Gee, ya think?
LOS ANGELES, Aug. 23 - With the last of the summer blockbusters fading from the multiplex, Hollywood's box office slump has hardened into a reality that is setting the movie industry on edge. The drop in ticket sales from last summer to this summer, the most important moviegoing season, is projected to be 9 percent by Labor Day, and the drop in attendance is expected to be even deeper, 11.5 percent, according to Exhibitor Relations, which tracks the box office.You mean people don't want to pay $20 to see Jamie Foxx fight the robot plane? Color me surprised.
Multiples theories for the decline abound: a failure of studio marketing, the rising price of gas, the lure of alternate entertainment, even the prevalence of commercials and pesky cellphones inside once-sacrosanct theaters. But many movie executives and industry experts are beginning to conclude that something more fundamental is at work: Too many Hollywood movies these days, they say, just are not good enough.
This is one of my recurring questions for theatre-owners: How do you expect to convince people of the following: 1) Paying high prices is necessary. 2) Watching 30 minutes of advertising is not annoying. 3) You should prefer to see movies in the theatre, despite the excellent (and improving) quality of home entertainment systems.
Forget the quality of films for a moment - though I think that's important. Anyone with Bittorrent can download their favourite TV shows without commercials. People who buy DVDs are used to skipping ads and previews. People with Tivos have all sorts of neat goodies. Meanwhile, the theatres are getting more hostile to their customers, not less.
The movie industry has a choice, which it is currently debating: Either continue to support money-losing movie theatre releases, or make theatre and DVD releases simultaneous. Making DVD releases simultaneous is being called a "death threat" by theatre owners, but fundamentally this isn't in their hands anymore. I would bet on studios abandoning theatre owners before the decade is out.