Piracy? What Piracy? 2009 Box-Office Overtakes DVD/Blu-ray Sales

Save me a seat!

Reuters has posted a fascinating story reporting box office receipts boomed to $10.6 billion (including Canadian ticket sales) in 2009 and overtook DVD and Blu-ray sales of $8.73 billion. Just yesterday I was reading in the New York Times how DVD sales declined by some $1 billion in 2009 from the previous year, while sales of Blu-ray discs, according to data from the Digital Entertainment Group, rose by $200 million, partially offsetting the industry downturn. So, while 2009’s box-office, without adjusting for inflation, became the biggest box-office year on record — beating 2007’s record total of $9.68 billion — it’s not as if home video was doing all that bad either, just not as good as it was when consumers rushed to Best Buy every Tuesday and filled their shopping carts with every single new release regardless of quality.

The Reuters article says DVD and Blu-ray sales including films, television shows, concert videos and other content declined about 10 percent to $13 billion in 2009, according to Adams Media. About $1.1 billion of the movie discs bought in 2009 were on Blu-ray, and the number of homes with Blu-ray players grew from 3 million to 8 million. Rentals in 2009 grew to $8.15 billion from $8.11 billion in 2008.

The studios love to talk about how much money they’re loosing after they started counting on DVD sales as business peaked in 2004 with U.S. sales of $12.1 billion. And the latest argument is how companies such as Netflix and Redbox are cutting even deeper into their profit margins. Throughout all of last year I started to grow increasingly frustrated as some DVD news sites began reporting Blu-ray sales picking up the slack as a positive. As if consumers making up for an industry gap by purchasing overpriced Blu-rays was actually good news.

In my opinion it’s both good and bad news, a good example being my recent review of the 10 Things I Hate about You Blu-ray, a film I like, but could never justify recommending readers spend an additional $7 on the Blu-ray version over the DVD version. At least Criterion, the undeniable leader in the home video market, prices their Blu-rays the same as their DVDs and at the same time offers content and supplementary materials making such purchases worthwhile. As for the bloated 2009 theatrical figures, tactics such as the increased cost of seeing films in 3-D and IMAX obviously helped things out, as if those options are worth the higher price on any film thus far other than The Dark Knight or similar films actually shot in IMAX.

Looking at all these numbers and thinking about how the studios complain piracy is hurting their numbers is ridiculous. Money is obviously being spent and at record rates. However, if we wanted to believe piracy was having any effect and if we wanted to figure out new ways for the studios to make more money in the DVD and Blu-ray realm, I am turning around my opinion, ever so slightly, on the idea of selling the DVD and Blu-ray of some theatrical releases after walking out of the theater.

I still don’t think this is a model that works for major blockbusters or any film with a significant marketing campaign, but Devin Faraci’s recommendation at CHUD saying the idea of selling the DVD or Blu-ray to audiences after seeing a smaller, indie film could be a goldmine for studios as well as bolster the appeal of indie features. How much more inclined would you be to buy the DVD or Blu-ray of films such as Antichrist or Moon after seeing them in theaters? As long as it was kept to patrons that had just paid to see the movie this could be a revolutionary idea that would keep blockbuster box-office intact and raise the awareness on smaller indie films as some people may be more interested to see them with the added incentive of owning it afterward if they liked it.

What do you think?

Thanks to SlashFilm for the heads up on the Reuters piece.


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