Movie Studios Add Another Window: The $30 Dollar Rental

from the please-be-an-april-fools-joke dept

btr1701 points us to a report from Thursday's (not April Fool's Day) Variety, which claims that the movie studios are getting ready to offer $30 dollar per movie Video On Demand (VOD) offerings. This is a classically short-sighted Hollywood-type of solution. Over the past few years, the big movie studios have become even more enamored than ever with the concept of release "windows," in which they offer movies on different platforms/formats at different times. Rather than moving in the other direction, towards so-called "day and date" releases that offer up movies on all platforms at once, they're trying to make the whole thing more frustrating and annoying for customers by spreading things out and offering more windows.

This explains the recent efforts to delay various movie rental releases and the whole plan to break your DVR/TV so that you can't actually record certain VOD showings. Now that they have these in place, apparently they think the answer is to offer this new window, between theater showings and when you can rent from Netflix or your video store of choice, in which they somehow think people will be okay paying $30 per movie.

It kind of makes me wonder what they're pumping into the air down in Hollywood.

I'm sure their argument is that since a "whole family" or a group of folks can watch the film, it's more cost reasonable, and they'll argue that the release -- closer to the theater release -- makes it worth the extra money. This, however, assumes that consumers are stupid, and I think Hollywood may quickly discover that consumers aren't quite as stupid as the studio execs think. Of course, even more amusing is that the theater owners -- who have always fought any attempt to do releases close to the theatrical release, are freaking out about this. I doubt they have much to worry about.

The report notes that Paramount has chosen not to join in this scheme, suggesting that it's worried about how this might increase piracy. I'm not sure if that's true. After all, Paramount is the one studio that has publicly said that those 28 day rental delays didn't make any sense and that it didn't drive customers to buy DVDs. So maybe the folks at Paramount actually realize that consumers don't want more windows and more ridiculous price points...

Of course, at the very same time that Hollywood is going down this ridiculous path, others are urging them to go in the other direction. TorrentFreak has a post about a UK movie reviewer's simple and clear explanation for why the studios should offer day and date releases:


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2011 @ 9:59am

    I think you sort of have to re-name things to understand them better.

    The theater "release" is in fact a retail pre-release. The comparative scarcity of theaters and seats in them means that they can charge more for them. Then they move to PPV previews, which are still scarce because many people don't have access to PPV or want to use that sort of system.

    Finally, the movie is actually released at retail, which is it's official release.

    They are selling the scarce. Windowing is just another way of defining scarcity.

     

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  2.  
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    Jake, Apr 1st, 2011 @ 10:00am

    Sheesh. I knew cocaine was getting pretty mainstream in the entertainment industry, but has it really become so mainstream that they're doing it in meetings now?

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2011 @ 10:03am

    Re:

    Best April 1st joke on this site!

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2011 @ 10:04am

    This, however, assumes that consumers are stupid, and I think Hollywood may quickly discover that consumers aren't quite as stupid as the studio execs think.


    Mike, I think you're forgetting a little thing called "Barnum's Law":

    "You will never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."

     

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  5.  
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    Jay (profile), Apr 1st, 2011 @ 10:06am

    Re:

    But it's an artificial scarcity when it's supposedly done to increase revenue. Look at why the Big Boys have windows and then wonder why a uplink like Avatar takes so long to get to DVD.

    There's really nothing to say that a DVD can't be made and cut on the first day of a movie's release.

     

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  6.  
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    Greevar (profile), Apr 1st, 2011 @ 10:14am

    Re:

    "The theater "release" is in fact a retail pre-release. The comparative scarcity of theaters and seats in them means that they can charge more for them. Then they move to PPV previews, which are still scarce because many people don't have access to PPV or want to use that sort of system."

    It's fun to make up fake definitions to prove your indefensible points isn't it? Theater seats are scarce and have a certain supply and demand effect applied to them. However, PPV isn't scarce because not everyone has access. That's a complete non sequitur. Lack of access to or a refusal to utilize a service does not make the served content "scarce".

    "They are selling the scarce. Windowing is just another way of defining scarcity."

    They are not selling the scarce goods, they are trying to put artificial barriers to content to make it appear scarce. There is no scarcity in what is easily copied and transmitted.

     

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  7.  
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    The Buzz Saw (profile), Apr 1st, 2011 @ 10:37am

    Hmmm

    I think you mean either "The 30 Dollar Rental" or "The $30 Rental".

