Go Back  DVD Talk Forum > DVD Discussions > DVD Talk
Reload this Page >

"For Obscure DVDs, A Precarious Future" NY Times article

DVD Talk Talk about DVDs and Movies on DVD including Covers and Cases

"For Obscure DVDs, A Precarious Future" NY Times article

Old 03-04-07, 02:42 AM
  #1  
DVD Talk Special Edition
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 1,459
"For Obscure DVDs, A Precarious Future" NY Times article

In today's New York Times there's an interesting article which I've copied and pasted below. It may provide some enlightenment to DVDTalkers about market trends. I hope this is the appropriate forum.

By BRYAN REESMAN
Published: March 4, 2007

Among the glories of the rising tide of DVD sales was the wave of discs that revived lost or overlooked works by filmmakers like David Lynch, Werner Herzog, Dario Argento, Jess Franco and Takashi Miike. Now some of the companies that brought those movies into homes are getting pulled under and may take future releases down with them.
The Digital Entertainment Group, a nonprofit trade consortium, reported for the first time in 2006 that overall DVD shipments were stuck at about 1.65 billion units, roughly the same as 2005, after years of rapid growth. According to the weekly DVD Release Report, combined DVD releases dropped to 12,887 in 2006 from 13,712 in 2005.
In effect the video market is glutted. For big studios that means more jousting over future formats that may restart sales. But for specialty companies that have traded otherwise unavailable horror, action, art-house and exploitation titles, the glut has meant a struggle to survive.
“I started in this business in 1992, and this is the worst I’ve ever seen the market,” said Don May Jr., president of Synapse Films, which has released “Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural” and the controversial Leni Riefenstahl documentary “Triumph of the Will.” “We’re all drowning in a sea of DVDs. Five or six years ago maybe a hundred titles a week would come out. Now we’re fighting 200 or 300 titles every Tuesday.”
With the demise of Tower Records and various Musicland companies — including Sam Goody and Media Play — many smaller home video companies are feeling financially squeezed, as a result both of fewer outlets and of income owed from chain-store bankruptcies.
“Losing Tower Records and Musicland was a big blow,” said Norman Hill, founder of Subversive Cinema, home to cult titles like “Eraserhead” and the Jamaican documentary featuring Bob Marley, “Land of Look Behind.” “What I’m missing the most right now, even as a consumer, is being able to walk into a retail store and have a breadth of choice. When a major studio cannot get their catalog titles into the retail chains anymore, the independents are having an even worse time.”
Mass retailers like Wal-Mart, Circuit City and Target have limited shelf space, and Best Buy has become less diverse in its stock.
“The big-box stores are ruthless about returning if they don’t turn over enough,” said Gary Baddeley, president of the controversial, documentary-driven Disinformation Company, which has released “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price” and “Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism.” “The DVD business is a returnable one. A sale is not always a sale.”
As independent retailers dwindle, larger chains focused more on mainstream titles seem to “control and set the arbitrary taste for the entire market,” said Matt Kennedy, former president of Panik House Entertainment, which specializes in international genre movies like “The Curse of the Crying Woman” and “The Pinky Violence Collection.” “Not getting a title into one of these stores can be the death of a small label, but so can getting one in. If you get an order for 40,000 titles and only sell 4,000 because it was left boxed in the back, misfiled by category or never entered into inventory, it can mean bankruptcy.”
The industry’s push toward new formats is also potentially problematic for the smaller players. The quality of mass-market digital downloads is debatable, and the new Blu-ray and HD-DVD discs, which require substantial investment in new equipment, are already taking up shelf space that might have gone to specialty titles.
“I think high-definition is turning out to be the laser disc of the video business today,” said Bill Lustig, the director of “Maniac” and owner of Blue Underground, an eclectic company with titles including “My Brilliant Career” and “Tombs of the Blind Dead.” “It’s taking up a very, very small percentage of the market, and I don’t know if we will see it grow. Most people are happy with their standard-def DVDs and don’t want to replace their movies.”
