travel (And Code Samples) For 'Arrival' (backchannel.com) 102

The new movie "Arrival" depicts first contact with aliens, and its producers faced the question of how interstellar spacecraft would actually work. They turned to futurist Stephen Wolfram, who came up with an answer overnight, and also tasked his son with writing much of the computer code seen on displays in the movie. Slashdot reader mirandakatz brings us Wolfram's story: Christopher was well aware that code shown in movies often doesn't make sense (a favorite, regardless of context, seems to be the source code for nmap.c in Linux). But he wanted to create code that would make sense, and would actually do the analyses that would be going on in the movie... For instance, there's a nice shot of rearranging alien "handwriting," in which one sees a Wolfram Language notebook with rather elegant Wolfram Language code in it. And, yes, those lines of code actually do the transformation that's in the notebook. It's real stuff, with real computations being done...

For the movie, I wanted to have a particular theory for interstellar travel. And who knows, maybe one day in the distant future it'll turn out to be correct. But as of now, we certainly don't know. In fact, for all we know, there's just some simple "hack" in existing physics that'll immediately make interstellar travel possible.

Wolfram's theory posited that space is just one of the attributes emerging from a low-level network of nodes, where long-range connections occasionally break out of three-dimensional space altogether. His 6,900-word essay (originally published on his blog) also suggests film-making has "some structural similarities" with software development -- and grapples with the question of how we'd actually communicate with aliens once they've arrived.
Movies

IMDb Sues California To Overturn Law Forcing Them To Remove Actors' Ages (theguardian.com) 68

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) is suing California over a law forcing the website to remove the ages of actors on request, saying it is unconstitutional. California passed a law in September ruling that "a commercial online entertainment employment service provider" would be required to remove details of the age of any of its subscribers within five days, on the request of the subscriber. The law was intended to fight age discrimination in the film industry and had been campaigned for by actors' groups. The president of the union Sag-Aftra wrote in August that actors "face blatant age discrimination every day as websites routinely used for casting talent force birth dates and ages on casting decision-makers without their even realizing it." However, IMDb's suit (pdf) claims that the law "does not advance, much less achieve" the goal of reducing age discrimination, and that it violates both the first amendments and commerce clause of the U.S. constitution. IMDb also claims it separately violates federal law "because it imposes liability on IMDb based on factual content that is lawfully posted by its users." The website criticizes the state of California for passing the law, saying it has "chosen to chill free speech and undermine public access to factual information." IMDb says it is being unfairly targeted and that the law does not deal with the main cause of age discrimination. The case claims the law is both too broad -- as it includes all film professionals, rather than just those who could expect to be the target of age discrimination such as actors -- and too narrow, as it fails to impose the same restrictions on the "myriad other sources of the same information," such as Wikipedia, Google or specialist websites that list the birthdays of famous people. IMDb also says that subscribers to its paid professional service, IMDb Pro, have been able to edit or remove biographical details about themselves on the site since 2010.
Piracy

University Bans BitTorrent To Stop Flood of Infringement Notices (torrentfreak.com) 123

A university in Canada has taken sweeping action in an effort to stem the tide of piracy notices. Following changes to Canada's copyright law in early 2015, ISPs are now required to forward copyright infringement notices to their customers. Over the past years, copyright owners have aggressively targeted users and ISPs with volumes of notices to generate more revenue. TorrentFreak adds:The phenomenon has also been felt at the University of Calgary, which acts as a service provider to thousands of students. Inevitably, some of those students have been using their connections to obtain music and movies for free, which has led to the university receiving large numbers of notices. So, in an effort to reduce the instances of alleged infringement, the university has recently banned BitTorrent usage on several Wi-Fi networks. Speaking to student newspaper The Gauntlet, vice-president finance and services Linda Dalgetty said that the effect was felt immediately. During the first eight days of the ban, the university received 90% fewer notices than usual. "I think what we're finding is it has definitely made a difference. But we have to monitor that, because statistically, we have to go through a longer time frame than eight days," Dalgetty said.According to Dalgetty, reducing the number of infringement notices wasn't the only consideration. The volume of traffic and other threats were also on the agenda. "The more streaming we have on the campus, the more it impacts network performance and that takes away the user experience for other pursuits," she said. "The third [reason] is security. The more streaming we have, the [higher chance] of inadvertently downloading something that would create issues."
AT&T

DirecTV Now Leak Reveals Channels, Promotions of AT&T's Upcoming TV Service (variety.com) 45

It seems AT&T won't leave any stone unturned for its upcoming DirecTV Now streaming service. According to a new report, the company is planning to offer a free Apple TV set-top box or an Amazon Fire USB stick to people who subscribe to the service. From a report on Variety, which also details some channels that could be featured on DirecTV Now: The leaked documents detail that consumers who are willing to commit to at least three months of paid service will be able to get a free Apple TV as part of a device promotion. Consumers who pay for one month will get a free Fire TV streaming stick. Both devices are more expensive on their own than the service charges consumers would have to pay to qualify for each promotion. AT&T officially announced DirecTV Now as an internet-based live TV service earlier this year. The telco has since given us some idea about the programming, announcing deals with Disney, NBCUniversal and Viacom as well as Scripps, A&E Networks, Discovery, HBO, and Starz. Last month, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson announced that DirecTV Now will cost $35 per month and carry more than 100 channels when it launches in the coming weeks. The leaked customer-support documents didn't include complete channel lineups -- those also depend on the local markets of subscribers -- but they do give us a better idea of which other channels DirecTV Now aims to launch with. A partial list of channels included not only networks from the aforementioned partners, but also Univision networks like Galavision, Univision and UniMas, Fox and MundoFox, CBS, HDNet Movies, the Hallmark Channel and the Sony Movie Channel.
Movies

Remembering The Creator of Marvel's Doctor Strange, Steve Ditko (hollywoodreporter.com) 44

An anonymous reader writes: As Marvel publicizes its Doctor Strange movie, "there's one key figure you won't be hearing from: the person who created the Sorcerer Supreme." Steve Ditko (who also co-created Spider-Man with Stan Lee in 1962) introduced Doctor Strange in 1963, remembers The Hollywood Reporter, then abruptly left Marvel in 1966 to work for other publishers. "He would more or less be done with mainstream comics by the 1970s, though he would pop up from time to time (he co-created Squirrel Girl for Marvel in the 1990s)."

Ditko was recently involved in a Kickstarter campaign to honor the anniversaries of famous comics (in which 152 backers ultimately pledged $5,462). He celebrated his 89th birthday this week, but "He is private and has intentionally stayed out of the spotlight like J.D. Salinger," says the director of Doctor Strange, adding "I hope he goes to see the movie wherever he is, because I think we paid homage to his work."

The article includes fond memories of working with Ditko from both Jim Starlin and Stan Lee, who also praised his work in a book called The Art of Steve Ditko. "All I had to do was give Steve a one-line description of the plot and he'd be off and running. He'd take those skeleton outlines I had given him and turn them into classic little works of art that ended up being far cooler than I had any right to expect."

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