Will the iPod culture keep shrinking our beloved big-screen treasures until they're this tiny? A film critic looks at the little picture and the legal and technical issues behind it By Ty Burr, Globe Staff | April 23, 2006 I'm watching the attack on Aqaba sequence from ''Lawrence of Arabia" on my iPod. It looks like an insurrection on an ant farm. This could be insanity. Or it could be the way our kids may someday watch movies: if not on an iPod, then on a similar portable device bigger than a postage stamp and smaller than a kitchen television. Rend your garments and wail over the death of the big-screen experience all you want, movies are slowly and unstoppably becoming disassociated from the theaters in which we've been seeing them for more than a century. That's why I spent a recent week experimenting with watching various films on the really small screen. I was trying to peer into the future. What I got were strained eyes and a sense of what works and what never ever will. The road here has been a long one. First there was TV: In the 1950s, Hollywood responded to millions of moviegoers' staying home to catch Uncle Miltie and ''I Love Lucy" by giving us widescreen, color, and stereophonic sound. The home-video rental boom of the 1980s broadened the divide, and when the studios figured out that consumers would buy DVDs and watch them on their home theaters, the tail started wagging the dog: US DVD sales were $15.7 billion last year versus $8.8 billion in box-office revenues. All the ink spilled in 2005 about the woeful state of the box office, accurate or not, reflected a real perceptual paradigm shift: The masses may not need movie theaters anymore. Elsewhere, popular culture has been breaking away from traditional modes of delivery. The iPod and other portable MP3 players have snapped the bond between record stores and music listeners, raising the single back into prominence and establishing the playlist as a statement of personal cool. The personal digital recorder revolution kicked off by TiVo players has freed TV viewers from the scheduling grid and thrown advertisers into a panic. Short films carom around the Internet, landing in our e-mail in boxes and on our cellphones. We're living in one of those weird evolutionary spurts biologists like to talk about, but this time it's affecting how we inform and amuse ourselves. Now movies are beginning to make the jump. Studios are releasing versions for the Sony Playstation Portable -- they haven't been selling very well -- and everyone's trying to figure out how to make the latest box-office hits available on the Internet without giving away the store to pirates. On April 3, Movielink (www.movielink.com) began offering titles from six major studios for download to your computer. The catch? You can only watch them on your computer, or transfer them to up to two other computers via DVD. But you can't watch that DVD on your DVD player. The price -- $20 to $30 for new titles -- may also be an obstacle. But the evolutionary urge of users is being driven by the desire for ease and efficiency, not difficulty and Balkanization. When ABC made episodes of ''Lost" and ''Desperate Housewives" available on iTunes last fall, the demand was strong enough for the other networks to jump right in. It seems only a matter of time before movies follow suit. So why not watch films on your iPod, especially when the technology exists to easily put them there? ... http://www.boston.com/ae/movies/articles/2006/04/23/will_the_ipod_culture_keep_shrinking_our_beloved_big_screen_treasures_until_theyre_this_tiny/ ---------------------------------------------------------------------- You can UNSUBSCRIBE from the OpenDTV list in two ways: - Using the UNSUBSCRIBE command in your user configuration settings at FreeLists.org - By sending a message to: opendtv-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx with the word unsubscribe in the subject line.