The suppliers are trying to address the downward sales trend through different means: MPI through acquiring television and theatrical rights for DVD titles; Starz Home Entertainment (formerly Anchor Bay Entertainment) by expanding into nontraditional retail outlets like Kohl’s; Viz Media by taking its anime business into download-to-own with “Death Note”; and Allumination FilmWorks by branching into family and animation titles.
“You have to market more, advertise more and make customers aware of the alternatives to traditional retail,” said Greg Newman, vice president for acquisitions and development of MPI Media Group, which specializes in classic television on DVD, documentaries, music titles and horror films. MPI’s increasing online sales have become an important revenue stream, but as more money is spent on consumer awareness, less will be allocated to catalog acquisitions, and future selections “are going to be as safe as possible,” he said.
Lisa Nishimura-Seese, general manager of Palm Pictures, noted that the contraction and expansion in the independent world is cyclical and cited the importance of “mom and pop” outlets with personalized service that feed a growing interest in independent film. Regional chains like Newbury Comics and Hastings are also supportive of indie companies.
On the mass retail level Target, a sponsor of IFC’s “Cinema Red” programming block on Monday nights, now features an eclectic “IFC Indies” section that spotlights 48 movies a month. Evan Shapiro, general manager and executive vice president of IFC TV, said sales of Target’s existing indie titles have increased substantially as a result of the IFC-selected section, which was also helping smaller distributors like New Video and Genius Products break into the chain.
Most of February’s “IFC Indies,” however, came from major studios or high-profile independents with major distributors. Small indies cannot afford premium store placement and other distribution costs the way larger companies can.
Even for successful independent companies, “where you send consumers has become trickier,” said Dan Gurlitz, vice president for video of Koch Entertainment Distribution, purveyors of foreign and art-house films and British television. Book retailers like Borders and Barnes & Noble are selling DVDs, he noted, while Internet shopping and mail order are still strong revenue-generators for many categories. But many consumers have yet to make the leap to regular online shopping, and the vital, serendipitous “impulse buy,” which has traditionally stimulated DVD sales, is less likely in an overcrowded virtual arena.
“If you’re a retailer and carry 100 titles, you’re still going to get 80 percent of your sales from 20 of those titles,” said Jay Douglas, a vice president at Ryko Filmworks, which distributes numerous indie labels including No Shame Films, Heretic Films, Severin Films, Discotek Media, Mondo Macabro and Grindhouse Releasing. “If you carry 10,000 titles, the 80/20 rule will still apply. The question is whether you want to devote that space to entertainment software or to something else?”
Mosskeeto is offline  
Old 03-04-07, 10:06 AM
  #2  
Banned
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: teXXXas
Posts: 1,389
Originally Posted by Mosskeeto
Five or six years ago maybe a hundred titles a week would come out. Now we’re fighting 200 or 300 titles every Tuesday.
All that this means is that, even though you may have to look online to find a retailer, these "obscure" films are still coming out on DVD. I mean, hell, there's no way that 200-300 mainstream releases come out every Tuesday.
zombiezilla is offline  
Old 03-04-07, 10:47 AM
  #3  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 346
I suppose my buying habits are bucking the trend...I'm buying more SD than ever, and tons of indie releases. I wish Blue Underground would release more titles, they used to be at the top of the heap. Synapse seems to have been reduced to a trickle as well. Code Red is a newer company that has been releasing good stuff. BCI/Eclipse has had a recent re-awakening. Dark Sky is leading the way in quality transfers. I've been buying lots of VCI and Roan (via Troma) classic titles. Image Entertainment has a deep, deep catalog and it seems I'm always discovering something I missed...maybe they should advertise it more, and think about lowering prices. Lots of lost gems in the Anchor Bay catalog as well.

