In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff

We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.

Try Advanced Search

  1. Seattle Squeeze: New Urban Living
  2. Checking In
  3. Ben Aronson's Representational Abstractions
  4. Rock is ... Forever?
  5. We Need the Arts: A Sob Story
  6. Form Following (Commercial) Function
  7. Two Humorous Items from the Financial Crisis
  8. Ken Auster of the Kute Kaptions
  9. What Might Representational Painters Paint?
  10. In The Times ...

Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette

Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Joanne Jacobs
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes

Redwood Dragon
The Invisible Hand
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz


Our Last 50 Referrers

« Vollard on Art Trends | Main | Steven on Leni »

March 14, 2007

The DVD Release

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

DVD versions of movies are being released ever-more-quickly and movie-theater owners are worried, reports the LA Times' Claudia Eller. A fun set of figures from her good piece:
"Box-office sales make up about 30% of a studio's worldwide revenue pie, with DVD sales accounting for 45% and TV 25%."

Link thanks to DVD Spin Doctor, who adds a key additional point to the discussion:

Exhibitors would rather beef about their shortened period of exclusivity with new movies than address the real reasons adults are fleeing theaters: soaring ticket prices, obnoxious ads, cell phones, dirty theaters, ripoff concessions -- and the existence of a clear alternative, the home-theater experience. Badgering the studios is a lot cheaper than cleaning up their own mess.



posted by Michael at March 14, 2007


The theater closest to my home is so awful that I will sometimes avoid seeing movies during their theatrical runs just to save myself the aggravation. Either that or I'll drive the extra 45 minutes it takes to get to the next nearest theater.

Buzzing speakers, out-of-focus images, super rude patrons (I especially avoid weekend afternoons, when the local military high school sends their students to the movies), and general uncleanliness all make my list of this particular theater's drawbacks.

But my biggest pet peeve is that the films are projected way too darkly, so that any nighttime scene is rendered inky and inpenetrable. I suspect the theater does this purposely: By using lower-wattage bulbs, they save money. I've heard of some other theaters that do this.

The thing that's still great about movie theaters is their cocoon-like abilitiy to shut out the outside world. I want to hunker down in that seat and be transported--to be taken up into the image. There's nothing more frustrating than to go to the theater, pay your money, and then find yourself shut off from that experience due to something like a rattling speaker or a murky picture.

Posted by: Ron on March 15, 2007 7:49 AM

DVD Spin Doctor needs a course in economics. Running theaters is a high fixed cost business so if you can't attract enough patrons you need to raise prices, seek additional revenues (ads) and/or reduce maintanence. Theater chains are caught in a bind due to changing audience habits. I don't go to them myself anymore so I sympathize with his reaction, but the "theater owners are stupid" line isn't very persuasive.

Posted by: jult52 on March 15, 2007 1:28 PM

If I'm not mistaken, part of the bind theaters are in is the pricing structure, where the studios take a gigundus slice of the pie in the opening weeks, with the take percentage shifting in the theaters' favor several weeks into the run. As much as 70% goes to the studio in the opening weeks. So unless the studios are hitting them out of the park (and we all know how hard that is to do), the theaters get the shaft.

To me, the only answer from the theaters' perspective is added value: show me movies I cannot see anywhere else, and/or show them to me in a way that beats what I can do at home. Here in L.A., we're lucky enough to have the ArcLight cinemas with their beautiful (reserved) seating, ad-free previews (i.e., trailers only), impeccable sound and projection and actual ushers who will kick your cellphone-talkin' ass O-U-T in a New York minute. I'll pay extra for a water there. Really, I will. It's civilized!

The Alamo Drafthouse and its ilk are another example of added value. A movie with food!? And drinks?! And service?! Yowsa, baby--bring it on!

There are many of us who happily pay a premium for a pleasant moviegoing experience, just as there are many of us who will wait it out if "it's a renter." Hollywood isn't going to suddenly change its crap/gold ratio, so the theaters had better get crackin'. I think they can turn things around in their favor, but it will require a level of ingenuity I've not seen many places yet.

Posted by: communicatrix on March 16, 2007 12:28 AM

Isn't part of what's tough for theaters the fact that movies are making nearly all their dough in the first few weeks of release? During which, as Colleen says, the big slice of the pie goes back to the studios? In earlier eras, a hit movie might run for a few months, so the theater owner would rake in after the first few weeks. These days, after the first few weeks, the movie's run is over.

Anyway, I'm into value-added myself. Well-behaved audience ... Good screen ... Careful projection ... Good sound ... And, oh yeah, a promising movie -- it all makes a hard to beat combo. But the typical mall-movie multiplex experience is one that I'm subjecting myself to less and less.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 16, 2007 1:09 AM

The unspoken here, is we civilized whites (no irony at all intended) are becoming increasingly uncomfortable amongst the dregs, mainly third worlders, of "American Society" that are proliferating at an ever increasing velocity and just will not behave. Movie houses are one of the very few places left where we are face to face with these dregs. And so like housing we just move instead of face up to the fact we have allowed this to happen to ourselves. In this case our move is to our "home theatres". Folks we ain't seen nothin' yet.

Posted by: reallife on March 16, 2007 8:50 AM

So, Michael, for your NY readers, what are your favorite NYC movie theaters? I suppose a few are obvious, but I'd guess some others less so. Anyway, given your knowledge and taste, it would be interesting to see your list.

Posted by: dougjnn on March 16, 2007 12:23 PM

I used to make a (somewhat weak) joke that the time between theatrical and video release of a given movie would get to the point that you could buy a copy of the movie you just saw at the concession stand on your way out of the theater. And I have noticed some movies still playing in the buck-and-a-half theaters after their video release, so it's actually possible now. But to my recollection, I don't recall seeing movie theater concession stands selling DVDs, though it's been a while since I've actually darkened a theater door. It would seem like a natural fit, since people in a theater to see a movie would be in the mood to buy movie-related products like... well, movies. So... is there some legal reason why theaters _can't_ sell videos? Say, related to the trust-busting of decades ago that made it illegal for movie studios to own theaters? For that matter, I don't think video stores can operate mini-theaters -- Blockbuster can rent or sell you a movie, but it can't show it on-site and charge you a modest admission fee. If you think I'm somewhat confused here, poorly informed, and relying on vague and inadequate memories of things once heard or read... you're right. Could someone set me straight? I think it's somewhat germane to the discussion -- a merger between theaters and video stores might be a possible evolutionary outcome for the declining neighborhood picture show that is cut off by outside forces...

Posted by: Dwight Decker on March 17, 2007 2:10 AM

I do think that a must-see movie like 300 which will stick around for a while is an exhibitors' dream. It's the middle-tier B movie that doesn't cry out to be seen that makes people say, 'oh, I'll just wait a few weeks to see it on DVD.' Knowing the DVD is coming soon also cuts down on repeat viewing. Many folks these days look at the ads and reviews of a movie that's opening and order it on netflix—untold numbers of people are just getting their Casino Royale red envelopes this week.

THR ran an interesting Q & A with Shari Redstone, who impressed me:

Posted by: anne thompson on March 17, 2007 2:23 AM

I miss going to the movie theater. But until I'm offered better, cheaper popcorn, and movies that don't insult my intelligence (rather, my imagination) -- all the while being expected to pay $20+ for the privilege -- I'll content myself with iTunes downloads on my Cinema Display (tm). It all boils down to quality of experience, and these days the movie theaters just don't deliver.

Posted by: GiGi on March 18, 2007 1:34 PM

Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember your info?