Ah, Hollywood. Where the magic happens.
And by "magic," we usually mean overpriced crap homogenized to death by market studies. It turns out the dream factory that is the film industry is a business after all, and one with the kind of greed that puts Microsoft to shame.
Here are five of the new, innovative ways that they're screwing us over.
#5. Double-Dipping DVDs
There are sometimes genuinely good reasons to issue a special edition DVD. The technology has improved, so there's no question DVDs released today often have image quality that was almost unthinkable when the format first appeared. So we're always happy for a cleaned-up edition, especially if the original was released back in the early days of the format when you considered it a special feature if you got a plastic DVD case instead of a cardboard one.
More often than not, though, studios will rerelease for any goddamn thing, often tacking on just enough "extras" to give them an excuse to slap on a new cover with a gold or silver bar at the top. A prime offender is Sony Home Video, which apparently can't be bothered to rerelease classic films like The Shop Around the Corner or His Girl Friday but are more than happy to crap out four different editions of Resident Evil.
This movie has been released on DVD more times than Citizen Kane.
Better Get Used to it...
As the profits continue to shift from theatrical to the home market, studios will keep finding reasons to do this. It doesn't help that we keep buying them, apparently on the wistful hope that a new picture on the cover will somehow make Resident Evil something other than terrible.
Just to rub it in our faces, a Miramax exec admitted they intentionally put out separate DVDs for each of the two Kill Bill volumes, saying:
"'Vol. 1' goes out, 'Vol. 2' goes out, then 'Vol. 1 Special Edition,' 'Vol. 2 Special Edition,' the two-pack, then the Tarantino collection as a boxed set for Christmas," he said. "It's called multiple bites at the apple."
Multiple bites. That Resident Evil "apple" must be a freakin' core by now.
#4. Ads in Front of Movies
Television has had a long-standing unspoken agreement with the viewer: It shows you programs you like, and you in return ignore the ads that interrupt your enjoyment to go to the bathroom, flip around or--these days--fast-forward through them.
Advertisers have never been happy with that "ignore" part of the equation, and one day some enterprising ad executive looked at movie theater, saw how all of the viewers are basically forced to watch whatever comes on the screen with no option to change the channel, and came up with a truly evil idea.
"They're like a bunch of prisoners..."
They'd take the same ads you found too annoying to watch on TV, and project them in the theater! No changing the channel or fast-forwarding, and you often can't get up without fear of losing your seat. This would be the same seat you paid ten bucks for.
Theater chains were happy to take the money, figuring a little annoyance of their loyal customers was more than worth it to add another revenue stream.
Better Get Used to it...
And what a revenue stream it is. They've now got about 400 million reasons a year to keep running the ads, and that number is growing fast. Some markets have fifteen minutes worth of ads before the trailers (which are, you know, more ads).
The biggest chains (Regal Cinemas, Cinemark and AMC) have actually teamed up to form National CineMedia to maximize the sweet, sweet ad revenue. The only thing left is to stop the movie half way through so they can run more ads.
Now, in case you thought we were trying to make the theaters out to be the bad guys in this situation, one reason they got on board with this was due to...
#3. Hollywood Squeezing Theaters for Every Dime
Hollywood has the major theater chains over a barrel, and they've been going all Deliverance on them for about two decades now. Pretty much every single thing you hate about the movie-going experience that doesn't involve some jerk on his cell phone can be attributed to this prison-bitch relationship dynamic.
This is why popcorn is like seven bucks a box. Yes ticket prices are ridiculous, but the movie theaters have to forward most of that money on to the studios.
A typical Hollywood executive.
The way it works is the studios have front-loaded deals, so that for the first weekend, up to 75% of box office has to be paid to the studio (Star Wars: Episode I infamously demanded 90% up front). Then each weekend thereafter it drops 10% (meaning the theater gets to keep more of the money as the movie plays).
You see why it's a terrible deal when you realize movies make most of their money in the first couple of weeks. So the studio cashes in during that early period when fans are seeing it based on the awesome trailer, and then the theaters are left with the crumbs when word of mouth informs everyone it's a turdburger.
Better Get Used to it...
As DVD sales have risen, theater attendance has sunk like a rock. So they have to keep afloat somehow, and that means inflated concession prices, the aforementioned commercials and those stupid slides before the movie starts. (See chart)
And through all of that, the studios still have all of the power in the relationship. Their product (that is, the movies) is the only thing that gets people into theaters. The chains don't have much choice but to sign the deal and go scraping for revenue elsewhere. They get screwed, so the theaters have no one left to screw but you, the customer, forming one big daisy-chain of screwing.
Which is exactly the sort of thing you'll never see on screen, thanks to...