Piracy has been a constant in all media industries for the last few years, with trade organizations complaining that it’s been cutting into their revenue. Yet for the last few years until 2011, despite all the MPAA’s furor over piracy, the movie industry has been having record sales with each year being better than the last.
Oddly enough, now that movie revenues have dropped a bit for 2011, analysts are not blaming piracy. A Chicago Tribune article sourced from CNN begins:
The curtain is falling on the worst year for Hollywood in recent memory.
The movie industry sold 1.28 billion tickets in North America in 2011, according to Hollywood.com, the lowest since 1995. That was good for $10.2 billion in box office revenue, down 3.5 percent from last year.
and goes on to credit it to “a weak economy and expanding home entertainment options” without ever once mentioning piracy.
(Wait a minute…revenues that still exceeded $10 billion dollars and were only down by 3.5% amount to ”the worst year in recent memory”? Say what?)
Movie critic Roger Ebert has his own analysis of why the revenue is off. His reasons include the lack of any real “must-see” blockbuster this year, costly ticket and concession prices, lackluster moviegoing experiences with annoying talkers and cell-phone users, competition from living-room delivery options, and lack of choice in available movies.
The message I get is that Americans love the movies as much as ever. It’s the theaters that are losing their charm. Proof: theaters thrive that police their audiences, show a variety of titles and emphasize value-added features. The rest of the industry can’t depend forever on blockbusters to bail it out.
Interestingly enough, the specter of higher price without necessarily higher value is also plaguing e-books. But unlike with movie theaters, all the people who write books that the big chains won’t take are able to get them directly to consumers via Amazon. While this is theoretically possible with movies and other recorded works (for example, via Youtube), and some folks like Louis C.K. are having success getting their works out that way, the high bandwidth costs of video delivery make that less of an option for most unless they can cut some kind of deal with Netflix or some other distributor.
E-books also face competition for attention by other forms of media, including free works on the Internet. and there have been a number of complaints about lackluster e-reading experiences as publishers are notoriously lax about proofreading and fixing typos. Hmm, perhaps Ebert’s analysis is even more universal than I’d thought.