     

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  8.  
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    John Doe, Apr 1st, 2011 @ 10:43am

    I have said it before

    As I have stated here before, they can implement all the release windows they want, delay Netflix releases for 28 days, whatever; it doesn't bother me. I just put the movie in my Netflix queue and I will eventually get to watch it. Its fine if they delay a movie as I have plenty other movies in the queue to keep me occupied until the movie is available.

     

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  9.  
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    The Buzz Saw (profile), Apr 1st, 2011 @ 10:44am

    Re: I have said it before

    I agree, but when you're a young hipster who has a dozen friends watching it RIGHT NOW, it is highly uncool to just wait for its release. :]

     

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  10.  
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    fogbugzd (profile), Apr 1st, 2011 @ 10:48am

    Re: Re: I have said it before

    >>but when you're a young hipster who has a dozen friends watching it RIGHT NOW, it is highly uncool to just wait for its release

    So that is when the young hipster hits bittorrent.

     

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  11.  
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    Kevin, Apr 1st, 2011 @ 10:52am

    Re:

    You don't actually believe that do you? Sheesh, and people think that we are the ones drinking the kool-aide.

     

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  12.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Apr 1st, 2011 @ 10:52am

    Re: Re: I have said it before

    "I agree, but when you're a young hipster who has a dozen friends watching it RIGHT NOW, it is highly uncool to just wait for its release. :]"

    That's true, but that young hipster is FAR more concerned with getting his skinny jeans to stop strangling his ape-nuggets to really care all that much....

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2011 @ 10:53am

    Re: Re: Re: I have said it before

    Bit-torrent is no main stream.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2011 @ 10:54am

    Re: Re:

    Ahh, Greevar, it isn't fake definitions. Until the movie makes it to DVD, it isn't released for sale. Until then, it's all pre-releases, previews, limited engagements, and other forms of "scarce" that Mike so grandly pushes.

    Almost all scarcity is artificial, limited by something that can be changed by man. In our lives, almost everything we have isn't scarce at all, but made scarce by marketing, promotion, or distribution.

    Manufactures choose to make a limited number of something. It isn't scarce in reality, it is artificially scarce because they chose the point to stop at.

    Real scarcity comes in unique objects (say like a painting). Other people can replicate it within reason, you can make lithos of it, whatever, but you cannot have more than the 1 original, something truly scarce.

    (original post may or may not be an April fools joke... the point remains: windowing is just scarcity by another name).

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2011 @ 11:08am

    Here's a bit of reality for Hollydud. I don't care when they release their movies. I don't care when they are going to schedule it to show at some movie house or if they decide special viewings need to charge more.

    I won't be going to the movie theater, which has turned into a big rip off with terrible viewer experiences. I won't be going to these "special showings". Both are far over priced for today's economy.

    I have over time realized that there are only 2 or 3 movies released every year actually worth my time to watch. Other than that, I find that seeing one is a waste of time and I always leave wanting my money back as it felt like a ripoff from start to finish.

    Being continually dissatisfied, I have learned that movies are like the music albums of yesteryear. Most of it is total crap and it's not worth the time nor money to bother.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2011 @ 11:15am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Quote:
    Manufactures choose to make a limited number of something. It isn't scarce in reality, it is artificially scarce because they chose the point to stop at.


    And if another guy takes upon himself to produce more that manufacture can do nothing about it.

    There is artificial scarcity only in monopolies, that is why they are so bad, it decreases the quality of products and raises the price for consumption.

    That is why copyright is so dumb, even more so because it can't even be properly enforced.

    Doubt?

    I will copy a DVD right now please stop me.

     

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  17.  
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    Paul (profile), Apr 1st, 2011 @ 11:18am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Let me propose a definition of "scarce" for you. Anything finite that cannot be trivially replicated is scarce. A thing that is not scarce is one that I can trivially and without significant cost to me replicate so I have the thing and you get a indistinguishable-from-the-original version of the thing.

    By this definition, digital information is nearly never scarce. I trivially and without measurable cost to myself give you an exact copy of a movie or a song without reducing my inventory of movies and songs.

    If I make 100 DVDs, they are scarce. If I have 1000 theater seats, they are scarce. But a movie, the information, the content, is never scarce, because I *can* give THAT away (via sharing a file) in a way that doesn't reduce what I myself have.

    Just because the information isn't scarce doesn't mean I as a owner *have* to share it. But I can, and it isn't scarce by definition.

