Monday, October 26, 2009

DVD rentals vs. sales

Remember, way back in the day, back in the 80's, when a movie was only available for rental for the first few weeks or months of it's release?

Rental stores had to pay hundreds of dollars for each copy of the movie that they purchased, and if you wanted to see that movie the day it came out you had to get it from your local video store.

That changed around the time I was in high school I think, maybe a little earlier, when they basically made movies available to rent and buy retail at the same time.

Now, with the popularity of Redbox and Netflix rising every day, studios are apparently thinking of reversing the old system. Basically a DVD would be available only for retail purchase for the first few weeks and then to rent after that.

So here's my response to that:

Are they thick?

Did somebody smack them upside the head when they were supposed to be studying economics and business and it rattled their brain into perennial opposite mode?

This will not bolster or help the DVD sales market. The DVD sales market is dying for a few reasons, none of which are entirely the rental markets fault.

Reason #1? THE ECONOMY. It's bad. People aren't buying luxuries and one of the first luxuries to go is often entertainment like movies and books. I know it's the first thing that gets cut out of my budget and I'm a filmmaker.

Reason #2? Pricing and special editions. This is the same problem studio execs found with CDs and they still haven't woken up to the truth. If a DVD is too expensive people won't buy it. Think about this: say you make $10 profit off of a DVD sale at a $20 pricepoint.

If you lowered the price to $15, you would only make $5 profit, seeming to cut your profit margin in half. But if that price drop made twice as many people buy the DVD, then your profits would stay the same. I know that this is all fuzzy and conjecture, but with all the people talking about sales and the economy, can't somebody do the studies and show that lower priced DVDs would equal higher sales and higher profits for the company?

And while they're at it, could they show that releasing a movie twelve times with different sets of special features is irritating the consumer? Not to mention when you have exclusive content depending on what store you buy your disc at? That's just uncalled for.

There's even more stuff involved than that, but in the end, even if the studios do go and make films delayed on the rental market, all it will do is serve to cause me to purchase LESS films.

I have a very specific set of questions I ask myself before I buy a movie. Have I seen it? Did I like it? Will I want to watch it over and over again? Unless all THREE questions get a yes answer, I will not buy the movie.

I know, that isn't the typical thing you'll hear from a film major or filmmaker. Most of the people I know have overflowing stacks and shelves of DVDs. And that's great. But the thing is, those people are buying the DVDs instead of renting them anyway.

Basically all this plan is doing is setting out a sign from the film studios that says, "Hey, all you people who are budget conscious and like to live uncluttered lifestyles, who prefer to think about their purchases and give their money to only the best artists and people they truly love: we don't like you and we think you deserve to be punished."

I can't think of a single person I know who would say "I can't see this movie for two weeks unless I shell out $20??? I MUST HAVE IT!"

Heck, I don't watch new releases sometimes for months or years because my Netflix queue is so full of classics and television shows I want to catch up on from the years when I didn't have cable (I'm still eight seasons behind on CSI). The only reason I rented Transformers 2 this week was because my husband wanted to see it and asked me to. Otherwise my next disc is an anime from the 1980's that I haven't managed to see before, and after that is the Dawn of the Dead remake just in time for Halloween.

What I'm saying here is that this plan will not make an impact on DVD sales, probably not even a dent. But it WILL serve to make the studios look bad, and insult a subset of their audience. So why do something that won't help and might harm? If I can't rent the DVD in the first few weeks, I'll just throw it to the bottom of my queue and forget about it, not renting it for YEARS, which certainly helps nobody's bottom line.

Movie studios are starting to sound as stupid and out of touch with modern times as record executives.

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