Movies as we know them are morphing rapidly before our eyes. A multiplex is not the only choice to watch a surround-sound-pounding Hollywood mega production; more and more, people are doing it at home with their $89 DIY pretend-THX-sound setup. DVD is the name of the game on the consumers' side, and computer software is the tool for the filmmakers.
Of course, you can never reproduce Jack Nicholson's sly grin on a computer but the number of days the old snake is needed on the set is getting smaller because many Hollywood productions are choosing to “blue-screen” these actors and put the sceneries behind them using computer-generated near-reality sets. For instance, Mr. Nicholson could do a romantic scene with his female lead in “a cottage on the snowy Alps” by showing up in a Hollywood studio on a sunny day and acting out the scene against a blue backdrop, with unlimited varieties of the snowy landscape added in later by a capable 3D graphic artist.
Ironically, the trend to shoot movies on location for authenticity's sake may be losing out to the temptation of doing things at home, and “home” in the context of movie industry is the comfortable sets in Southern California, about four freeway exits away from the filmmakers' residences.