January 18 2009

Movie Industry Has A Record Year In 2008, Still Not Happy

popcorn and ticketsThe movie industry had a record year for revenue in 2008, but actual attendance was down.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Hollywood’s revenue was up 2% for the year to a record $9.76 billion. This tally was generated on 1.36 billion tickets sold across the USA and Canada compared to the 1.40 billion tickets sold the previous year.  The average price of a ticket hit $7.20, or 4.7% higher than the previous year.

Okay, enough of the boring stats, where am I going with this?  Well, Hollywood have you believe that a reduction in movie attendance is down due to online piracy.  They run ads on television in theaters telling you how piracy is hurting the industry, and those dirty, dirty pirates will cause people in the industry to lose their jobs, and then where will you be without new movies to go see?

Well, I would like to put forth that Hollywood needs to be looking a bit more internally as to why attendance is down.  I know, I’m talking crazy talk at this point, but hear me out on this.  The average ticket price is now $7.20, so lets say a family of 4 wants to go see the latest animated movie and you are going to see it during the evening so you are paying full price.  The two adults will be paying $7.20 each, so there is $14.40, the children will be $5.75 each (using my local theater as a gauge) meaning an additional $11.50, so tickets alone have now cost you $25.90.  Want snacks?  That’s another $10 minimum, and I’m being generous there, so now you’re at $35.90.

Now, what about the costs in time?

I always tack on a 1/2 hour before and after a movie of time I figure I’m going to lose doing other things I need to do.  While this doesn’t cost you actual money, it is a factor in ancillary costs to your movie going experience.

This is where I finally go, “Forget it, I’ll just buy it on DVD when it comes out.”

You could buy a basic copy of Wall-E for $14.99, or you could even splurge for the deluxe edition that has 2 extra discs of content, an added short and a digital copy for $23.99, and you still come out ahead.  Heck, splurge for $24.99 and you get it on Blu-ray high def, and you are still winning.  You get to watch the movie when you want, how you want, and you have a physical copy that you can watch multiple times, or even sell it off somehow and reduce your cost even more.  There was a time where you could say, “Well, there is nothing that beats seeing a film on the big screen”, but as technology has improved, and people have bought bigger and bigger televisions, added surround sound and so on, yes, it can beat seeing it on “the big screen”.

Should we even begin to factor in the ease of renting from places such as Netflix, and how that reduces your costs to an insanely low level compared to a theater?

As the economy worsens, people are going to start to look at this math harder and realize that seeing a film in the theater just costs too much, and attendance will continue to dwindle.  I’m honestly amazed it was only off by 2% in 2008, I had estimated it was going to be much higher than that due to all of the factors I have mentioned here, and it actually deserves to be higher.  The thing is, though, Hollywood is still making an insane amount of money as that $9.76 billion was just ticket sales, and doesn’t factor in DVD/Blu-ray sales.  I can almost guarantee you the lost revenue from those missing 2% were made up in home video sales.

Hollywood needs to be looking at their own greed for their supposed problems.  The continuing rise of ticket prices is forcing people out of the theaters, not piracy.  Well, perhaps it is a form of piracy, it’s just one being perpetrated by the movie studios themselves.  I am certainly not advocating movie piracy, the hundreds of DVDs I own certainly attest to me doing my part to support the movie industry, it is quite the contrary to be sure. I love movies as an art form, and I want people to see films, but Hollywood has to realize this constant fight to increase ticket prices is making that harder.

I know there is zero chance of this happening, but I think they should actually lower their ticket prices some, and the increase in the number of people going would not only make up the revenue difference, but they would see attendance go back up also, if not exceed what it had been. There was a reason the movie industry flourished during the Depression in that people wanted to escape from reality, so they flocked to the theaters. I am not saying we are in a Depression, but I am saying that people want to escape again, and a little bit of give by the movie industry would go a long way to getting people back into the theaters.

It also wouldn’t hurt for them to stop whining about the evils of piracy. Yes, it’s wrong, and yes, it is illegal, and no, I don’t do it, but each time I see one of those ads, it just makes me annoyed with them that much more. Stop treating us all like criminals, and we might like you more.

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