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ATPM 11.10
October 2005




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The Candy Apple

by Ellyn Ritterskamp,

The Silver Screen Keeps Shrinking

So now we have portable phones that play music. We already have phones that take pictures. How soon before they play movies?

I was all set to go on about how we might be taken over by our toys, if we let them, but now it occurs to me that I would love to have a small device to watch movies on. We’d lose a lot of the visual impressiveness that makes some movies great, but I prefer character-driven films anyway, so it’s not such a loss.

I signed up with Netflix a month ago and am having a blast with just one movie a week. What if we could download a movie (legally, and paid for, of course) and watch it while we wait at the doctor’s office? Wearing headphones, of course, so we wouldn’t disturb the others in the waiting room. I imagine this would be lots of fun for folks with lengthy commutes. I tried riding the bus in September (to use less gas), but the trip takes me 25 minutes—it’s only six if I drive. But I will keep doing it once or twice a week. Someday we will run out of oil; maybe I can help stave off that someday a little.

Let’s return to the movie-phone fantasy. It looks as if movie players have been hampered by the need to hold DVDs, which are smaller than their predecessors but not as small as our phones. I’m just glad I won’t be watching movies on a wristwatch-size screen. I predict that a year from now Netflix will have a deal where I can download the movie I want, and it will be good for two playbacks. It will be a snap to transfer it from the hard drive to the phone, and then I can watch it in segments over a day or two.

My friend and I were discussing Casablanca recently. He said it is very much about the characters, dialogue and acting; it could have been set nearly anywhere. I haven’t watched it yet even though I’ve owned it for several years. I look forward to it, and I will watch with an eye toward how it might play on a very small screen. I have clutched my old phone for years now, on a rate plan that does not exist on paper anywhere, but for this, I would upgrade.

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Reader Comments (2)

Miche Doherty · October 3, 2005 - 12:31 EST #1
People often seem to assume that it's only large-scale, effects-driven movies that lose power when viewed on a small screen. But what about the subleties of facial expression, the telling detail of a hand gesture? Any time I've had the chance to see a favourite film on a cinema screen - even something I think I know backwards (e.g. Some like It Hot, which I must have seen twenty times on TV) it's been a fresh new experience.
Casablanca on a phone screen? At best, it will refresh your memory of the real thing. But if you haven't seen it on a big screen, you haven't really seen it at all.
Robert Hutwohl · October 3, 2005 - 21:22 EST #2
I think Steve Jobs is right. There may be an initial excitement of being able to view a movie on a cell phone or a hand-held device but I think the public will grow tired of this idea of watching on a small screen very quickly. Why is HD coming on strong with excitement? Because of the richness of detail and color on a large screen; even better than at the local cinema, with its holes and poorly kept screen and very poor audio, mainly because cinema owners refuse to reinvest and upgrade and are insensitive to quality. More and more people are going to stay at home to watch their films on DVD. Even if one were to forgo viewing an HD DVD, even a standard DVD will look better on HD screens.

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