Because movies can be distributed digitally, both independents and major studios are moving in that direction. A single print of a motion picture can cost upwards of $1,000, whereas the cost of distributing a digital film is negligible—and besides theater distribution, independent producers can also retain control over video-on-demand and digital downloads, and direct sales over a web site.
Digital distribution of films is something Liza Moon knows all about. Her Dare Doll Dilemmas series has achieved cult status for those who love campy satires of superheroine characters. Produced on a low budget and distributed over the Internet, Moon says she spends somewhere between $300 and $400 for each 15 minute short, "and $150 of that is paying the actors, and $20 of it is on spandex. And the bad guys usually work for free. We will usually get our $300 to $400 back within 12 hours of listing the new movie," she says. Her studio, which is far from Hollywood in a southwestern Michigan pole barn, is filled with props and lighting from junk stores, but it works—and the quality is excellent and the shorts are always entertaining.
Some people say that "the golden age of cinema" was in the '30s and '40s, and part of that was just the newness of cinema and the fact that the barrier to entry was still low enough to get through the front door. With new digital technology for production and distribution, we can truly say that the golden age of cinema is only just beginning.