The continuing rise of the DVD

In 2003 a new DVD issue was released every 57 minutes, giving us over 9000 titles for the year (Entertainment Weekly, Jan.23-30).

The film industry is changing accordingly. Hollywood now has greater incentives to issue movies for male taste. DVDs are often impulse buys, and men are bigger impulse buyers than are women, at least in the DVD market. Movies for children are favored as well, since children love repeat viewings. Note that in 2002 DVD sales and rentals accounted for 62 percent of moviemaking income. At least four-fifths of this sum came from DVD sales.

Fear of losses from piracy is causing accelerated DVD releases. If you wait too long with your DVD, illegal competitors will fill the market. Pirates of the Caribbean, for instance, was released on DVD only four months after the film’s release. Video releases, in contrast, used to come after six to twelve months. Some European films have been released simultaneously on DVD and in theatres, despite the protests of rental chains. Some insiders expect simultaneous or near-simultaneous release to be common practice in the future. Simultaneous release, of course, raises fears that one market will cannibalize the other. But one commentator noted: “I’m one of those who believes that ultimately everything will be available at a price. So, if you want to see it at home when it is at the theatres you can, but it will be a premium price.”

The bottom line: I’m psyched. DVDs are a wonderful medium for foreign films, subtitled films, complex films requiring explanation and accompanying disks, historical classics, and action movies. All of these I love. DVDs have opened up the entire world of Bollywood cinema — usually in Hindi — to easy subtitling and thus to American viewers. If these movies are too long for your taste, just flick to your favorite songs and dances, much easier than trying to do the same with a VCR. As the DVD rises in popularity, the quality of the best scene in a movie may become increasingly important.


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