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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Paging Representative Howard Berman (D-RIAA/MPAA/BSA) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-RIAA/MPAA)...

Guess what? It's not so-called "Piracy" that's killing the movie business. It's the fact that movies being produced nowadays are crap, and people have gotten to the point where they have added up the annoyances of going to the movie theatre to see a first run movie that is likely to be crap anyway and decided that waiting for the DVD is a better deal. Put that in your pipes and smoke it.

The New York Times, which long ago ceased to be a source for reliable hard news, is right on the money with this entertainment news article, which explains even to the most brainless simpleton the real reason why the movie business is hurting. People simply wait for the DVD and rent or buy it.

My husband and I go one better: we wait for the rental copies of a DVD to go on sale. For the price of a single ticket, or at least for a price that's less than two tickets at matinee prices at Mann's The Plant multiplex, we can buy the DVD, watch it anytime we want, and the MPAA is denied their cut. Like the not-so-ambiguously gay elderly duo in those stupid "Secure Horizons" commercials, we can grunt "good deal" to each other as we watch a movie that we own the media of* in peace, without squalling babies and people yammering to each other about the movie. We don't have an ultra-modern "home theatre," we have what we call our "Ghetto Home Theatre" which consists of a 20" stereo TV we bought at Le Target for $88, a DVD player, and an Advent 2.1 computer sound system which sounds better than most blown-out, badly maintained sound systems you hear at your local multiplex. It's not a perfect experience, like going to, say, the main theatre at the Mann's Chinese (the big one) or to Disney/Pacific Theatres' El Capitan or the Arclight Cinerama Dome, but we'll take it over the hassle and expense.

I think Robert Iger's idea of short-circuiting the Santee Avenue/Canal Street vendors of bootleg DVDs by immediate release of first-run Disney movies on DVD is a stroke of genius, and bodes well for Iger being able to turn Disney around. People buy camcorder/fly-by-night dub copies or download crappy DivX/XviD copies of first-run movies because they want to see first-run movies but don't want to deal with the hassle of going to the theatre. They have added up the hedonic calculus of seeing a movie at home and of seeing a movie at the local multiplex and prefer the at-home experience to the movie theatre experience. However, they still want to see that movie when it first comes out.

The movie theatre owners and their NATO trade group are screaming bloody murder over Iger's statements, but they brought it on themselves with overpriced admission, crummy presentation, and overpriced refreshments. Now they are basically in the position of carriage manufacturers when faced with the Model T. Time to find a new business, guys. Alternately, provide the value-added experience we want when going to the movies and do it at a fair price. Make it worth our while to go to the movies.

We are reaching an economic turning point in the movie business. It is quite likely that if movie-going changes from the first-run, "see it in the theatres" model to the Original Video Movie model (a model that has been profitable in Japan for a couple of decades, BTW!) we'll see budgets go down and belts tighten at the movie studios. But eventually things will sort out. Hopefully people will have the good sense to let the change sort itself out without harebrained legislation and yet more ill-considered restrictions on the content consumer. However, I don't see the RIAA/MPAA's "when in danger, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout" strategy changing anytime soon.

* No you don't own a movie you buy. You own the copy of a book you buy because of a doctrine called "right of first sale" that should also apply to movie DVDs but doesn't, because of stupid Digital Rights Restriction measures on the DVD that are going to get worse when we move to the next generation of movies on disc.