Movie Economics and Digital Distribution [11:55 pm]
Since then, however, the digital revolution has radically changed the movie business. The video rental market, which had been the studios’ cash cow as late as 2000, is rapidly disappearing. It’s been replaced by the business of selling DVDs in which a handful of mass retailers, such as Wal-Mart, account for most of the studios’ revenues. Unlike the video chains that rented videos, the big retailers don’t simply peg their orders to a film’s box-office results. Instead, they view DVDs as traffic-builders: The stores use them to lure in the relatively well-heeled, plasma-screen-purchasing customers—who are usually not the so-called LICs (or low-income consumers) who are recruited by ads for movie openings. As a rueful Sony marketing executive pointed out, “Unfortunately, our teens are not always who they want.”
[...] Does Hollywood need to remain so out of synch with reality? At present, the studio marketing arms have become exceedingly efficient at stampeding weekly herds of teens to multiplexes and producing impressive numbers. But if that amazing trick turns out to be not worth its average $34.8 million price tag, studios will have to consider different strategies. The most obvious one would be to eliminate the long interval between a film’s opening and its release on DVD. Also, if the studios aimed at the much larger and more profitable DVD audience, they would not need to spend so much on the teen herd. In this regard, Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner, who own the Landmark Theatres chain, the distributor Magnolia Films, and the high-definition cable channel HDNet, have announced just such a radical strategy. They will finance six movies directed by Steven Soderbergh and release each one simultaneously in movie theaters, pay-TV, and on DVD. To follow suit, the Hollywood studios might also need a different class of movies.