An article that everyone who cares about DVD should read

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Michael Reuben, Nov 16, 2004.

  1. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    The New York Times magazine for Sunday, Nov. 14, 2004, focused on Hollywood and included an article by John Gertner called "Box Office in a Box". It's essential reading for anyone interested in the current state and future prospects of the DVD format. It can be found at the NYT website, currently for free (although registration is required):

    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/14/movies/14DVD.html

    HTF's good friend Peter Staddon of Fox Home Video is featured prominently in the article, along with other notable figures in the field (including Warren Lieberfarb, formerly of Warner). Here's a sample of some of the points covered in the article:
    • Every Tuesday, Mr. Staddon and Mike Dunn (Pres. of Fox Home Video) leave their offices and visit Best Buy, Target, Costco and Wal-Mart to get a first-hand look at how the merchandise is moving.
    • DVD is now such an important source of revenue for studios that one studio refers to it as "the corporate A.T.M. machine".
    • At Fox (and presumably at other studios), the home video division is asked to project the revenues from DVD sales as part of the process of greenlighting a film!
    • Certain stars who can't guarantee big box office can still guarantee big DVD sales. They include Denzel Washington, Will Farrell and the current king of DVD . . . Gene Hackman.
    • DVD has become so important to the TV division at Fox that they're asking for the home video division's input at the script level (can the movie division be far behind?).
    • The Fight Club DVD was a landmark that changed the industry's perception of what a DVD could accomplish, both for filmmakers and for the bottom line..
    • The lead time on producing a DVD is much longer than people imagine. I, Robot streets on Dec. 14, but work on the DVD began two years earlier, and work on the disc content had to be completed by Labor Day.
    • The current output of major features, catalogue titles and TV on DVD has so filled the distribution channel that newer arthouse titles may get pushed aside in the future.
    • The future of more personal filmmaking may belong to independent outfits like Palm Pictures, with a heavy emphasis on digital cinema.
    As our DVD reviewers like to say: Highly recommended.

    M.
     
  2. Reagan

    Reagan Supporting Actor

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    It is a great article. Most interesting is the spectre of WalMart - something I had never previously paid much attention to.

    -Reagan
     
  3. Cees Alons

    Cees Alons Moderator
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    Excellent article! Very interesting to realize these things.
    Thanks for the link Michael.


    Cees
     
  4. Kevin M

    Kevin M Producer

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    I do not wish to sign up for NYT so I'll ask, what exactly does "The Fight Club DVD was a landmark that changed the industry's perception of what a DVD could accomplish, both for filmmakers and for the bottom line.." mean? I think I understand what it is referring to (probably that the film was not a huge hit in theaters but the DVD was a smash success on many fronts, I.E. sales, artistic etc. etc.) but I would like to know what exactly they said.
     
  5. Jean D

    Jean D Screenwriter

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    I am also curious as Kevin is, and also as lazy. [​IMG] Do tell.
     
  6. Elijah Sullivan

    Elijah Sullivan Supporting Actor

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    Well, I don't want to cut and paste whole sections of the article -- out of respect for the Times -- but I can relate the gist of it to you.

    It said that Fight Club is the revolutionary disc that changed the way people treated DVD. Directors weren't very interested in DVD when it first came to market, but after the care given to the Fight Club DVD, they realised that DVDs were a "new creative form, an opportunity not just for economic redemption... but for artistic redemption as well." They mention that Entertainment Weekly gave the film itself a grade D but rated the disc as the No. 1 DVD everyone should own.

    Honestly, though, it only took me about thirty seconds to register to read the article. It's worth it -- seven pages of good reading.

    That bit about Wal-Mart kindof spooked me. What do you guys think they meant by nobody wanting to talk about their dealings with Wal-Mart? Yet it's got that huge piece of the market... do I smell a hint of Faust in this deal? The article didn't draw conclusions, but it made me suspicious enough that I'm never buying a DVD at Wal-Mart again. Any comments?
     
  7. GeorgePaul

    GeorgePaul Second Unit

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    My understanding, Elijah, was that although directors see great potential for artistic redemption for their films in the DVD format--perhaps even to the point where we might be able to buy the Donner cut of "Superman II" or even Tony Kaye's director's cut of "American History X" in the future--Wal-Mart's huge market share could compromise that quest. The chain has already refused to stock certain explicit CD releases on its shelves, and Wal-Mart's refusal to stock a DVD it deems "too explicit" would have an immediate chilling effect on the industry.
     
  8. Jay Mitchosky

    Jay Mitchosky Producer

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    [​IMG]

    Is it any wonder why Fox figures so prominently in the home video arena?

    The whole Wal-Mart thing pisses me off, however.
     
  9. Glenn Overholt

    Glenn Overholt Producer

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    Wal Mart has such a huge cut of their sales that they actually have a say in the DVD production.
    The rest of the highlights really didn't impress me. I knew most of it, and the rest I didn't care about.

    It does lead me to think just how disfunctional the studios are, though. Sure, huge hits come out, but also films that really didn't do so well at the box office, and I don't mean the current releases, but the older ones.

    Now that TV on DVD is such a big item, we all know that fewer movies are coming out. Does this mean that the studios are just about done putting out movies? Are they just stretching out their balance? A balance that will just stop when HD/Blu-ray comes out? (That's only so they can start all over again). Are we to believe that anything not on their 'lists' now just won't ever happen?

