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Home Video: Bargain in Tough Times

17 Nov, 2008 By: Thomas K. Arnold

It’s just our luck to schedule our third annual High-Definition Disc Conference on the same exact day the Hollywood Forum hosted a special dinner presentation, “Wall Street Meltdown’s Impact on Hollywood.”

If Wall Street is in panic mode, then Hollywood is not far behind, despite the entertainment industry’s historical resilience to troubled economic times. These past few weeks we have heard story after story of studio layoffs, marketing budget cuts, reduced picture outputs and overall malaise, as the down economy no doubt conjures up images of bread lines and soup kitchens among those whose parents, in many cases, weren’t even old enough to live through them.

Hollywood’s hype machine is running at full speed, and the “sky is falling” mentality that’s hit the mortgage and banking industries already is spreading like a dark cloud over the Hollywood Hills.

Whoa, everyone. Let’s rein in the doom and gloom for just a spell and take a look at what’s really going on out there. Yes, the nation is in an economic tailspin, but so far at least our industry hasn’t been hit all that hard. Consider the following:

DreamWorks’ Madagascar 2 busted even the rosiest projections to open with $63.5 million, beating even Disney’s Wall-E, which opened to $63.1 million over the summer — long before the economic smog settled in.

Wal-Mart, that great harbinger of middle America’s shopping habits, reported a more-than-respectable 2.4% gain in same-store sales during October, the terrible month of slashing and burning that affected everything from the Dow to our 401ks. The same day, the giant retailer announced a big expansion of its Blu-ray Disc inventories.

And Marvel Entertainment’s third-quarter net income rose more than 40%, boosted by the strong theatrical performance, and vibrant home video sales, of Iron Man.

These are challenging times, to say the least. But if you look hard enough there’s always that proverbial silver lining. Analysts were quick to attribute Wal-Mart’s strong financial showing — and a similar uptick in sales at McDonald’s — to consumers searching for bargains. The success of Madagascar 2, meanwhile, was chalked up to the desire for escapism through entertainment.

Hmmm. Bargain and entertainment. That’s got home video written all over it.

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