BTW, I buy 99% of my DVDs online. So all of this talk of "shelf space" flies right by me.
JerryKILL is offline  
Old 03-04-07, 10:56 AM
  #4  
DVD Talk Ultimate Edition
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Upright, in a cool, dry place
Posts: 4,230
Interesting article. I've also heard that the rights holders of some of these lesser-known films don't have a good idea of the market value and expect millions of dollars. There's not enough profit in a dvd title that might only sell 20,000 copies to pay a million bucks for the rights.
Quatermass is offline  
Old 03-04-07, 11:49 AM
  #5  
DVD Talk Legend
 
darkside's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: San Antonio
Posts: 19,847
Originally Posted by Quatermass
Interesting article. I've also heard that the rights holders of some of these lesser-known films don't have a good idea of the market value and expect millions of dollars. There's not enough profit in a dvd title that might only sell 20,000 copies to pay a million bucks for the rights.
This is a much bigger issue especially when you factor in the outrageous money music rights holders ask for that have ruined many TV shows.

I'm really not buying this story since it is so easy to buy these films online. If there are 300 releases a week you can bet the majority is garbage from these independents. Sounds more like they are killing themselves. The major studios are still very careful to only release a few titles a week.
darkside is offline  
Old 03-05-07, 03:39 AM
  #6  
DVD Talk Platinum Edition
 
caligulathegod's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Grove City OH
Posts: 3,730
Yeah, but how many people really buy their movies online? This is a rarefied atmosphere here where it's not unusual to pick up the latest Fassbinder DVD at DeepDiscountDVD. Most people just go down to Walmart to get Taladega Nights.

But yeah, 300 a week has to include porn and everything.

God bless Synapse, Blue Underground, Something Weird, etc., and I'm so glad they exist, but eventually releasing two disc deluxe editions of Doris Wishman flicks has to catch up with you. I'll be sad when those go away, even if I don't buy them all.
caligulathegod is offline  
Old 03-05-07, 03:58 AM
  #7  
DVD Talk Hero
 
Josh-da-man's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: The Bible Belt
Posts: 31,254
Maybe one of the problems they're facing is that they've already cherry-picked all of the most commercially viable cult movies and released them already. There are only so many Dario Argento and Takashi Miike movies out there, and once you've released them you're stuck with all of the lesser stuff that just isn't going to sell as strongly. And it doesn't help when everyone's flooding the market with that stuff.

The consumer only has so much money they're willing to spend on these things. The market can't grow forever, and it's going to contract.

I think that six or seven years ago was a "perfect storm" of factors that sparked an interest in cult cinema. You had the internet, which, through message boards like this one and fan web sites, was sparking interest in cult movies like Italian horror and Hong Kong action flicks. And you also saw a number of upstart internet companies providing these cult movies cheaply to consumers who were interested in them. And you had DVD taking off like wildfire, which was able to offer these movies in uncut editions, OAR, remastered, and with all kinds of bells and whistles.
Josh-da-man is offline  
Old 03-05-07, 09:05 AM
  #8  
DVD Talk Ultimate Edition
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: Rampaging across DVDTalk.
Posts: 4,046
Please. They have a cheaper and better means (not to mention a market) for more of these obscure titles. Complaining that the market levelled off at 1.6 billion units? I think that is far beyond the predictions anybody would have made for DVD. They can go back to releasing on VHS if they like.
Fincher Fan is offline  
Old 03-05-07, 10:45 AM
  #9  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: USA
Posts: 528
Originally Posted by Mosskeeto
Now we’re fighting 200 or 300 titles every Tuesday.”
Is it really that many? I would've guessed 100.
tbwmp88 is offline  
Old 03-05-07, 10:56 AM
  #10  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: U.S
Posts: 554
Originally Posted by darkside
This is a much bigger issue especially when you factor in the outrageous money music rights holders ask for that have ruined many TV shows.

I'm really not buying this story since it is so easy to buy these films online. If there are 300 releases a week you can bet the majority is garbage from these independents. Sounds more like they are killing themselves. The major studios are still very careful to only release a few titles a week.
I mostly agree.

