Posts filed under “Film”

Content Consolidation & the Long Tail

There’s an interesting discussion over at the Chris Anderson’s blog on the ascendant forces that are creating a new era of Long Tails

There’s yet another source that is helping to give rise to the Long Tail:  The continual consolidation and commensurate decline in quality of mainstream media content output. This is especially true for music and radio, true of some journalism, and (partially) true for film.

Let’s look at few examples:  The quality of music found and promoted by big labels has, over the past few decades, dropped precipitously (think insipid boy bands); Making matters worse, the major radio companies use shorter playlists to play less and less (payola funded) music.

Its no surprise both industries are in decline — while Indie labels –the LT alternative — are actually thriving.

Then there are films — as they become ever more expensive to produce, producers aim for the lowest common denominator. While the LCD may help an individual film, collectively, it lowers the quality of the entire film industry’s output. Is it really such a surprise that movie theatre attendance is down?

The good side of this is that it creates an opportunity for well written, inexpensive, indie films to gain exposure.

Even the mass media itself has succumbed to increasing consolidation and quality slippage:  We’ve seen time and again investigative journalism falter as owners attempt to increase profits by reducing expenses. Good investigative journalism is expensive and difficult; But the net result is that people trust corporate journalism less and less. That’s created the opening for another source of content: The Long Tail of blogs, podcasts and video logs.

Newspaper and magazine subscriptions are in decline, as is TV viewership. Why?  Its Hamburger Helper all over again. None of these events occur in a vaccuum;  Media consolidates, quality declines, what’s left over all start to look alike.

But the internet allows for an viable alternative to come into use: Blogs. Poof! There go your readers.  For Radio, its the rise of iPods and SatellitesPoof! There go your listeners. Print media is deep into the effect. Hollywood is only starting to feel it, as is TV. (Haven’t figured out about books, as we produce so many unique titles each year).

Bottom line:  Any content industry that finds itself dramtically reducing variety or quality or both, is an industry heading for long term trouble — especially if the internet can be used to easily and cheaply find an adequate or superior substitute.


UPDATE: July 31, 2005 11:12 pm

Judge Richard Posner wastes nearly 5,000 words of primarily obtuse filler to observe that MSMedia is liberal, and that blogs threaten them.

He could have written a much more interesting essay if he understood the 1) Long Tail, 2) the impact of consolidation on content producers, and 3) the consumer’s exercise of choice.

And all he had to do was read either this or this . . .


Bad News
NYTimes, July 31, 2005

Category: Books, Film, Media, Music, Television

DVRs — Not PCs — will be Home’s Media Center

Category: Film, Music, Technology, Television

Why is Movie Theatre Revenue Attendance Declining?

There’s been plenty of chatter about declining movie theatrical revenue attendance. You just know the MPAA is itching to tie this onto piracy somehow and thus get some favorable legislation.

Let’s nip this one in the bud, shall we? 5 6 7 factors are hurting theater attendance:

1) Social factors eroding theater environment (talking, cell phones, babies crying, etc.); 
2) Sacrificing long term relationships with theater-goers for the increase in short term profitability (commercials, no ushers, etc.);
3) Higher quality experience elsewhere (Home theater);
4) Declining quality of mainstream movies;
5) Easily available Long Tail content alternatives (Netflix, Amazon);
6) Price;
7) Demographics: Aging babyboomers simply go out to movies less.

While content quality has indeed worsened over the years, it shouldn’t be the main concern this Summer:  As of late, there have been a spate of movies which have been either well-reviewed (Batman Begins) or had good word-of-mouth (Wedding Crashers) or incredible special effects perfectly suited to the big screen (Revenge of the Sith or War of the Worlds).

So what else might be the source of declining theatrical fortunes?

Well, how about the movie theater-going experience itself? The adventure of heading to a cineplex is becoming a less and less pleasant form of entertainment. Many of the headaches involved have been painfully detailed by Bob Lefsetz’ readers (see their ordeals below).

Note that we are not even discussing content quality at this point.

Then there are the adverts. A recent L.A.Times article – Now playing: A glut of ads — points out that even studio executives were stunned by 15 minutes of commercials theatre goers had to endure after paying their 10 bucks:

"As head of production at New Line Cinema, Toby Emmerich is not your typical moviegoer. So when he wanted to see "War of the Worlds" the other night, his choice was between seeing the film in a theater with a tub of popcorn or watching it in a screening room at Jim Carrey’s house, with a private chef handling the culinary options. Despite this seemingly loaded deck, Emmerich opted for a real theater.

"I love seeing a movie with a big crowd," he says. "But I had no idea how many obnoxious ads I’d have to endure — it really drove me crazy. After sitting through about 15 minutes of ads, I turned to my wife and said, ‘Maybe we should’ve gone to Jim Carrey’s house after all.’ "

When DreamWorks marketing chief Terry Press took her young twins to see "Robots" this year, she said, "My own children turned to me and said, ‘Mommy, there are too many commercials!’ Now, when the lights go halfway down, I’m filled with dread. The whole uniqueness of the moviegoing experience is being eroded by all the endless ads."  (emphasis added)

So while the industry laments piracy, consider if you will why going to the theatre has become so much less enjoyable than watching DVD films on your own big screen in the comfort of your home theatre.   

The theatres have adapted Radio’s disasterous Hamburger Helper approach: Short term increases in profitability in exchange for alienating your core audience, who eventually seek out a more enjoyable substitute. Quite frankly, I’m astonished the film industry has (contractually)
allowed theatre owners to degrade their copyright protected product by
diminishing the experience so dramatically.

As Radio has so painfully learned, the end result is a big fat Buh-bye!

To a large degree, this is  a zero sum game: The theatre chains losses are Best Buys’ gain; Is it any surprise that high quality home sound systems and large screen TV sales have gone through a ginormous growth spurt over the past 5 years? Even as the lowest common denominator productions falter, Netflix (and its rivals) allow home theater owners to enjoy a Long Tail orgy of DVD content. 

Yo, theatre owners, when a segment of retail electronics called HOME THEATRE explodes in sales, that is your wake up call. You seem to have been oblivous, and missed the bell ringing.

Good luck getting the toothepaste back in the tube!


UPDATE: July 25, 2005 7:37pm
At Slate, Edward Jay Epstein explains the numbers behind decreased attendance on increased revenue. Fascinating stuff . . .


UPDATE II: August 30, 2005 12:07pm
A weekend NYT article, titled Summer Fading, Hollywood Sees Fizzle quotes an exec as blaming the quality of flicks:

"Part of this is the fact that the movies may not have lived up to the
expectations of the audience, not just in this year, but in years prior," said
Michael Lynton, chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, which had some flops
this summer, including the science fiction action movie "Stealth"
and the romantic comedy "Bewitched."
"Audiences have gotten smart to the marketing, and they can smell the good ones
from the bad ones at a distance."



Now Playing: A Glut Of Ads
The Big Picture
Patrick Goldstein
L. A. Times, July 12, 2005,1,35978.story

Lefstz Letter
June 5, 2005
(complete sourcing below)

Summer Fading, Hollywood Sees Fizzle
NYTimes, August 24, 2005


Continue to see Lefsetz’ readers critique of the theater experience . . .


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