Theaters Resist Change, Spell Own Doom

December 29, in Business

Well, folks, you know I’ve been of the mind for the last couple years now that the theater as we know it is a  doomed industry. Without serious changes in terms of the value they provide, they will be relegated to the dust heap of history alongside the buggy whip in favor of the steadily improving home theater.

And the theaters are not taking this news sitting down.  They’re getting downright Soprano about the whole business.

Maybe you didn’t hear this story a month ago–it seems to have only recently come to light–about how Sony was planning to shrink the “window” between the theatrical release of its animated family comedy Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, and its DVD release by offering up, a month earlier, a special downloadable version for owners of Sony television sets with internet capability.

Several major chains responded by pulling the film early.

You might wonder why theaters would stop showing a movie everyone wanted to see before they were literally forbidden from seeing it–well, this accomplishes two tasks.  One, it chokes off money to Sony.  If theaters don’t show the film, no one buys tickets, if no one buys tickets, Sony gets no money.  Two, it sends a message, in that grand Sopranos style:

Luca Brazzi sleeps with…oh wait, wrong gangster.  I mean, if you want to keep making money don’t screw around with our release dates.

The theaters, give them credit, aren’t stupid.  They know that people would cheerfully watch all their favorite movies at home if they could, and pretty much count on first-mover advantage to make any money at all these days.  And if Sony starts making things available on home formats too soon, what will be the point of going to the theater?  Sure, you won’t see it when it comes out, people will think, but it’s just a month’s wait.  Why bother paying triple or more what it costs to see it at home?

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