That entire article doesnt mention how easy it is for these obsucre titles to be purches online - how convienient to leave out the internet.

It isnt reasonable to expect brick and mortars with limited shelf space to always stock indie or obscure or cult titles. And its also laughable how they complain that its hard to get mainstream titles on the shelves? Did the White House propaganda machine write this shit?

It sounds like they're whining because of competition (too bad) as well as the old adage of the person complaining they havent enough of money for a loaf of bread while carrying a Virginia Ham under their arm.
CinemaNut is offline  
Old 03-05-07, 11:00 AM
  #11  
DVD Talk Legend
 
Join Date: Oct 2001
Posts: 17,743
Originally Posted by tbwmp88
Is it really that many? I would've guessed 100.
DVDpricesearch lists 187 DVDs being release tomorrow, 3-6. That's not including any pornographic titles.
Jay G. is offline  
Old 03-05-07, 11:19 AM
  #12  
DVD Talk Legend
 
Join Date: Oct 2001
Posts: 17,743
Originally Posted by CinemaNut
That entire article doesnt mention how easy it is for these obsucre titles to be purches online - how convienient to leave out the internet.
I guess you missed this bit of the article:

Internet shopping and mail order are still strong revenue-generators for many categories. But many consumers have yet to make the leap to regular online shopping, and the vital, serendipitous “impulse buy,” which has traditionally stimulated DVD sales, is less likely in an overcrowded virtual arena.
Originally Posted by CinemaNut
It isnt reasonable to expect brick and mortars with limited shelf space to always stock indie or obscure or cult titles.
I didn't read anywhere in the article where anyone expected stores to always carry obscure titles. Limited shelf space was cited as an obstacle is all.

And its also laughable how they complain that its hard to get mainstream titles on the shelves?
The article didn't say it's hard to get mainstream titles on the shelves, it actually said the opposite: that stores are "focused more on mainstream titles." It did quote someone as saying that "a major studio cannot get their catalog titles into the retail chains anymore," but a catalog title is very different from a mainstream new-release. And it's mostly true; you're not likely to find Billy Budd on the new release section in Target tomorrow, even though it's a release from Warner.

It sounds like they're whining because of competition (too bad)
They're not complaining about competition, they're complaining about a glutted marketplace with limited outlets for their product. And in fact, most weren't complaining at all. Most commented on it, and then talked about their own strategies to overcome the situation. It was mainly the author who was lamenting the situation, since the shifts these companies will take/are taking will reduce the number of really obscure titles being released.

as well as the old adage of the person complaining they havent enough of money for a loaf of bread while carrying a Virginia Ham under their arm.
The thing is, they're not even getting the ham anymore, because there's too many people going after it.

Last edited by Jay G.; 03-05-07 at 11:44 AM.
Jay G. is offline  
Old 03-05-07, 11:43 AM
  #13  
DVD Talk Legend
 
Join Date: Oct 2001
Posts: 17,743
Originally Posted by darkside
I'm really not buying this story since it is so easy to buy these films online.
The article mentions that most people still don't buy online. Losing shelf space is going to hurt any title. It's just hurting the less mainstream stuff more.

If there are 300 releases a week you can bet the majority is garbage from these independents. Sounds more like they are killing themselves. The major studios are still very careful to only release a few titles a week.
Warner is releasing 18 out of the 187 titles DVDpricesearch lists as coming out tomorrow, or about 10% of the titles for the week.

By contrast, Subversive Cinema hasn't even released one title per month this year, and their titles are still never going to get into certain retailers because the titles are simply too obscure.
Jay G. is offline  
Old 03-05-07, 11:56 AM
  #14  
DVD Talk Legend
 
darkside's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: San Antonio
Posts: 19,847
It is a tough thing, but there is no solution to this. The reason most of these obscure titles don't sell even if they are at Best Buy is they suck. Period. Someone nailed it above. Most of the good obscure stuff is already released. I looked through the past few months of releases and its 90% garbage. The independents are flooding the market with so much garbage that finding the gems is almost impossible unless you are specifically targeting a certain movie. Counting on impulse buys is impossible when the gem is crammed in a section at Best Buy with a bunch of public domain crap and terrible C, D and F movies.
darkside is offline  
Old 03-05-07, 12:12 PM
  #15  
DVD Talk Special Edition
 
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 1,177
Maybe if the studios would stop with their 3rd, 4th, 5th "Special stupid edition name" reissues of crap movies, there would be better odds of the indie titles being more visible in stores.