    There is another word that might confuse you, and that word is "rare". Something that is rare is something that is hard to find or acquire. If a movie owner manages to keep control of the content of a movie, then they might make the movie rare, and because it is rare, they can charge more for access to the movie.

    But just because they owner manages to make a movie rare, does not mean that the content, the information, is scarce.

    It isn't any harder than that.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2011 @ 11:19am

    It's pretty stupid because if I think the movie is going to be good, I'll rush down to the theatre to see it on the big screen. And I'm a sucker for 3D.
    And if I doesn't seem special, I wait around and see if it looks worth the money to try it out on a tv.

     

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  19.  
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    Dave from Canada, Apr 1st, 2011 @ 11:24am

    Microeconomic Theory

    It's been 20 years since I took economics at university so I might have mixed a few things up, but I seem to recall that basic microeconomics stated that a company maximizes revenue by selling their widget to each person at the maximum price each person will pay. My thought is that the studios think that most people won't care about the extra window (like John Doe #8) and that even if only a relatively few people pay the $30 they increase revenue.

    I don't think most of the "families" they mention in the article will see the benefit of paying a $25 premium to watch a movie on DVD a few weeks earlier than they normally would be able to.

    About the only time I could see myself doing this would be if my kids were having a birthday party and they wanted to see a movie that was JUST RELEASED at the theatres. $30 would be a HUGE savings over the $150 I recently paid to have them bring their friends to the theatre and pay for refreshments. Of course, if the window starts 2 months after theatrical release my kids would think this was lame since all of their friends would have already seen the movie.

     

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  20.  
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    aaron, Apr 1st, 2011 @ 11:26am

    you are not taking into account how much it costs a family of 4 to go to the theaters....this is going to fly just watch....

     

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  21.  
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    cjstg (profile), Apr 1st, 2011 @ 11:32am

    mr. barnum speaks

    ok, so they release it early for $30. so what? they will either make money or they won't. this is one area where the distributors have control and are welcome to it. i am not annoyed, but rather amused at the hoopla. folks, this is entertainment, not news and not public policy. if it annoys you that a distributor is doing this then just don't watch their movies.

     

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  22.  
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    CommonSense (profile), Apr 1st, 2011 @ 11:47am

    Re: I have said it before

    I totally agree. And if they delay it long enough, it may actually get delayed right out of my memory and NOT into my Netflix queue... I'm sure that's their end goal though, that you'll either watch it in the theater or not at all...

     

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  23.  
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    dad, Apr 1st, 2011 @ 11:52am

    If a movie is or seems good people will see it in a theater, people still need some place to take a date, I think the best thing for them to do is spend their time making a good movie. They will make money.

     

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  24.  
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    Hoeppner, Apr 1st, 2011 @ 11:55am

    I actually support hollywood and its release window strategy. It's their freedom to do so.

    I even think it's reasonable for studios to be concerned about piracy from pay per view. After all you're piping a stream into someone's house, after they get it there they can do as they please with it(including hardware copy)(which is why I always laugh at traditional media DRM, since it eventually needs to be output in a standard format).

    As a consumer I'm just annoyed that the release windows get longer than a few weeks or a month. It doesn't even make business sense to have such a long release window since you lose all the publicity momentum from the theatrical release.

     

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  25.  
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    DH's Love Child (profile), Apr 1st, 2011 @ 12:02pm

    Re:

    Um, not it won't. Ours is a family of 6 and we wouldn't pay $30 to watch a movie on PPV. If we didn't want to pay to watch it in a theater, we sure as hell aren't going to pay a premium to watch it on PPV, when we can wait and buy the damn DVD for less and watch it any number of times.

    There may be some instances where this would fly (like the party scenario previously described) but unless families already watch a lot of PPV (and we don't) I don't see this as an attractive alternative to just releasing the damn thing on DVD.

     

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  26.  
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    techie42 (profile), Apr 1st, 2011 @ 12:06pm

    until reality sets in...

    So what will happen when the kids pay for one $30 copy and then copy and upload it to the net 120 minutes after release?

    And it won't matter how much DRM it comes loaded with because it will be still easier to 'cam' and sync it off the 72" LCD TV then it would be to do it in the theater.

    And best yet no bouncing heads on the copy.

     

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  27.  
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    harbingerofdoom (profile), Apr 1st, 2011 @ 12:13pm

    Re:

    no way man.. you could only come up with this kinda crap after a really bad acid trip.

    coke heads would be pushing to get everything out fasterfasterfasterOMGITSNOTFASTENOUGH!FASTER!

