Friday, December 23, 2005

Simultaneous Release of DVDs with feature films an adventure in marketing

I'm so glad to hear that the film industry is considering simultaneous release for movies and DVDs. I always believed it would not really hurt theater sales because I think a theater experience is usually a social event for the younger audiences more than the preferred viewing environment for older audiences. Many older film enthusiasts have added home theater systems (at least surround sound) to their home viewing environments and feel more comfortable there without the distractions of other people hopping up and down to use the restroom or going to the concession stand. In addition, many of us, although we enjoy immersive sound, can hardly bear the volume that is used in many commercial theaters. We also appreciate the ability to pause a film to answer nature's call, often a more frequent requirement with age, without missing any of the action.

So, I applaud Todd Wagner, the CEO of 2929 Entertainment, the company, cofounded by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, that's experimenting with the "simultaneous release" program who was interviewed in this piece by David Pogue that appeared in the New York Times Circuits section.

"Simultaneous release," or "day and date," means releasing a new movie on TV, on DVD, and in the theaters all on the same day--a radical proposal that could shake up the movie industry...."

"This idea has been perceived as an attack on the exhibition [movie-theater] industry. It is not.

It was designed to try to increase DVD sales. It was designed to try to reach the kind of folks who are not gonna go to the movie theater on a regular basis. And that is an enormous percentage of the population.

I'm supposed to assume that they'll still be interested in my movie five months from now [when the DVD comes out]? I would argue that might be a dangerous assumption.

So our argument is that there is potentially this impulse buy. These people in their 30s and 40s and 50s, wife, kid, may not go to the movie theater. But they would pay a premium to have first-run, theatrical-quality movies that they can either watch on T.V., be downloaded, be delivered to their doorstep on a DVD or eventually HD-DVD, et cetera, et cetera. And let's see if we can go after them.

Look at Russia. In Russia, 99 percent of the DVDs are pirated. You walk in the subway system, there's all the movies--before they're even in the theaters.

That's not even simultaneous release; that's "DVD first," if you will. And yet the theater industry in Russia is doing very well."

Wagner also pointed out the current expense of two advertising campaigns, one for the film and one for the DVD.

"Advertising, as you well know these days, has gone from one big spends to two big spends. A spend to try to get people to go to the theater, a spend in another five months to try to get you to buy the DVD.

In the world today of information clutter, to get the public excited, for the second time, about that movie that they heard about five months later -- wow, that's really hard. So if you could do it once and have an efficient advertising spend, perhaps that's not so bad.

We've seen the lessons of the music industry. We know how technology is today. We know that this generation wants things now. We know it's a digital world. By the way, the day-and-date thing could also reduce piracy, because everything is available simultaneously everywhere in every medium. Maybe it's worth thinking about."

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