| Main |

Stay-at-Home Consumers

(Los Angeles Times)

The Times is running a series of stories about technology's effect on how young people consume entertainment, and you can find the pieces (for a limited time only — that's our business model) here. The series is based on a poll we conducted with Bloomberg of minors and young adults between the ages of 12 and 24. The obvious shortcoming is that we don't have similar data for adults older than 24, which would have made for a nice baseline. Be that as it may, there are still plenty of interesting nuggets to ponder. One of my favorites: given the choice of watching a movie at home or going to a theater, assuming the DVD was available as soon as the movie hit the multiplexes, 54% of the 21- to 24-year-olds flatly said they'd rather see it at home. The percentage dropped steadily with each block of younger respondents. In all age groups, between a third and a half of the respondents said the answer would depend on the movie.

There's lots of ways to interpret the results. Here's mine. The magic of movie theaters wears off around the same time people get full-time jobs. Not that it should -- instead, theater owners have squandered it by relying far too much on being the only place to see a movie, rather than actively competing for viewers. They haven't focused on making the experience unique and better than the alternatives. Sure, we tend to be a nation of self-centered and boorish people, but I'm old enough to remember the days when a) there were ushers, and b) they weren't afraid to tell yakkers to shut up or leave. Eliminating the theaters' exclusive window would force them to get competitive again.

In a recent visit to the Times, John Fithian, head of the National Association of Theatre Owners, argued forcefully against eliminating his members' most important advantage. Without an exclusive window, he predicted, thousands of cinema screens would go dark, and moviegoing would become an expensive treat for the elite. Maybe so, but we're all just guessing here. His more persuasive argument was that movie piracy would increase because DVD-quality copies would be available even before a movie's premiere. Given how leaky the current DVD distribution system is -- pirates routinely post a bootlegged copy of the DVD weeks before its official release -- that's a real risk. But the other possibility is that legitimate consumption will expand because consumers will have more ways to satisfy the demand stimulated by Hollywood's marketing machine. The studios need to find out one way or another, and surveys won't provide the answer.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Stay-at-Home Consumers:


The comments to this entry are closed.

Our Blogger
Times editorial writer Jon Healey pens opinion pieces about a variety of business issues, and blogs about technologies that are changing the entertainment industry's business model.

Search this blog

Subscribe to this Blog - What is RSS?

Now Playing

Where I've Been Lately