Hollywood’s Death Spiral

posted by Patrick Crowley on July 27, 2005 at 10:39 am

Slate’s Edward Jay Epstein has written a fascinating article about the “secret numbers” used within the film industry to track revenue from theatrical, DVD, and other releases.

Consider how earlier this year entertainment journalists rattled on for months about a slump in the American box office—“Box Office Slump In Its 19th Week”—as if it were a sporting event in which the Hollywood studios couldn’t get winning hits. The story would have been different if they had seen the data on Page 16 in the 2005 Three Month Revenue Report. (Click here for that page.) Instead of a box-office decline, the studios actually took in more from the U.S. box office in the first quarter of 2005 ($870.2 million) than they did in the similar period of 2004 ($797.1 million). So even though the total audience at movie theaters declined during this period, this came mainly at the expense of independent, foreign, and documentary movies. For the Hollywood studios (and their subsidaries), in fact, there was no slump at all.

If you want to understand the dynamic forces reshaping today’s film industry, this is required reading.

Comments (7)

Chris Utley
Chris Utley on July 27, 2005 at 9:14 pm

Each year the quality of movies has been getting worse and worse as the days go by. Slump or no slump, this is the worst movie year since I’ve been alive (I’m 32)! It’s a telling sign of the times when the #1 movie of the year (SW Episode 3) rates only a “B+”.

e4kbb on July 28, 2005 at 8:25 am

The comments toward the end of the story, about Hong Kong losing 70% of its movie audience when they cut the window between theatrical release and DVD, are scary for people wanting to restore historic theaters, let alone the general movie theater business.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on August 1, 2005 at 6:40 pm

… which, I should add, is titled:
“Hollywood’s Death Spiral, Part 2: Are movie theaters facing extinction?”

Theaterat on August 2, 2005 at 6:52 pm

Sequels, re makes tv into film, tv into film, remakes. Did I mention remakes- or tv into film?

Theaterat on August 2, 2005 at 6:56 pm

Sequels, re makes tv into film, tv into film, remakes. Did I mention remakes- or tv into film?While most of what Hollywood turns out is not exactly “Hiroshima Mon Amour” it seems that they just gave up on the adult- or mature audience.

vclamp on August 2, 2005 at 9:53 pm

I believe that the studios are already in violation of the 1938 & 1948 Supreme Court anti-trust rulings about their control over distribution of movies leveraging that to stifle competition for exhibition. Which is exactly what they are doing now by consistently selling DVDs so soon after the theatrical releases so as to motivate would be movie goers to wait for the video release. Any effort between studios to fix this mess would technically fall into an anti-trust issue, but it needs to be done. The bigger violation must be fixed. They would be better off seeking outside (government) legal oversight to avoid pitfalls and workout differences while there is still time.

With so many people and communities all across the country working to restore classic exhibition spaces, it would be prudent to make their efforts last a while.

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