Tuesday, June 15, 2010

You're gonna miss us when we're gone

Tonight will be a weird night. It's a six-hour night, but runs from midnight to 6:00 in the morning. Tomorrow night through Friday night will be regular 6:00 PM - to - 6:00 AM nights.

Last night, of course, was the first night when I got to bed at a semi-reasonable hour - maybe 2:00 AM. I forced myself to sleep extra-long, to 11:00 and then again to almost 2:00. The rest of this week I will get maybe four to five hours of sleep each day, from 9:00 or 10:00 in the morning to my usual wake-up time of 2:00 in the afternoon.

Well, at least I know this is ending soon. All this while I have been hoping that this industry would pull out of this downward spiral, that something else would appear at my company for me. But that appears to be a futile hope. DVDs are fated to go the way of buggy whips and the SEGA Genesis, cassette tapes and milk men. But the things that are taking the place of DVDs - not Blu-Ray, but movies-on-demand, streaming video, and the like - are of lower quality and have fewer features than DVDs, analogous to the step from CD audio to MP3s. (And most people who have been raised on MP3s played over tiny earbuds have no idea how much quality they are missing.) Blu-Ray, on the other hand, is to DVDs what Laser Disc was to VHS: a marked improvement that appeals mainly to high-end early-adopter users with deep pockets.

It's not just DVDs that you're going to miss. The movie industry currently sees most of its revenue not from ticket sales, but from DVD sales - so much so that some in the industry consider theatrical releases to essentially be extended ads for DVD sales. As DVD sales drop, the industry is scrambling to make up that lost revenue somewhere. Anywhere. Gimmicks such as 3-D and fake "IMAX" versions of movies convince movie-goers to fork over more money at the box office. But these movies are rapidly reaching a saturation point for theaters equipped to show them, and at some point consumers will do a reality check on their finances and ask themselves if it's worth the added expense to see a dimmer version of a cartoon in a 3-D format that adds little or nothing to the viewing experience.

Eventually the movie industry, facing declining revenues and ever-increasing expenses, will need to make the same sorts of changes that the DVD industry is making.

And then?

I don't know. Maybe no more blockbusters. Maybe nothing but blockbusters, movies guaranteed to bring in so many tens of millions of dollars in the first weekend. Maybe nothing but Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey and Will Ferrel, or whoever the schlockmeister guaranteed to fill seats is at the time. No risk-taking allowed, only sure things greenlighted.

And then maybe it will all cave in on itself, and you will be left with nothing. Empty seats in empty theaters. Maybe, God willing, a return to community theater and Vaudeville-style entertainment. Who knows?


Jennifer Wade said...

I hear that someone (not sure who) plans to test market in Canada a plan that would essentially let people watch first-run movies at home. In other words, you don't have to go to the theater and you don't have to wait several months for on-demand or DVD.

Anonymous said...

Jen, I've seen ads for places here that already offer that service. You essentially pay theatrical release prices to watch the movie at home as soon as it is available in the theater.

Pope George Ringo said...

Five years later, you proven yourself a prophet. ANd I agree totally on the superiority of DVD technology over streaming. Now Comcast sells films that you can store in what they term as "your digital library"..movies to own.
However, you do not own them if you fail to pay your Comcast bill or move to an area not serviced by Comcast. You're out of luck and your digital library is gone.
As for me, I would never in 2015 pay a dime to "own" a movie on Comcast...if I like a film enough I will buy the DVD (and I have many).
Call me an old fogey, but DVD's are still my preference...I best horde a few extra players in case they stop manufacturing them completely.