Rental Has Helped Drive Business24 Aug, 2011 By: Stephanie Prange
I know Redbox’s $1 rentals and Netflix’s all-you-can-see subscription services haven’t exactly endeared them to the content creators, which much prefer selling titles directly to consumers. But rentals have long served a need in the home entertainment industry, whether via Blockbuster, independent rental stores, Redbox, Netflix or video-on-demand. Not only does this offering satisfy a customer who wants to watch a title only once, it provides a forum for lesser-known and mid-level box office films to find an audience as well as generates buzz for cult hits out of the glare of the Darwinian weekend box office sweepstakes.
Rental titles also offer the try-before-you-buy experience. I can tell you I watched a rental of many of my favorite catalog titles before I decided to collect them. Rental provides a low-cost chance to discover a gem that you otherwise might not have bothered to collect.
Most people — having been inundated with ads and three other predecessors in the “Pirates” franchise — will be able to make the decision as to whether they want to purchase Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. But smaller films, the kind that grow via word of mouth, often find their audience as consumers rent and talk about them. Once they come to love them, they buy them for their collection.
As studios become more cautious, putting all their eggs in the sequel and superhero movie basket, a crucial part of the movie business may get lost.
A reader recently wrote me responding to my column “Is the Movie Slate Just … Well … Bad?” (HM, July 25-31, 2011). The reader noted that “the transactional consumer, the same consumer that the studios hope to reach with their new cash cow, VOD, is interested in more than all those mega-budgeted blockbusters with all those alien invasions (Transformers 3, Cowboys & Aliens). Come on, how many bad aliens can there be!”
Lots and lots of aliens, apparently, in action and animated films that are pushing out thrillers and romantic comedies and dramas.
I’m not saying I don’t enjoy the occasional alien/superhero actionfest. I like popcorn flicks as much as anyone, and they do sell well on video. But films from Gone With the Wind to Sixteen Candles have sold well on video, too. Variety has always driven the home entertainment business. Many renters’ second choice at the video store has become the treasured disc in their collection.