     

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  28.  
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    Planespotter (profile), Apr 1st, 2011 @ 1:08pm

    Mark Kermode makes me proud to be British.

     

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  29.  
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    Phillip (profile), Apr 1st, 2011 @ 1:11pm

    Re: until reality sets in...

    This isn't even close to a real threat. You do realize that pretty much every movie is released online before it even hits theaters let alone 2 months later. Many of them are even dvd quality or better from advanced screeners. Nobody is going to cam a movie 2 months after it hits theaters.

     

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  30.  
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    aaron, Apr 1st, 2011 @ 1:27pm

    Re: Re:

    I work as a tech for a cable company ...you would be blown away by how many people buy ppv...people are willing to pay 65 dollars for a 3 hour fight....why would they not pay 30 for a movie that isnt out yet that they really want to see?

     

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  31.  
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    Dan, Apr 1st, 2011 @ 1:55pm

    all I know for sure is that they won't be getting my money.

     

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  32.  
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    CommonSense (profile), Apr 1st, 2011 @ 1:55pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Because the fight won't be on again every weekend for the next 6 months, whereas if you wait a little bit longer for the movie, it will be.

    Also, my friend would order PPV fights, and then have a viewing party where if people wanted to help him pay for the fight, they could. If people want to overpay for a movie, they go to the theater to see it, not over to someone else's house.

     

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  33.  
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    Atkray (profile), Apr 1st, 2011 @ 2:58pm

    Re: Re: I have said it before

    Give the young hipster a projector and surround sound set up, hook up a couple gaming consoles, the time delay for Netflix become trivial. The friends will wait to watch it or they all go to the dollar theater.

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2011 @ 4:16pm

    "So maybe the folks at Paramount actually realize that consumers don't want more windows and more ridiculous price points"

    Says the guy that charges $15/year to access his early release window called the Crystal Ball. Genius.

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2011 @ 6:08pm

    Re:

    At leasst he has one thing the entire industry lacks today.

    Goodwill of his fans.

    Doubt?

    Go to any corner and ask people what they thing about studios and labels and you see what I mean.

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2011 @ 9:15pm

    Re: Re:

    Have the studios and labels themselves ever had fans? People might be fans of movies and music but not so much fans of the studios. Movies and music also have the goodwill of their fans. Like the Crystal Ball is not for me, the so called $30 dollar rental is not for you. Why do you have to be a whiny bitch about it?

    Don't like it? Then don't buy, simple. No crying necessary.

     

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  37.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2011 @ 11:02pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "hh, Greevar, it isn't fake definitions. Until the movie makes it to DVD, it isn't released for sale. Until then, it's all pre-releases, previews, limited engagements, and other forms of "scarce" that Mike so grandly pushes.

    Almost all scarcity is artificial, limited by something that can be changed by man. In our lives, almost everything we have isn't scarce at all, but made scarce by marketing, promotion, or distribution.

    Manufactures choose to make a limited number of something. It isn't scarce in reality, it is artificially scarce because they chose the point to stop at.

    Real scarcity comes in unique objects (say like a painting). Other people can replicate it within reason, you can make lithos of it, whatever, but you cannot have more than the 1 original, something truly scarce.

    (original post may or may not be an April fools joke... the point remains: windowing is just scarcity by another name)."





    wow, this whole post just makes me sick to my stomach. From the "Ah Greevar...... lets just be friends" at the beginning to the flippant "original post may or may not be an April fools joke..." bullshit ending.

    What's my point? Oh, who really cares.... because the humans with agendas are gonna try to keep on pushing them... and the humans without agendas are gonna keep on reminding them that they are full of shit.

     

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  38.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2011 @ 11:23pm

    Re:

    r u callin me stoopid!

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2011 @ 11:37pm

    Re: Re: I have said it before

    amen brother! (side note: not a christian.... pretty toaist right here)

     

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  40.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2011 @ 11:39pm

    Re: Re: Re: I have said it before

    really pretty drunk.... or i could spell taoist correctly

     

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  41.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2011 @ 12:04am

    Re: Microeconomic Theory

    I totally agree. The first time I've bought a brand new dvd (machete) in years is the movie night I had after setting up my home theater system just to make sure everyone had a good time.

    After that, I realized it doesn't matter what's showing...

    its all about having a good time. I realize now that I can wait for entertainment to hit my price point (still pissed off I spent $22 dollars on a non-widescreen dvd). Which is not what I want a consumer..... Give me what I want! Stop trying to control your customers MPAA/RIAA. It just makes good business sense.

