The way you get entertainment is changing right in front of your eyes. This year Radiohead offered their latest album online, charging what you thought it was worth. TV shows have begun regularly streaming from network websites a day or two after originally airing. And now Jackass 2.5, a 60+ minute sequel to Jackass Number Two, is going to be distributed only online. All of a sudden the digital revenue the striking writers are fighting for seem more and more realistic, huh?
Jackass 2.5 will have all new stunts, unhampered by the restrictions of the MPAA. It will be available for free for two weeks at blockbuster.jackass.com starting December 19, and then will begin showing up on pay-per-view platforms like iTunes. I imagine a physical DVD release will come eventually, but this is the first time a studio movie released originally online.
The thing I find most interesting about the release is that the movie is long – obviously not feature length, as it clocks in at just over an hour, but still longer than your usual four minute YouTube video. I’ve always sort of felt that people want short things on the internet (I know I do. That’s why my browser cache is filled with midget porn), but this movie could prove that online audiences are willing to sit through longer presentations. In a lot ways the Jackass crew was the precursor to a lot of the webjunk that we enjoy daily instead of working, so could they again be the precursor to the next evolutionary stage of online entertainment?
Of course there’s a big difference between Jackass 2.5 and the debut of a real movie online for free – for one thing, most of the film’s footage is outtakes from the Jackass Number Two production, so this is a very cheap movie. But I think that cheapness is what points to a basic lie in the studio’s approach to the striking writers and the issue of digital residuals: a movie this cheap would be a killer cash cow on DVD, but Paramount believes that this method of distribution will still bring them plenty of dough. If you needed any more proof that the studios are approaching negotiations in bad faith, here it is.