    Maybe this is all Wal Mart's doing. They'd rather stock the TV shows.

    Glenn
     
  10. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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  11. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    Once again, I see no reason to bash Wal-Mart or their doings. As "evil" as they are, I'm sure they've got brains over there (at WM) who can see that their "rules" aren't always going to make them the most money. It would seem they now understand that people wanted "unrated" material. They use to not carry this but this past year alone we've seen various unrated titles get into the store. LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, BAD SANTA, DAWN OF THE DEAD and various others were released there unrated.

    I'm sure the Wal-Mart brains know several customers can't understand a duel sided disc so I don't see them wanting DVD out of the way for HD-DVD, which could be two formats. Could you imagine the return lines? If these two formats crash and burn then it will probably be because of the studios need for more money.

    As for what sells, it's no shock that "cool" titles sell. If the studios would simply tell the public that 1901's WHAT HAPPENED ON 23rd STREET, NYC was "cool" then it would probably sell 10 million copies as well. As with Fox, I get a huge kick at watching people shop for DVDs and it's rather amazing how a lot of people simply buy the new releases even if they haven't heard of them. It's amazing how many teenagers I've seen pick up a big name movie, say they saw it in theaters and talk about how badly it sucked. Then, buy the dang thing because "everyone else is".

    I hope Fox will change their Tuesday "looking" day to later in the week since it appears many of their Fox Classics and older releases didn't hit Best Buy until a week after release date and some titles like THE BOSTON STRANGLER didn't hit the shelf until a month later. I'd hate for these films not to get future releases because of something like this. However, I'm sure every studio understands that THE BOSTON STRANGLER isn't going to sell as many copies as I, ROBOT.
     
  12. GeorgePaul

    GeorgePaul Second Unit

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    I'm buying The Boston Strangler, but I will NOT be buying I, Robot (it's all about story and performances for me). Of course, the way online retailers like Deep Discount and Amazon are consistently underpricing even big box stores like Best Buy and Wal-Mart, I think the concern for the future of the DVD market is overblown.
     
  13. Travis Hedger

    Travis Hedger Supporting Actor

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    And just think some of these studios wanted Divx only releases.

    In regards to the Corporate ATM, if Divx was still around, me thinks that the ATM wouldn't be nearly as big. I am so glad that Divx died a painful and horrible death.

    I just hope that High Def DVD/BluRay won't muck up the eventual momentum.
     
  14. CraigF

    CraigF Cinematographer

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    It seems completely reasonable to me that a retailer, especially the largest retailer, should have a say in the product they sell. They have a say in their other products, so why not their DVD product. Nowadays, the large studios make movies according to formulae and what can be marketed, and if something fits the formula and sold well before, well, makes perfect sense to remake it and sell it again (works for Disney, though they just re-relese the same thing, even smarter). Don't have to like it. Movies are far better differentiated than TV programs are, which is just a continuous stream of copies of what worked yesterday; the exceptions stand out so much that I think that's partly why they get so highly rated (even when they're not really that good). So I don't see how having marketing input from the retailer is really any different than having (marketing) input from any other level of the movie-making process. Geez, it's pretty obvious lots of the actors are chosen by their popularity (marketing), as opposed to for their ability.

    The typical Wal-Mart in Canada my be different than in the U.S, I don't know, when in the U.S. I go to stores that we don't have here, but their DVD selection sounds a bit different. Here it is difficult to find the *rated* version of discs, they're often not carried. And around here at least, TV on DVD gets very little shelf space. WS is predominant. They get most of the classics sets. I have only found one "large" release disc that I think WM kind of "censored": Supersize Me. It just showed up in the WMs around here last week, and is out of the way on bottom shelves. Every WM I've been to in Canada has a McDonalds in it, and the local WM also has another McDs across the parking lot...I guess that doesn't say a lot about this town, they may not know what to eat but they know what discs to buy, and WM gives it to 'em.
     
  15. Casey Trowbridg

    Casey Trowbridg Lead Actor

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    I thought it was a great article and well worth the read, thanks for pointing it out Michael.
     
  16. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

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    I'm a big fan of commentaries and have noticed lately that many of them are actually recorded before the movie is even released to theaters. Several times in recent months I've heard commentators state that the film isn't even out in theaters yet as they record the commentary.

    I've heard that the Fox execs, most especially Rupert himself, were horrified when they first saw Fight Club. Ironic that that the dvd for that film ended up being so influential in changing their attitude toward the possibilities of the format.
     
  17. Kyle McKnight

    Kyle McKnight Cinematographer

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    Just a chime in for Fox here, I've got a couple shelves that are all Fox TV on DVD! They do it great!
     
  18. richardWI

    richardWI Second Unit

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    Yeah, the release date kept getting pushed back, partially because of Columbine, which re-ignited the tired debate in the media about the influence of violence in movies and the responsiblities of movie distributers. On a surface level the film seemed to promote random acts of violence and anarchy. The film would have been a very easy target for those looking for a scapegoat. It's a slight miracle that it eventually came out unmolested.
     
  19. alan halvorson

    alan halvorson Cinematographer

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    Link doesn't work for me.
     
  20. Jeff_HR

    Jeff_HR Producer

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    This is why I buy catalog titles almost exclusively. This so called formula results in BAD movies IMHO.
     

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