It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the studios don’t really care about people who watch their films, that they only really care about getting another dollar out of their pockets. The studios, like most businesses measure their success in dollars, so the more they can get out of you, the better for them. While studio heads would dispute the fact that their product is art, and success for art is measured in more abstract ways, there is no getting around the fact that their product has been fairly substandard for a while. Like the American car companies, they keep putting out the same crap and wondering why less people show up for their movies every year.
But as less people do show up for their films, the studios and the exhibitors continue to have record breaking revenues. They do this by creating new and imaginative ways to get more money out of the audience. It’s a short term approach: in the short term, they make more money. In the long run, they are driving people away from movie theaters and into their homes, where they will watch pirated movies instead of new DVDs.
It’s not enough for a theater to charge 10 bucks to see the movie. Taking advantage of a strange, but strongly-ingrained custom of buying popcorn at the movie, they manage to swindle another 15 bucks out of many, if not most, audience members. If that wasn’t enough, they stick 20 minutes of commercials in front of the movie. By the time the movie has started, your in it for 25 bucks and you’re ready to get on with it. (Pity the poor movie that has a slow start after that all that.) But the important thing is, if the movie sucked, you don’t just shrug your shoulders and eye up the posters in the lobby. You feel ripped off. Going to the movies costs more than it did 20 years ago, but the movies have not gotten better. It’s just more reasons to stay at home.
The studios blame the exhibitors, the theater chains, for their disappearing audience. And the theater chains say that none of this is a problem. They quote studies that say that the main thing keeping people out of the theater is people talking and cell phones going off during the film. That may be true in the studies, but in real life, they need to wake up. Do these people ever go to the movies?
And while the studios blame the theaters for all of this, they practice a similar form of extortion of their own when they put out the DVDs. DVDs are now packed with commercials. True, mostly the commercials are previews, but they play every time you put in the DVD and it’s getting more difficult to fast forward through them. And the price, generally around 20 bucks, is just too high when the competition is selling the same film for half as much – the competition being a pirated DVD. Soon the competition will be free, as internet speeds improve. (Why do the studios insist on putting their piracy warnings in front of every film with no way of fast forwarding it? The people who paid for the film don’t want to see this. Just one more nail in the coffin of selling these movies legally.)
The only way to compete with cheaper, and even free, is to lower the price. The cost of making DVDs is not very high. There’s a very high profit margin on the 20 bucks. If the movies cost too much, then they have to get cheaper, because unless this DVD price is lowered, people are going to stop buying them.