Will There Be a Fifth Quarter?17 Sep, 2009 By: Thomas K. Arnold
Remember the "fifth quarter" studio executives used to salivate back in the early years of this millennium? Year after year, strong DVD player sales at Christmas led to huge DVD sales in January, as the thousands of new DVD households flocked to stores to find something to feed their hungry little machines.
With Blu-ray Disc player prices now at truly affordable levels — even the respectable Panasonic DMP BD-60 can be had for just $179 on Amazon — studio executives are trying to squeeze whatever optimism they can out of this shattered economy and DVD sales slump. Everyone in our industry, it seems, is searching for even a modicum of light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel-year, and Blu-ray Disc player sales could be just the spark our industry needs if there's a last-minute rush by consumers to pick one up and put it under the tree.
It is doubtful we are going to see anything like we did in the 2002 or 2003 holiday seasons, when DVD player sales went through the proverbial roof. But there are signs player sales could be stronger than anyone right now is thinking. I am now at the point where I can't count the number of people I know, from all walks of life, who have bought a Blu-ray Disc player for one of two reasons: 1) their DVD player is shot and they figure they might as well replace it with a Blu-ray Disc player, "because that's where everyone seems to be going these days," in the words of a car mechanic I know; and 2) they just bought a home theater system anchored by an HDTV and just feel buying a Blu-ray Disc player is a no-brainer, either because they've been told by their home theater installer or (and this is the reason I'm hoping is the zinger) because they are smart enough to figure out that the only realistic way to get true high-definition is from Blu-ray Disc.
I wonder if studios that are holding back hot tentpoles until December have this in the back of their minds. Sure, they're reacting to lingering consumer purse-tightening and purchase delays until the last minute. But they're also playing right into the hands of the "fifth quarter" concept. Wait until week two or three of December to release a hot title and you not onlyi increase the odds of your title being picked up on DVD as a last-minute impulse buy, but you also position yourself to be right there the moment someone walks in to buy a Blu-ray Disc player as a gift, making it a fair bet the giver will pick up a Blu-ray Disc of that same title as a stocking stuffer to go along with the Blu-ray Disc player. You're also going to be fresh enough once Christmas passes and new Blu-ray Disc owners head to the stores for more discs.
It's sure shaping up to be an interesting fourth quarter.