Multiples theories for the decline abound: a failure of studio marketing, the rising price of gas, the lure of alternate entertainment, even the prevalence of commercials and pesky cellphones inside once-sacrosanct theaters. But many movie executives and industry experts are beginning to conclude that something more fundamental is at work: Too many Hollywood movies these days, they say, just are not good enough.The main solution talked about at the link is not, interestingly enough, making better movies. It's releasing movies to theaters and DVD at the same time! There's a recognition that a lot of people prefer to watch at home, so why not take advantage of the high publicity at the time of a movie's release to sell to all these home theater folk who aren't going to go out? Such a move might hurt theater owners, who are already hurting. But I'm in no position to discuss the economics of the movie business, so I want to speculate about how it would change the actual content of the movies.
Would there be more movies designed to appeal to persons over 25? Would there be more movies in smaller settings that look appealing on the television? Maybe people with big home theater set-ups prefer the same sort of movies that make a lot of us feel that we ought to go out and see the film on the big screen.
Simultaneous DVD release doesn't need to be an across-the-board strategy. It could be used for some smaller movies or movies that appeal to the older audience. For example, right now, I'd love to see Werner Herzog's "Grizzly Man." I'd buy it immediately if it were available. And I'd go out to see it if it were playing in my city, but it's not. Eventually, it will come around here, but I might not notice. And eventually, it will come out on DVD and I might get around to buying it. If I could order DVDs of films the day I read the reviews in the paper, I'd buy a lot more of them. I'd impulse buy. Now, I have months to cool off. Why do I need that movie? Why not just watch some other supposedly good movie I own but haven't watched yet? I'm a much more skeptical customer when the DVD comes out months after the glowing reviews.
But would there be more art house-type films if the simultaneous release approach were taken? Art house theaters outside of big cities might have a terrible time getting people to show up. If these theaters go out of business, would art house films end up being more or less straight to video films? They might lose prestige. Instead of more of them, we might have less. Why call them films at all anymore? And then, why even have DVDs of them? Why aren't they just shown on premium cable channels and pay-per-view? But maybe if the merger with television took place, the films would get better. Look at how good HBO is now.
It's hard to predict what would happen with the policy shift — or what will happen without it.