But then again, they seem to sell, so what do I know?

-jason
fuzzbox is offline  
Old 03-05-07, 12:23 PM
  #16  
DVD Talk Platinum Edition
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 3,055
Originally Posted by fuzzbox
Maybe if the studios would stop with their 3rd, 4th, 5th "Special stupid edition name" reissues of crap movies, there would be better odds of the indie titles being more visible in stores.

But then again, they seem to sell, so what do I know?

-jason
I think I've heard that's exactly why they do those releases, to get their movies back on the retail shelves.
joltman is offline  
Old 03-05-07, 01:32 PM
  #17  
DVD Talk Limited Edition
 
BuckNaked2k's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Hartford, CT
Posts: 5,962
From the article:

“I think high-definition is turning out to be the laser disc of the video business today,” said Bill Lustig, the director of “Maniac” and owner of Blue Underground, an eclectic company with titles including “My Brilliant Career” and “Tombs of the Blind Dead.” “It’s taking up a very, very small percentage of the market, and I don’t know if we will see it grow. Most people are happy with their standard-def DVDs and don’t want to replace their movies.”

BuckNaked2k is offline  
Old 03-05-07, 01:37 PM
  #18  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: location, location...
Posts: 439
Panik House

As independent retailers dwindle, larger chains focused more on mainstream titles seem to “control and set the arbitrary taste for the entire market,” said Matt Kennedy, former president of Panik House Entertainment, which specializes in international genre movies like “The Curse of the Crying Woman” and “The Pinky Violence Collection.” “Not getting a title into one of these stores can be the death of a small label, but so can getting one in. If you get an order for 40,000 titles and only sell 4,000 because it was left boxed in the back, misfiled by category or never entered into inventory, it can mean bankruptcy.”
In the article, Panik House is described in the present tense, yet Matt Kennedy is described as the former president. Is the company still around?

Kennedy's scenario sounds both specific and devastating.
theWitcher is offline  
Old 03-05-07, 01:41 PM
  #19  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: U.S
Posts: 554
Originally Posted by Jay G.
I guess you missed this bit of the article:




I didn't read anywhere in the article where anyone expected stores to always carry obscure titles. Limited shelf space was cited as an obstacle is all.


The article didn't say it's hard to get mainstream titles on the shelves, it actually said the opposite: that stores are "focused more on mainstream titles." It did quote someone as saying that "a major studio cannot get their catalog titles into the retail chains anymore," but a catalog title is very different from a mainstream new-release. And it's mostly true; you're not likely to find Billy Budd on the new release section in Target tomorrow, even though it's a release from Warner.


They're not complaining about competition, they're complaining about a glutted marketplace with limited outlets for their product. And in fact, most weren't complaining at all. Most commented on it, and then talked about their own strategies to overcome the situation. It was mainly the author who was lamenting the situation, since the shifts these companies will take/are taking will reduce the number of really obscure titles being released.


The thing is, they're not even getting the ham anymore, because there's too many people going after it.
Yes, I did the miss them mention the net, but the rest of what I wrote is my perception of the article and sounds like whining to me - I dont view this article the way you did.

