Older audiences pass on theaters
Karen Shinoda loves Ray, the Oscar-nominated movie starring Jamie Foxx as the late Ray Charles, but she didn’t see it in theaters.
“I missed it because of the cost of going to the theater, and I was unemployed at the time,” says Shinoda, 54, a legal secretary in Castro Valley, Calif.
But for $15, she picked up a copy on DVD a few months after the film opened in theaters. That’s about half what she would have shelled out on a movie ticket, popcorn and drink, gas and parking.
Ray has earned nearly $150 million from DVD sales and rentals, twice its $75 million gross in theaters, says Craig Kornblau, president of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. It is one of a growing number of dramas that performed much better on DVD than they did in theaters, primarily because they appeal to older movie fans.
Cost is one factor keeping older moviegoers from theaters, as is time. For some films, up to 80% of the people who buy the DVD didn’t see the movie in the theater, says Buena Vista’s Lori MacPherson.
“People’s lives are becoming increasingly busy. Consumers don’t always have a chance to get to the theater to see every film they would like.”
Turnaround is another factor: Most movies are available for home viewing about four months after opening in theaters.
People who are just now buying DVD players, Kornblau says, are “primarily older consumers who are significantly embracing not only the DVD phenomenon but also, more specifically, DVD dramas.”
Dan Gurlitz, general manager of Koch Vision, also credits older adults with fueling sales of those dramas that had limited runs in art-house theaters.
One such film is the critically acclaimed DearFrankie, which showed in just 96 theaters and arrives today on DVD. The movie is about a single mother who invents a tale that her son’s father is away at sea, but the lie catches up to her.
“Drama is quite possibly our best-selling genre,” Gurlitz says. “The core audience is intensely involved in collection-building, and while many visit their local theaters, most yearn to own.”
Steve Beeks, president of Lions Gate Entertainment, discovered the power of the over-45 set with the drama Beyond the Sea, starring Kevin Spacey as Bobby Darin. It showed on just 383 screens (wide release is considered 500 or more) and earned just $6 million in theaters, but it sold about $17 million in DVDs.
Older adults are buying 10% more DVDs now than they were at the end of 2004, says Kornblau, citing internal research. “As evidenced by the runaway success with such dramatic titles as Seabiscuit, Friday Night Lights and Ray, the late adopters are the prime catalyst for these films’ overperformance on DVD.”
Marketers are responding to the trend by tailoring ad campaigns for dramas to older adults and releasing special anniversary editions of older films such as Jaws and Casino
For the Oscar-nominated Finding Neverland, “we targeted a broad audience, including parents, many of whom did not get a chance to see the film in theaters,” says Gordon Ho, executive vice president of Buena Vista Home Entertainment.
The Oscar-nominated Sideways was advertised on cable channels with high mature-adult viewership, such as A&E, Bravo, Lifetime and Fox News, says Mike Dunn, president of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.
Older audiences pass on theaters