Monday, October 31, 2011

The Film Industry: Choice, But Not Much Choice

In our discussion of Drake’s article about distribution and marketing, one point in particular makes Hollywood a unique industry: “films are product-differentiated in more complex ways than other categories of products (64)”. This fact is very interesting, especially when considering the number of options that are available at any given time in theaters. However, part of the film industry’s success is that while it gives cinemagoers various options for genres, it does not give them much choice across these genres. Unlike television, where there are now so many specialized networks that produce shows to very specific audiences due to the rise of cable networks, moviegoers are limited to one or maybe two films that fit the genres which they want to see. Speaking from a personal standpoint, I usually only go to the theater to see a comedy movie, and I am picky about what comedy movies I want to see, so I rarely go to the theater (I haven’t been to theaters since Horrible Bosses, and I won’t be back until I go see the new Harold and Kumar).

This model sets up a unique situation for people that go to the theater; sometimes it is not an issue of seeing a particular movie, but instead it becomes an issue of what would be the best movie based on a particular genre. A great example of this occurred this past weekend; it was Halloween and amazingly the only scary movie with a wide release was Paranormal Activity 3, so if one wanted to see a scary movie this past weekend, there was one option. This creates an interesting problem for the consumer: do you go to the theater to see a movie because it is in a certain genre, or do you not go because you don’t care about the particular film. In addition to this personal problem, because going to the movie theater is a group activity, the opinions of what others want to see must also be factored in to movie selection. Going back to Drake’s point, just about every film is different than their counterparts, but because options within genre are limited in theaters, the consumer’s choice often comes down to whether or not they have the money or will to see a movie, with the quality of the film being secondary in most cases. This could be one reason why Oscar winning films are not widely viewed in theaters and why the blockbuster film is a critical business tactic for Hollywood studios.

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