Studios target older, richer DVD buyers
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – A lifelong fantasy and sci-fi fan, Jeff Slankard didn’t see any of the recent “Star Wars,” “Lord of the Rings” or ” Harry Potter” movies in theaters, as he would have done before his children, aged nine and two, were born.
But he doesn’t feel deprived — he’s got them all on DVD.
“They’re coming out so soon now,” he said. “I really enjoy watching movies at home after the baby’s gone to bed. It’s not exactly the same experience, but with the new home theater systems, it’s pretty darn close.”
Slankard, a 52-year-old wine buyer from Oceanside, Calif., is hardly alone. While much of Hollywood — and most everyone else — continues to zero in on the lucrative 18-34 demographic, studio executives say they’re seeing a strong uptick in DVD purchasing by the over-45 crowd.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment president Craig Kornblau cites internal research that shows older adults this year are buying 10% more DVDs than they were in the hit-filled fourth quarter of 2004. They’re also renting 5% more.
“Don’t underestimate the power of the older consumer,” Kornblau said. The studio is taking square aim at the 45-and-up consumer by stepping up anniversary editions of older films. Recent releases include a 30th anniversary edition of “Jaws” (for those who missed out on the 25th anniversary edition), and a 10th anniversary edition of “Casino” — as well as such older TV shows as “Dragnet” and “Quincy, M.E.”
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment also is catering to the older DVD consumer with classic TV shows like “M*A*S*H” and, later this year, a 40th anniversary edition of “The Sound of Music.”
“The early adopters were a highly technophilic group of young males, and they’ve been in the market a long time now,” Fox president Mike Dunn said. “Now you’re starting to get the less enthusiastic consumers of media into the marketplace, and they’re older. And one thing we’re seeing is they do buy movies and they do buy TV.”
Indeed, Universal’s Kornblau said two of his studio’s biggest overperformers for the year, “Ray” and “Friday Night Lights,” generated staggering DVD sales numbers in large part because of high demand from older consumers. “Ray” earned nearly $150 million from DVD sales and rentals, twice its box office, while “Friday Night Lights” took in $100 million against a theatrical gross of just $60 million.
“Look at how this works when you hit them with the right product,” Kornblau said. “You’re seeing it over and over again — the biggest overperformers are titles that hit the older demographic.”
Benjamin Feingold, president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, said he was astounded at how well the Sony Pictures Classics title “Being Julia,” starring Oscar nominee Annette Bening, sold after its March 22 release.
“Sell-through was much bigger than it would have been a few years ago,” he said. “We saw a lot of action through accounts like Borders and Barnes & Noble.”
What’s driving the older consumer to the video store — or the DVD department of a bookstore or other big retail establishment?
Shorter windows between a film’s theatrical bow and its video release are certainly one factor. Another is that many of the people who have held out buying a DVD player until now are older.
“The older demo has traditionally shied away from change, but DVD hardware is so affordable and easy to use” that they’re finally crossing over, said Brant Berry, vp at R2 Entertainment, which specializes in releasing classic TV talk and variety shows on DVD.
A third factor is the proliferation of home theater systems. Older consumers are typically more affluent, and once they sink a lot of money into home theater systems, they’re determined to enjoy them.
“They’re adapting to the DVD lifestyle,” Kornblau said. “They’ve been slow on the uptake, but now that they’ve discovered DVD and incorporated home theater systems into their lifestyles, they’ve become aggressive buyers.”
Plus, at home no one talks!
Studios target older, richer DVD buyers