Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Savages are Becoming Cannibals

Well, Soderbergh and IFC have announced that they will release films simultaneously in theaters and on DVD (or in IFC's case on their channel.) Regal Cinemas, which is a major nationwide chain, has said they won't show Soderbergh's film in their theaters. Why would they? I haven't heard if they're going to do the same thing with IFC, which has said it will release it's next 24 films that way, but I wouldn't be at all surprised.

I think that a requirement for running a film studio should be that you have to spend a year running a small business. You should have to actually live in the real world of supply and demand.

Think about this - you bust your ass to get a small business loan and buy a franchise - say KFC and then bust your ass to build up your business so you can make a living. THEN KFC opens it's own store across the street and starts selling it's chicken cheaper.

I mean what do they think is going to happen????? It's called cannibalizing your market.

Producers need theaters- if not for the billions of dollars that are actually made that way each year - then for the publicity value alone. If you CANNIBALIZE your audience something's going to hurt. If Toyota made the Prius and another compact sized hybrid car for around the same price then what would happen? They wouldn't sell twice the number of cars, they'd sell the same number, but half of each. The cost of producing each line would rise (no economies of scale) and the profit margin would SHRINK. Unless they raised the price in which case that hybrid Honda makes might start looking pretty good.

It's funny the way Hollywood/ Entertainment is thought of as a unique business. In the real world if a product doesn't sell, it doesn't get put on the shelves. In Hollywood if a product doesn't sell it must be the audience that's changing and different shelves are looked for. It's really just a shifting of blame in a world where performance has nothing to do with promotion. I mean think about it - everything that's coming out of the major mouths of Hollywood these days relates to: "Ticket sales are down - DVD's leveling off - the AUDIENCE is changing." I mean even detroit EVENTUALLY figured out that no one was buying their cars because they were making crappy cars. But then there were businessmen running the car companies.

Try this one on for size: People want cars that get better gas mileage - Instead - maybe we can get everyone to live closer together so they don't have to drive as far.

Now while I'll admit that I rarely darken the doorstep of my local multi-plex it has more to do with the stage of life I'm at rather than the easy availability of DVDs (made all the more available by Netflix.) I mean home video began years ago and I think I probably watched the same number of movies on VHS as I have on DVD. Sure those DVDs look better but do I really need the 10 minutes of crap they scrape together for most of them? (Do I really NEED (really, really NEED) the director's commentary on "Stealth?") But if I could afford to go to a movie theater (meaning, baby sitter, dinner, theater tickets) I would do it every every weekend.

As it stands I still do pine for a darkened room filled with people (as long as they realize they aren't sitting at home in their living room and that pointing lasers at the screen doesn't really mean they're touching Julia Roberts...) So this news of simultaneous release saddens my heart. It will eventually cause the theatrical market to shrink causing studios to raise the price of DVDs so they can make their money and it will eventually make it that much harder for independent films to find an audience because who's going to buy a DVD without Jennifer Aniston's smiling face on the cover?? And I mean, she can only do so many films in a year.

In fact the indies are going to be the first ones that get burned by this. From a practical point of view, if I owned a theater chain, I'd tell IFC to go fuck themselves when they came knocking on my door to show their movies. And a year from now when they realize that they're not making the same money they used to, because HBO has no interest in buying a film that's played 75 times IFC and they come back to me (Mr. Theater owner, desperate for a screening time) I'm probably going to say, "Maybe it's time we sat down and talked about the percentages again..."


Rick M said...

This seems to come at a puzzling time for the studios. They're threatening the theater's core business by offering other venues simultaneously, and yet they're asking theaters to upgrade to digital projection to save studio money on film and delivery. Like you, I've only been to the movies a few times in the last year, but it has more to do with having an 18-month old boy than resistance to the theater-going experience. It is ironic that the giant multiplexes that pushed out single screen theaters in the last 15 years may themselves become dinosaurs. In an age when the giant blockbuster is the only sure thing and striking prints is no longer an issue, only the large single screens will be able to achieve the critical mass of moviegoers to remain profitable.

RJ said...

Yeah, it's really confusing. I really think it boils down to the fact that the people running the studios really aren't businessmen - or at least they don't seem to behave that way.

And - my lack of theater time is also due to a small child

GermanChocolateGirl said...

Simultaneous release sucks!! What a retarded idea. Hope it fails. (I'm a movie nut and enjoy going to the movies at least once a week.) You sure hit on some good points!