Hollywood 1, DVD 0

dvdHere’s all the news that fit to print: The DVD market is in the tank. Blockbuster is currently growing at a snails pace. And all the studios hate Netflix. So the New York Times is reporting that the studios are going back to what they think they know best: making films that will actually turn a profit at the box office.

Brooks Barnes aligns the statistics. Ticket sales are up 14% for 2009. (Watchmen not withstanding.) Sales for new-release DVDs, on the other hand, are down 40%. The reasons are myriad: a movie is still considered a cheap night out, there are simply too many DVDs out there (Howard the Duck just hit stores, accompanied by the sound of a barrel being scraped) and most of youse is downloading films from t’Internet. The result: studios have lost that retail safety net, or what one producer calls the “downside protection.”

iron-man1The new strategy is getting bums on seats, which may account for the absolute traffic jam of big tentpoles being released in 2010. Among them are Tim Burton‘s Alice in Wonderland, Jon Favreau‘s Iron Man 2, Christopher Nolan‘s Inception, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, Toy Story 3, Eclipse, Thor, Green Lantern and a Harry Potter installment. As of this reckoning, we’ll see . Barnes also elegantly sums up the bigger picture:

“In addition to big “tent pole” blockbusters, that means movies that are fun to watch in groups: at least 10 musicals are in full-steam-ahead development, including a remake of “My Fair Lady.” And it means more pictures that are pre-branded: “Monopoly” and “Candy Land,” the movies, are on the way. Most of all, it means a strong return by major studios to middle-of-the-road, genre pictures.”


takenThat means we’re also going to see a lot more Takens, Paul Blarts and Last Houses on the Left, stuff that’s easy to sneer at, cheap to make and quick to make a profit. (Titter ye not–even Bryan Singer is thinking about getting his mitts around a “hot revenge thriller project starring Mark Wahlberg.”) Studios are starting to panic about budgets, too. Note how quickly they shot down the claim that James Cameron’s Avatar cost about the same as Africa’s gross continental product. Not that Jerry Bruckheimer is worried that much. Having flushed $300 down a whirlpool with pirate ships in it for Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, he’s positively relishing getting down to trimming costs:

“You can set the tone for a big movie just by showing some huge vistas or something at the beginning. There are all kinds of tricks we will have to use.”

Bruckers is clearly loading up on the clay, string and paper plates.

As the stomach turns, consider also the conclusion that Hollywood is starting to see “high-brow as a hard sell.” Hope you liked No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood, because that’s all you’re getting. The next opus P.T. Anderson might be orchestrating is Sex Drive 2: To the Extreme.

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