Monday, January 16, 2006

Prediction: Movie houses dead?

I spent most of the weekend watching DVDs at home. I, together with a companion, watched The Matador (starring Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear, about a hitman and a salesman meeting in Mexico) and Syriana (a VERY complex story about oil, power, and politics). Both are supremely incredibly EXCELLENT movies, the type of movie you watch relaxing on your couch, maybe with a glass of wine and some light snacks. Both are intelligent and thought-provoking, the type that encourages conversation and discussion, and definitely not a mind-numbing SFX-laden film that makes you shuffle out of theaters like a brain-emptied zombie. If you consider yourself a movie affecianado, you owe it to yourself to watch these movies.

(As a side note, I also watched "The Village" in Star Movies last Sunday and that movie sucked big-time. I find that M. Night director severely over-rated and while his directorial style is good, his stories are becoming more and more ridiculous.)

It just dawned on me that DVDs, large screen monitors, and the Internet will soon spell the death of movie houses as we know it. Probably in 5-10 years. Variety had published that worldwide ticket sales was about USD10.1 billion in 2005, as against USD10.7 billion in 2004. Consider that there were 527 films in 2005 versus 507 in 2004. Consider also that ticket prices have been steadily increasing. What does this translate to? Less and less people are watching movies in theaters.

And I don't blame them. I am very meticulous about movies, but nowadays I have chosen to watch movies at home rather than at movie theaters. With the cost of movie tickets themselves, plus the extraneous expenses such as gas, parking, popcorn, I begin to wonder---what is the added value of watching at a theater? I would agree that if you want a movie EXPERIENCE (like King Kong or a SFX-laden film), then you go to a movie house. But in a movie where dialogue and character situations are key, a pirated clear-copy DVD at a fraction of the cost will offer you the same thing.

Then we have the whole mobile phone situation. There was a time when I was watching a movie and someone's phone went off. This person literally answered the phone, and proceeded to have a conversation! I paid good bucks to enjoy a movie undisturbed and I have to put up to this. Ok, so one can argue that the disturbance is worse at home with dogs barking, kids running, phones ringing, tricycles roaring in the background, but at least I didn't pay P100. And if I missed a dialogue point, I can always stop and replay. Or if I have to pee or answer a phone, I can pause the DVD.

Which moves me to the next prediction. People will flock less to movie houses. And the old adage that SFX movies are best viewed in a theater will no longer hold. As LCD and plasma screens become cheaper, people's home theaters will begin to rival those of big-screen theaters. With bandwidth similary becoming faster and cheaper, Internet movie distribution will begin to hit mainstream. Soon, instead of going to a theater to watch movies, people will begin to download them and watch them at their schedule. The whole concept of DVDs will change---instead of purchasing DVD movies, you will buy DVD-RWs to store the movies you downloaded.

Timeframe? I'd say in 5 years . . .

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