Diego Basualto did what many other movie aficionados find themselves doing: buying an expanded DVD of a movie he already owns.
He recently bought “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” for a second time because the new version was a double-disc edition with extra features like a documentary and David Bowie songs sung by the Brazilian Seu Jorge not included on the single-disc release.
Director Wes Anderson’s movie, which starred Bill Murray and Owen Wilson, grossed only $24 million at the box office, but like other films it has prospered in home release.
Theater box office revenue was down 12 percent in 2005, but Hollywood has come up with new ways to turn a profit, increasingly involving the DVD market.
But even as consumers are buying the DVDs, they don’t always like the marketing behind the releases.
I don’t think it’s really fair, Basualto said of the second DVD as he walked toward the checkout counter of the Virgin Megastore in Times Square. I usually don’t listen to the director’s commentaries, but I do watch the extra features. I think it’s fair if you put out both versions at the same time so you give the fan a chance to buy the special edition, and the guy who just wants the movie, the regular edition.
The traditional timeline in Hollywood begins with a hit movie playing in theaters for six weeks or more, followed by the DVD release two to four months later. After DVD sales have peaked, the movie runs on a pay cable channel like HBO and eventually on free television.
Adam Glass, a Hollywood writer and producer, said of the marketing, How many times can you flip the same thing and make cash off of it? Look at Wedding Crashers. That movie made $200 million and then made another $100 something million overseas, then they make a TV deal for like $75 or $100 million, then they go to DVD and make another $100 million.
If heavyweight director Steven Soderbergh, who directed Ocean’s Eleven and Erin Brockovich, has his way, Hollywood’s profitable timeline is about to be turned on its head. Soderbergh recently became the first director to release a film in three formats at about the same time. His latest movie, Bubble, a $1.6 million crime drama starring nonactors, was released on Jan. 27 to critical acclaim in the Landmark theater chain and on high-definition cable, and the DVD became available on Jan. 31.
Although Bubble only played on 32 screens and grossed $70,664 during its opening weekend, its backers, Magnolia Pictures, consider the three-pronged release a success. A Magnolia press release said orders for the DVD had been four times greater than expected.
Soderbergh’s experiment could have lasting effects on the film industry, with Time magazine even titling a Jan. 23 article on Bubble, Let the Revolution Begin.
Glass said a lot of people in the movie business were unhappy with Soderbergh’s experiment. They feel like it’s too much and its going to mess things up. Studios don’t want that. If you blow your load all on one shot, you might not make all that money.”
Originally launched in 1997, the DVD Video Group, a nonprofit trade consortium dedicated to promoting DVDs and videos, is credited with helping make DVDs the most quickly adopted consumer electronics product.
In January of 2000, the group re-chartered as the DVD Entertainment Group (DEG) and it provides updated information to the media and the retail trade about DVD, video and audio players, movies and music videos.
Movies are being rushed out a lot quicker, said Amy Jo Smith, DEG executive director. It’s called the window, and the window is shrinking. The real film or TV lover is so excited to get this DVD, they put it out as fast as they can and don’t put any added features on it.
Smith explained that an expanded DVD “takes time to add features so they can release it at a later date for those who want to wait, or those who want to buy it again. The way that films are marketed now, there’s a synergy between the theatrical and the home video release. They bounce off of each other.
Not all movie lovers feel the same way. Richard Duffy said he felt duped when he bought the initial release of Sin City, which contained a behind-the-scenes feature, and then ended up buying a second DVD three months later with a longer cut of the film and many more extras.
It can be frustrating, but with a lot of movies now I just expect it to happen, Duffy said. I’m sure when ‘King Kong’ comes out on DVD I’ll probably wait a month or two and get the special edition.
Glass said, It’s up to the consumer to choose what they want to do”
Film studios “are not putting a gun to anybody’s head saying, Buy this!’ It’s like back when we were kids with sneakers and you get the new Nikes or Keds, then they come out next year with the new Air Jordans. When does it come to a point where its like, OK, what I have is good enough?’
– Mark Allwood – Columbia News Service