by Joseph Weisenthal

Must Some Movies Fail Miserably Just So Others Can Be A Hit?

from the tournament-of-champions dept

The movie industry is understood to be a winner-take-all marketplace, as a few blockbusters typically grab the lion's share of box-office receipts, while the majority of films that get made fight it out for the scraps. One of the main reasons for this is the scarcity of screens. As word of mouth causes more people to go to a film, theaters start showing it on more screens, reducing the space for its competitors. The upshot is that even if you have several very good movies out at once, inherently they can't all do well. And the long tail? Forget about it. But the dynamics at play in the film industry are not found to the same extent elsewhere. One author is taking umbrage with the oft-repeated line (via Boing Boing) that the marketplace for books, like films, is a blockbuster-driven, winner-take-all tournament. It may be true that the publishing industry has failed so far to grasp the power of the long tail, as evidenced by its reluctance to see the value in online book searching. But just look at a typical book store; as prominently displayed as the top-sellers are, there's usually tons of space for books that sell far less. And even before Amazon, bookstores could order books that weren't on its shelves per a customer request. For a long time, the film industry had to settle for this situation, as there was no other model of distribution. But now that there are alternatives, the industry is hanging on to its old ways for dear life. Developing distribution models that don't require some films to be losers in order to make way for winners, as in books, will help return the studios to solid ground.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Oct 2006 @ 8:08am

    You guys just kind of ignore the "low hanging fruit" theory, right?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Oct 2006 @ 8:19am


    If the theatre houses had more/smaller theatres, then they would be scale their showings more accurately, and would be able to offer more showing times for both big and smaller films.

    But of course, availability of showings isn't the real problem.

    The problem is that its far too expensive to go to the theatre. Hardly anyone wants to go UNLESS its for a super blockbuster.

    How good was it?
    a) See it in theatre
    b) wait for the dvd
    c) just netflix it
    d) wait for cable (ppv is not an option)
    e) skip it altogether

    Thats the rating system I have been using with everyone I ever talk to about movies.

    Theatre may provide the best consuming experience, however, its inconvenient as hell, and far too expensive to make me want to put up with the inconvenience.

    The "industry" needs to realize that we are in an age where convenience is becoming the MOST important factor in delivering services. Entertainment is nothing more than a service. There are several other products that I can consume to fulfill my entertainment quota, and if the others are cheaper/more convenient.... Then I will (and do) consume them more often than movies.

    They don't seem to get that convenience thing yet... not yet... maybe someday..

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

  • identicon
    fornowjustcallmeBob, 20 Oct 2006 @ 8:46am

    Coudn't agree more with anonymous!

    Going to the theather SUCKS! It is expensive in every respect (tickets, snacks), inconvenient (you can;t stop it when your kids are being noisy or you have to go to the bathroom, can't rewind to see that "awesome" scene again) and you have to watch it at the theater's schedule, not your own (at 2:00 AM).

    I have a cheapo projector in my basement, cheapo surround sound setup and I honestly have not been to a theatre since (about 2 years now).

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

  • identicon
    Sanguine Dream, 20 Oct 2006 @ 10:00am

    That's right!!

    In addition to what #2 and #3 said add living nearly 2hr from the nearest theater. I've been to the theater like once in the last year. It's just too much effort to go out of the way for. That's why I put the movie on my Blockbuster queue and wait about 7 months. And with DVD release times getting shorter the theater industry has A LOT to worry about.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous pirate, 20 Oct 2006 @ 10:13am

    Arrrg, convenience please!

    Make it easy to get, easy to pay for, and easy to watch on my Xbox (XBMC rocks!) and I'd be happy customer instead of a ruthless pirate. I also have a great (cheap tho) projector and sound system in my home and haven't been to a mainstream theatre in years. Going to a theater is an entire night out, and costs as much too. Watching at home is just a couple of hours, and the convenience is unbeatable. Release your blockbuster and date movies in the theatre, release the rest on the net.

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

  • identicon
    Trouble Maker, 20 Oct 2006 @ 11:02am

    two cents worth

    I watch about two hours of TV a week, (I have the brightness turned up all the way but it is still stupid programming) so I don't turn it on.

    I also feel that way about movies; very few interest me enough to go to the theater. If I do go, if I don't like it, I get up and leave.

    You can make a $250,000,000.00 piece of excrement; it is still a piece of excrement.

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

  • identicon
    Michael Long, 20 Oct 2006 @ 11:17am


    I might buy into your competition theory regarding movies, except... how many good movies are there?

    I'm one of those types that go to the movies at least once a week, and actually would go more often than that but for one thing: There's nothing to see.

    Not being a fan of "stupid" dumb-dumber movies, nor most animated kid flicks, I often find that there's nothing to see, even at my local 24-screen-plex where there's not exactly a scarcity of screens.

    Yeah, there may be some good movies hidden in the tail, but even Anderson says that, for the most part, "the tail is full of crap".

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

  • identicon
    Alex Chavarin, 20 Oct 2006 @ 12:13pm

    Movie Theater is Gone!

    By the looks of your Posts, I think the day of the Movie Theater are numbered. Just about everyone has a Home Theater, so the Movie Studios have to come up with a different Model for this market.

    Everybody wants to make money, people want to save money, but we still want to be entertained. So let's come up with something that will make most people happy.

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

    • identicon
      The Dingle, 25 Oct 2006 @ 11:03pm

      Re: Movie Theater is Gone!

      Not quite gone...changing. Many are converting to digital (check out Christie projectors...they're pretty BA) and can now start offering alternative content. Many theaters are offering up Meatloaf's Bat out of Hell 3 on Halloween night this year as a special event (as unappealing as that is to me). I've heard talk that Carmike theaters are considering putting together Xbox 360 tournaments in their buildings, using Christie projectors. As the consumers are demanding change, the industry is changing...

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

  • identicon
    Petréa Mitchell, 20 Oct 2006 @ 2:27pm


    That's not an author, that's an editor. Specifically, that's a science fiction editor, writing for an audience of primarily science fiction readers. Genre fans, whether of sf, mystery, romance, read way more than people who stick with "mainstream" literature, and so there is less worry about trying to reach scarce eyeballs.

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

  • identicon
    Teresa Nielsen Hayden, 23 Oct 2006 @ 11:18am

    The long tail? Sure, we know about it. We call it "the backlist".

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

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