Last night (as of this writing) we watched a highly reviewed movie that’s still in the theaters, but we watched it at home, in our own theater. Legally. And it cost us less than what we would have paid for one movie ticket.
The movie was Snowpiercer and it was terrific. The cost of the rental was $6.99 plus tax for a total of $7.51 through iTunes. With an Apple TV connected to our home theater setup it took just moments to rent and we were soon watching that movie in all its glory. My wife, our adult daughter, home for a visit, and I all enjoyed the movie for less than the price of one movie ticket. I’m also betting that the studio received more money from that download than they would have if we’d gone to the theater and paid close to ten dollars apiece for the same movie (distribution is expensive with every step taking a piece of the revenue. Apple’s iTunes takes thirty percent and the rest goes right in the studio’s pocket).
Many movie studios are stuck in some sort of Byzantine distribution and profit model. And they are missing out on collecting millions and millions of dollars while they whine about losses from piracy. Piracy isn’t the problem—it’s availability. For instance, this last year when the Academy Awards were announced and the list of Best Picture nominees was published we noted that we had seen only one of the nine picture nominated. We wanted to see all of them. Only one of the nominees was still in theaters. The other seven were unavailable. There was no way to legally watch the movies and give money to the studio.
Let me make this clear: these movies suddenly had a massive potential audience, a marketing boost worth millions of dollars, and there was no way to pay to see them. A few of them became available, eventually, on DVD before the awards ceremony, but not all. Why? It didn’t fit their distribution model, even though the model was causing them to miss out on a singular opportunity. Having your movie nominated as Best Picture is a pretty big opportunity. Why not sell a few more tickets?
Why are movie studios so stupid? I really wanted to give them some money to be able to see their movies. And, as with Snowpiercer, I would have happily handed over seven bucks or so per film to see them immediately.
Please, take my money.
But they have this fixed model in their business plans. Release to the theaters, then wait. Sell to the cable companies three months after the movie is out of the theaters for on-demand sales to cable companies. Three to six months out from that make available for sale, but not for rental. For rental, like Redbox, that’s another 30-90 days. And then maybe a sale to HBO or Showtime of another premium movie channel. A year or so after that sell it again to some other cable channels.
See? Simplicity itself.
The major studios are so locked into a model that insures that people will become less and less interested in their product and willing to pay less and less, and become more and more willing to search for it online somewhere that they can download it for free (yes, pirate the movie). Why? Because they believe that if they keep their product scarce then everyone on the planet would eventually pay them to see it.
They’re wrong about that.
My recommendation: release your movie just like Snowpiercer. Give it a week or so in theaters, then make it available on iTunes for rent and sale. Then, later, make it available on DVD/BluRay, and for rentals for a buck. Collect more money up front.
Oh, and for every other movie ever made, over one hundred years of cinema, please make them all available on iTunes or Netflix or somewhere. I’d happily pay you $1 each for lots and lots of movies. Not more than that, mind you. But one dollar per movie. The numbers tell us that someone, somewhere, will pay to watch the thousands and thousands of movies made over the last century.
And before we forget: all of television, too. All of the things that are making ZERO dollars right now could be making lots of money every month, just by making it all available online.
I want to give you money. So would nearly everyone else on the planet. You want to stomp out piracy? Make your movies available, now, inexpensively, everywhere. Collect the untold billions of dollars that we are begging you to take.
I hate the oil companies for gleefully squeezing more and more out of us and blaming it on “the market.” I hate the movie studios more for refusing to take the money I want to give them.
The future is bright, but being held back by the short-sighted, misguided media moguls. I hope that the next generation of them will better understand that there’s much more money to made. I’m made more hopeful by studios like RADiUS-TWC who have released Snowpiercer.
Note: I realize that not everyone has a purpose-designed-and-built home theater that is ideal for movie watching. Our experience of watching Snowpiercer in Cinema Murray is likely better than you’d experience in most commercial theaters. I know that the sound reproduction is better than nine out of ten theaters. And Snowpiercer is the type of movie that is best seen on a BIG screen with full and accurate surround sound. Watching it on a phone or tablet or laptop screen would be a shame. As of this writing it’s still in the theaters. If you don’t have an appropriate way to watch this at home, go out and see it. It’s really good.
Yes, watch movies at home, but please stop ruining your movie experiences by watching them on tiny screens and listening on crappy speakers!