Archive for the ‘Recession’ Category

The Recession-Proof Industry! MovieTickets Lands A Sweet Deal With Florida Theaters

March 30, 2009

This story is pretty impressive. MovieTickets just inked a deal with Muvico theaters to provide online ticketing systems, and it looks like online ticketing is really starting to replace traditional ticket buying. (Jeez, between this and the failing newpaper industry, it seems like people have some sort of vendetta against printed paper…) Maybe it’s because I almost always go to a Regal Entertainment Group theater and see Fandango ads there, but I had no idea that MovieTickets was a formidable competitor. Here’s the story from THR (emphasis added):

MovieTickets on Monday unveiled a deal to provide online movie-ticketing services for Muvico theaters in Florida.

The deal — announced on the first day of the ShoWest confab here — brings MovieTickets’ pacts with theatrical exhibitors to a total of 150 circuits. The online ticker said its Internet activity also is approaching another milestone, as it nears 100 million ticket sold.

“This is a landmark accomplishment,” MovieTickets exec vp Joel Coen said. “To reach 150 exhibitors and for us to be on pace for a record-breaking 2009 really speaks to the recession-proof nature of moviegoing and the strength of the services we provide.”

MovieTickets has added 15 exhibitors and some 1,000 screens to its service network in the past six months, Coen added. Its chief competitor Fandango has fewer circuit relationships but vastly more screens in its online-ticketing network.

What about you? Do you get your tickets online? If you do, what do you use: Fandango or MovieTickets? Let me know in the comments

Welcome To The Era Of Easy Entertainment!

January 20, 2009

We’re in the middle of a huge economic recession, millions of people are out of work, the news is consistently depressing, the earth is apparently so polluted that a Wall-Eish future seems likely, we’re still fighting what seems to be a never-ending battle in the Middle East, and Paul Blart: Mall Cop just earned $39 million over four days in theaters. What is going on in the world, and why are all these terrible things happening at once? To be honest, I can’t really tell you anything about those first five- you’d have to ask a Washington insider about those. But when it comes to the issue of Paul Blart: Mall Cop raking in huge profits, let me offer up this explanation: In light of the economic, political, and social struggles that currently permeate our society, we have reached a new stage of culture: The Era of Easy Entertainment (EEE), where popular entertainment has become valued more as a distraction than an artform.

You see, it seems to me that in these tough times, the last thing people want in their lives is any more stress. And yes, if you’re wondering, there is a such thing as stressful entertainment. Over the last few years, movies centered on war have completely stalled at the box office. Even high profile releases like The Good German ($1.3 million), Flyboys ($13 M), The Great Raid ($10 M), and Flags Of Our Fathers ($33 M) have had trouble finding an audience. The best performing war-themed picture was 2005’s Jarhead ($62 M), but even that failed to live up to expectations. Still, if these films were to be released right now, I predict that they would do even worse at the box office than they did in their original theatrical runs. Why? Because people are tired of bad news! People are tired of war and fighting and not knowing what is going to happen next! And now, as the economic foundation of the country starts to crack, people are eager for something consistent and comforting. Where have they turned? To easy entertainment.

With exception of Nothing Like The Holidays ($7 M), every single comedy that has been released in the last two months has been a solid hit. Role Models earned $67 million. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa earned $178 million. Four Christmases earned $120 million. Bolt earned $113 million. Yes Man earned $93 million. Marley And Me has earned $134 million. Bedtime Stories has earned $105 million. Bride Wars has earned $40 million. And Paul Blart: Mall Cop opened to $39 million! The average T-Meter on RottenTomatoes for these films is 39%, so it’s not like these are just the best films out there right now. Yea some of them are great, and others are truly awful, but I think it’s more that right now, people just truly want to laugh and smile. Think about all the people who lined up in droves to go see Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Don’t you think they knew that it wasn’t going to be a magnificently memorable work of art? What they did know was that it would be safe enough and fun enough to provide them with a pleasant distraction from the reality of life, if only for a couple hours.

But this trend isn’t just limited to film. Look at the general trends of television viewing this season. The sitcom, which many pronounced as “dead” a few years ago, is now back in full force. Shows like The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, and 30 Rock have seen massive 35-45% increases in their viewership this season, despite network television ratings being universally down. And it’s not just comedy that makes up the EEE. No, some entertainment is just “easy,” like television’s number one new show, The Mentalist. The show does absolutely nothing to break the mold of a typical CBS procedural crime drama. It follows a very predictable formula each and every episode, and audiences aren’t complaining. In fact, because it requires so little thinking, and the mystery is always wrapped up by the end of each episode, it’s pulling in almost 19 million viewers every week. Shows like Lost or 24 should be glad they launched when they did, because they would never break out in 2009- they just require too much thinking, too much stress!

There’s no telling how long EEE will last. It is the reason that films like The Unborn and My Bloody Valentine: 3D have done so well lately. These are horror flicks, yes, but they are also proedictable and fun. It is the reason dogs are the hottest thing in Hollywood now. They don’t need to be able to act or speak- they’re cute and make people feel good. So long as people are worried about our failing economy, horror films and comedies and movies that advertise the fact that they are fun, will continue to thrive. Already, the box office is having an incredibly lucrative winter season because people have made it very clear that right now they don’t need a ton of drama- they want some simple comfort instead.

Who’s To Blame: The Internet Or The Recession? DVD Sales Down In ’08

January 6, 2009

Amazon.com Widgets

Boy, the recession is truly upon us, and the DVD figures are showing it. Unfortunately, while there are still a lot of people are buying DVD’s, the number of DVD’s sold in 2008 was down substantially. Via Variety:

Final year-end results won’t start to trickle in for a few more days, but there’s little doubt that homevid spending ended down for the year. The vid biz is famously squishy about its sales figures, but all indicators point to a second consecutive decline, with Blu-ray gains unable to make up for declining DVD sales throughout the year.

The last available figures show DVD sales 5%-6% behind 2007 levels. Blu-ray sales jumped fourfold, making up a couple percentage points of the DVD deficit. Overall disc sales are expected to end 3%-4% below 2007’s $15.38 billion tally when the last disc sales for 2008 are calculated.

According to one home video executive, “As far as I’m concerned, down is the new flat and flat is the new up.” Hah! I don’t think that the DVD industry needs to worry too much, as I’d attribute most of this decline to people penny-pinching in these tough economic times. But there are other factors in play here, too, which could be contributing to the decline.

What kind of “factors” am I talking about? Why, that thing that makes the world go round: the internet! As online content on YouTube continues to get better, and made-for-internet productions like Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (Amazon.com Exclusive) attract lots of traffic, people are finding that they don’t necessarily need to go to the theater to be entertained. You know, times are a changin’, and there is simply more entertainment available for people to consume. Look at TV- network television ratings are way down this season, but internet programming and cable are thriving. People are moving beyond ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC, and finding quality programming on cable and the web. The same sort of trend is happening in music, movies, and journalism as well, which is why print magazines that really invested in their websites years ago (like EW), are reaping all the benefits now.

You see, it’s not that people are taking in less entertainment. It’s how they’re taking in this entertainment that’s shifting. The movie industry needs to hurry up, and come to terms with the fact that the internet is quickly democratizing this industry, and if they want to keep their edge, they better start laying down a solid online infrastructure. I have a feeling that if they don’t, it could bit them in the butt down the road. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, Hollywood.

So which do you think caused the decline in DVD sales: our hyper-distracted, internet-obsessed, ADD culture, or the current recession? Most likely, I think it’s a little of both.