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‘Furious’ Hits Heading to Home Video

13 Apr, 2009 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Thomas K. Arnold

The economy’s abrupt downturn is beginning to affect us all, if it hasn’t already. Most of the studios have already gone through a round or two of layoffs, and consumer spending on DVDs is off significantly so far this year, although if you factor in Blu-ray Disc and electronic sellthrough/VOD, our research shows we’re only off about 4% from this same time last year.

But you know, it could be a lot worse. We at least have the slow-but-steady consumer migration to Blu-ray Disc to look forward to — which, along with a likely rebound in the economy (projected by some economists to begin as early as the fourth quarter of this year), could give our new industry some badly needed hope for the future.

The auto industry, by contrast, is all but shattered, with U.S. auto sales tumbling 37% in March alone and two of the Big Three considering bankruptcy even if they get additional government handouts.

I remember the last time our industry was really taking a hit, revenue-wise. The year was 1997, and after pointing fingers at everything from a maturing market to retail consolidation, studio executives and industry analysts got together, did more than a little head-scratching and at last concluded the principal reason for the slump was fallout from an earlier slump at the box office.

Granted, these days our industry is facing a lot more competition from other media. In 1997 the Internet was in its infancy, and if you mentioned YouTube to someone you’d get a puzzled look, as though you were maybe asking something naughty.

And yet movie consumption in theaters is still very closely tied to movie consumption in the home, and based on the latest box office stats we certainly do have cause for optimism in the coming months as first-quarter theatricals come to home video.

According to our friends at Box Office Mojo, the first quarter ended with theatrical revenue up a solid 9% from the first quarter of 2008, clocking in at an all-time high of $2.4 billion. And that was before the first weekend in April, with the boffo opening of Universal Studios’ Fast and Furious, which opened to $71 million, a record April debut. Indeed, the entire weekend, according to Box Office Mojo, “was the busiest on record for April, grossing over $155 million and surging 62% ahead of the same weekend last year.”

Fast and furious, indeed. Let’s pray theatrical keeps burning rubber. And let’s keep our fingers crossed that the historic correlation between box office and home video holds true on the upside as well.


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