Work harder for the ham - thats what competition is about - otherwise it becomes a monopoly
CinemaNut is offline  
Old 03-05-07, 01:48 PM
  #20  
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: U.S
Posts: 554
Originally Posted by darkside
It is a tough thing, but there is no solution to this. The reason most of these obscure titles don't sell even if they are at Best Buy is they suck. Period. Someone nailed it above. Most of the good obscure stuff is already released. I looked through the past few months of releases and its 90% garbage. The independents are flooding the market with so much garbage that finding the gems is almost impossible unless you are specifically targeting a certain movie. Counting on impulse buys is impossible when the gem is crammed in a section at Best Buy with a bunch of public domain crap and terrible C, D and F movies.

You have a good point. When I entered into dvd in 97-98, I was all about the never seen on home video/cult/obscure/giallo, etc, etc titles. Well, after all these years heres what my taste on all these so called rarities adds up to:

Looking back on my Netflix rental history of the above mentioned types of movies, I have averaged hundreds of titles and I STILL have a few fingers left over for the amount of films I have liked enough to own that have been so hyped up over the decades...hence, yes, the MAJORITY of these type of films SUCK imo.
CinemaNut is offline  
Old 03-05-07, 04:28 PM
  #21  
DVD Talk Legend
 
darkside's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: San Antonio
Posts: 19,847
Originally Posted by BuckNaked2k
From the article:

“I think high-definition is turning out to be the laser disc of the video business today,” said Bill Lustig, the director of “Maniac” and owner of Blue Underground, an eclectic company with titles including “My Brilliant Career” and “Tombs of the Blind Dead.” “It’s taking up a very, very small percentage of the market, and I don’t know if we will see it grow. Most people are happy with their standard-def DVDs and don’t want to replace their movies.”

At this point I don't think you will receive much argument even from HD DVD and Blu-ray supporters on that statement. I think the combined HD sales are something like .5% of DVD sales. If the worst case is HD video being a laserdisc like niche I will be thrilled. LD lasted 20 plus years and invented many of the features we love today on DVD.
darkside is offline  
Old 03-05-07, 04:36 PM
  #22  
DVD Talk Legend
 
Mondo Kane's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 11,078
"and Best Buy has become less diverse in its stock.”
Definetly. I remember there was a time when I'd look around in there and see boxsets for Coffin Joe,SWV, and Guinea Pig. Hell, even the martial arts section seems to get smaller and smaller everytime I go there!
Mondo Kane is offline  
Old 03-05-07, 05:10 PM
  #23  
DVD Talk Limited Edition
 
Join Date: Feb 2000
Posts: 7,337
Originally Posted by Josh-da-man
Maybe one of the problems they're facing is that they've already cherry-picked all of the most commercially viable cult movies and released them already. There are only so many Dario Argento and Takashi Miike movies out there, and once you've released them you're stuck with all of the lesser stuff that just isn't going to sell as strongly. And it doesn't help when everyone's flooding the market with that stuff.
Well said! There are still some nuggets worth mining, but more and more crap is sifting through.
Peep is offline  
Old 03-05-07, 05:30 PM
  #24  
DVD Talk Ultimate Edition
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Upright, in a cool, dry place
Posts: 4,230
Originally Posted by darkside
At this point I don't think you will receive much argument even from HD DVD and Blu-ray supporters on that statement. I think the combined HD sales are something like .5% of DVD sales. If the worst case is HD video being a laserdisc like niche I will be thrilled. LD lasted 20 plus years and invented many of the features we love today on DVD.
That's especially true within the context of this article. It's very unlikely they would release blu-ray or hd versions of these obscure titles. There's just not enough of a market for them (which is good news for me and my enormous pile of obscure and mostly unwatched dvds.)
Quatermass is offline  
Old 03-05-07, 06:28 PM
  #25  
DVD Talk Legend
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Times Square
Posts: 12,133
Anyone who thinks it is tough to find the more esoteric titles on DVD obviously didn't live through the VHS years. I remember having to call Facets to have them mail me a catalog, and then calling them to place orders. There were lots more B&M places to browse, but very few had anything more than the mainstream hits and popular classics on their shelves.

I don't need Best Buy to stock all the titles ... all the titles are at my fingertips.
marty888 is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service

Copyright © 2018 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.