     

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  42.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2011 @ 12:12am

    Re: mr. barnum speaks

    or watch their movie.... the internet is a awesome at distribution. If the current producers don't make money....meh. There is always someone waiting around the corner that figures out a way to make money from the current paradigm. It's all good.

     

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  43.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2011 @ 12:56am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "the so called $30 dollar rental is not for you. Why do you have to be a whiny bitch about it?

    Don't like it? Then don't buy, simple. No crying necessary."



    Yep, I don't think many techdirt readers will buy it. What most of the community wants is for content producers to realize that the internet has changed the game and if they want to make money they have to change their game.

    Making money from giving consumers what they want is plain and simply capitalism. Forcing consumers to pay (through crap business models and bullshit laws) is plainly a loosing strategy....... just sayin

     

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  44.  
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    gilroy0 (profile), Apr 2nd, 2011 @ 5:03am

    not quite

    Your line
    This, however, assumes that consumers are stupid, and I think Hollywood may quickly discover that consumers aren't quite as stupid as the studio execs think.
    should read
    This, however, assumes that consumers are stupid, and I think Hollywood may quickly discover that consumers aren't quite as stupid as the studio execs are.

     

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  45.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2011 @ 10:34am

    Re: Re: Re:

    You read my mind, they will never see a dime from me, if they only stopped crying about piracy, that would be great, or if they stopped trying to reduce my civil liberties I would also appreciate.

     

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  46.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2011 @ 1:20pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "the so called $30 dollar rental is not for you. Why do you have to be a whiny bitch about it?"

    Nobody is being whiny.

    It is simply alarming to see the industry moving in exactly the opposite direction from what would make sense.
    It is yet more evidence that they are as far as ever from getting a clue, which means yet more time to be wasted and much more taxpayer expense trying to enforce the unenforceable, along with the likely continuance and increase of the trampling of the fundamental rights of us all.

     

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  47.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2011 @ 3:17pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    No one is forcing anything on you. I don't like the offer so I won't take, I am not forced to do anything. All you have to do is speak with your dollars (or not in this case).

     

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  48.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2011 @ 3:20pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "which means yet more time to be wasted and much more taxpayer expense trying to enforce the unenforceable, along with the likely continuance and increase of the trampling of the fundamental rights of us all"

    How have you personally been affected by what you call trampling of you fundamental rights? Please explain which of your personal rights have been trampled.

     

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  49.  
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    PaulT (profile), Apr 2nd, 2011 @ 3:54pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "people are willing to pay 65 dollars for a 3 hour fight"

    Because the flight actually does something useful outside of the 3 hour duration, perhaps? Unless I'm wrong, most people don't fly unless they want to get somewhere to do something...

    "why would they not pay 30 for a movie that isnt out yet that they really want to see?"

    Because it will be a lot cheaper to wat a few months and get the DVD, which can be watched as many times as desired, exchanged or even sold on for a small return on investment? Because they recognise that "not out yet" is an artificial marketing strategy designed to get as much money as possible from people, not something that's actually necessary? Because they've been ripped off so many times by poor movies that they'd rather wait?

    I also wonder: when you say a lot of people buy PPV, is that movies, or other events that are best watched live such as sports? If movies, what price are they paying, and what makes you think they'll happily pay the extra?

     

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  50.  
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    PaulT (profile), Apr 2nd, 2011 @ 4:02pm

    Re:

    Seconded. I disagree with him sometimes (I despise the Twilight franchise but liked the first Pirates movie, for example), but he speaks his mind and respects genre cinema. Two things sadly lacking from a lot of mainstream critics.

     

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  51.  
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    SteelWolf (profile), Apr 4th, 2011 @ 7:23am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: I have said it before

    Wouldn't that make it indie, and therefore hipster? ;)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2011 @ 9:00am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    LOL. I read flight too. (Its fight..)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  53.  
    icon
    Jojoyojimbi (profile), Apr 5th, 2011 @ 6:10am

    Movie Studios are stupid

    If they want to charge me $30 to watch the movie at home GREAT! I'll save $10 on popcorn, $10 on Soda and I'll invite 10 people over too who will also save at least $20 each making the movie a total net savings of at least $200!

    Then I'll charge them $5 for popcorn and $5 for sodas and I'll make 70 bucks a movie!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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