The Big Picture Is There Is No Big Picture

Lincoln Journal Star: The mass audience in the United States is splintering and dividing into ever more specialized and personalized niches.
In the 1940s, more than half of all Americans went to the movies at least once week. In the ’50s and ’60s, the most popular television shows were seen in more than half the households in the country.
Today, despite unceasing hype and advertising, an average week sees around 10 percent of us going to the movie theaters.
In 1947, the peak of the studio system, 90 million Americans out of a population of 151 million went to the movies each week, according to “The Big Picture,” a book on the changing economics of Hollywood by Edward Jay Epstein. That figure represented 60 percent of the population, who bought a total of 4.7 billion tickets that year.
In an average week in 2003, less than 12 percent of Americans bought movie tickets. The total number of tickets sold in the U.S. in 2003: 1.57 billion.
That downward spiral has become the subject of much media attention. Summer 2005 was a huge box office disappointment. According to box office tracker Exhibitor Relations, this summer’s $3.6 billion total is down 9 percent from 2004. Even worse, attendance slumped by 12 percent.
Home video and other auxiliary sales (per-per-view, pay cable, network TV and basic cable TV) have become the profit center for movie studios.
According to Epstein’s figures, in 2003, the six major studios spent $11.5 billion to produce, publicize and distribute 80 films under their names and spent another $6.7 billion on 105 films from their “independent” subsidiaries, such as Miramax and New Line.
The studios recovered just $6.4 billion from their share of world box office, leaving them $11 billion in the red after their movies had completed their theatrical runs. But they more than made up that $11 billion gap on DVD sales, which totalled $33 billion worldwide in 2003.

About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.