Is Hollywood Broken?

In the past few days, I’ve stumbled upon a pair of interesting articles regarding the well being (or, more accurately, potential very bad being) of the movie industry.  The first dark warnings come from the views of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.  They talk about what they feel is an impending financial “implosion” that’s about to occur in the industry:

One person very snarkily pointed out that the thoughts of Mr. Spielberg and Lucas were not unlike a person who murders their parents and then pleads for leniency from the police/courts because s/he was now an orphan.

I wouldn’t go quite that far.  While much of the modern Hollywood blockbuster mentality does indeed derive -for better or worse- from the careers of Mr. Spielberg and Lucas, the ills plaguing the movie industry they describe are also technological in nature, including Netflix, Video on Demand (VOD), etc, all of which were hard to predict many years before.  Still, the “blockbuster” mentality, I would agree, is part of the problem.

This second article, by Lynda Obst and presented as an excerpt from her book, can be found on  In this exerpt, Ms. Obst notes how the decline of the DVD selling industry has been a very hard blow to the movie industry:

I find this a fascinating topic.  Again, Netfix and VOD are probably “guilty”, if that’s the right word, for at least part of the decline of the DVD/BluRay market.

But I think there’s more to it than that.

I’ve pointed out before how I jumped into the laserdisc market because it offered something the video market hadn’t until that point:  Movies in their proper aspect ratio and, often, extras that you couldn’t find elsewhere.  At first, you’d get simple things like trailers.  Soon, “cut” scenes were included as well as documentaries.  I bought a lot of laserdiscs, but for the most part that was in the early days, when I wanted to get my hands on certain films.  As the laserdisc industry was dying and the DVD market was starting to grow, my buying habits of laserdiscs had already dropped considerably.  Not because I was desperate to jump into the DVD market, but because I had most of the films I wanted.

At least those available on laserdisc.

When DVDs really started to become big, an avalanche of other films and -big time joy!- TV shows I desperately wanted but couldn’t find on laserdisc were suddenly available.  Thus, I only too happily transitioned to DVDs and, because they were so much cheaper to buy than laserdiscs, wound up not only bought the newly available films/TV shows but also replaced most of my laserdisc collection.

By the time the BluRay format came along, I was once again in the same situation as with the laserdiscs.  My buying habits had slowed considerably because, again, I had the films/TV shows I wanted.  Nonetheless, the HD draw was big.  There were certain films I had no problems at all re-buying in this format to get the clearest, most beautiful presentation of them.

But many of the TV shows and lesser films I had purchased were fine “as is” and I didn’t bother buying new versions of them.  Once again, I’m in the same situation I was in two times before:  I have most of the stuff I truly want.  There are very few films/TV shows out there I’m desperate to buy and keep in my personal collection.

Worse, I’m finding the newer films to be more spectacle than classically re-watchable.  Mind you, some new films are quite good and I enjoyed watching them, whether it be in the theater or via Netflix or VOD.  But seeing them once is sufficient.  Yes, I enjoyed Iron Man, The Avengers, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, and, most recently, Star Trek Into Darkness.

Yet as much as I enjoyed watching them, I have little interest in revisiting them.  On the other hand, I could pull out my copy of The Maltese Falcon or Bullitt or Duel or Jaws or Airplane! or Blade Runner or Metropolis or…you get the picture, and watch them over and over again.

These are the films I want to have in my collection but the fact is that there are only so many of them I strongly desire.  The rest may entertain me but I don’t need to have them.  And once I buy the best copy available of said films, whether it be some spectacular new BluRay special edition, there is little reason for me to buy them again.

Thus, I believe at least part of the reason there is a serious decline in DVD/BluRay sales is this.  For better or worse, the DVD/BluRay format is, like CDs before it, so permanent that there is little need to purchase a movie several times and there are only so many films out there you really, really need to have as a collector.

The bottom line, of course, is that this hurts the movie industry.  Whenever a big source of revenue dries up, it can’t help but to do that.