Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Watch Hollywood Crater in a Single Sentence

DVD sales are collapsing, nearly as quickly as music sales did over the last decade.

It’s important to remember this whenever you see stories about Hollywood’s resurgence, measured by box office receipts. Because box office receipts don’t do that much for Hollywood’s bottom line–that’s the role of DVDs.

It’s also important to remember this when you see stories about Hollywood’s conniption fit over “windowing” and the lawsuit/hardball deal combo the studios have used with Redbox and Netflix (NFLX). Because the studios’ desire to wring every last penny from DVDs is what’s driving those moves.

Ditto for Hollywood’s desire for a 3-D boom: The studios are in desperate need of a new revenue stream to replace the disappearing discs.

So here’s the one-sentence story I promised, which illustrates the collapse. It comes via Edward Jay Epstein’s dissection of MGM’s blowup, published on Defamer (nice get!):

In the US alone, MGM’s net receipts from DVDs fell from $140 million in its 2007 fiscal year (which ended March 31, 2008) to just $30.4 million by 2010.

That clarifies things, no?

Yes, you can add plenty of caveats if you’d like. For instance, MGM has been more or less dormant except for its Bond films the last couple years, and studios rely on new releases to juice DVD sales. And the DVD slump hasn’t hit all studios equally–Disney (DIS) and DreamWorks Animation (DWA) have done less poorly, because parents still need to buy stuff to occupy their kids.

But that’s still a staggering 78 percent drop in a couple years. So even if you’re running a studio whose DVD sales don’t look that bad, you’re looking at plummeting sales. Scary stuff.


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Nobody was excited about paying top dollar for a movie about WikiLeaks. A film about the origins of Pets.com would have done better.

— Gitesh Pandya of BoxOfficeGuru.com comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”