Commentary

Why Pay $56 When You Can Get It Free?

By now everyone knows the film industry has taken a page out of the recording industry playbook and begun to sue Internet users who download movies. They decided on this strategy while ignoring that lawsuits have had almost no impact on the volume of music downloading. What HAS had an impact is the now widespread opportunity to buy songs for 99 cent each. There is a lesson here somewhere.

When music file sharing first started, the conventional wisdom was that people were taking advantage of Internet technology to steal from the music companies. And they were. Why? Because CDs were over-priced and under- delivering, too often with a one-hit song anchoring a disc full of otherwise mediocre music. The music industry made no accommodation for buyers who wanted just a song or two off of an album; it was all or nothing. The film industry is making the same mistake by constantly rising prices and under delivering quality content.

I love movies. I am happy to pay (up to a point) for them. I like sitting in big theaters where the images are twenty feet high and the surround sound can bounce me off my seat. I like taking my family. But now that it costs the four of us more than $56 for tickets (and another $30 for over priced popcorn and drinks) I feel cheated especially when the film sucks (as too many do.)

But let's not just pick on Hollywood. Have you bought a concert ticket lately? I'll bet you think they are still $17.50. Been to a Broadway show? Better have a few hundred in your pocket first. The last best seller I bought was $32. If I want to see Kobe up close and personal, it will cost me what I might spend for a month of electricity. And they don't cut the price when cellar-dwellers Chicago or New Orleans come to play.

I am sure the film industry would argue that talent costs more than it used to and special effects that audiences seem to demand are expensive and that marketing costs are increasing and the new digital technology is costly. Well, I'm paying $2.35 for gallon of gas, my last car costs about what my dad paid for his house, and my son's school tuition just pushed beyond a number I thought I wouldn't see until he hit college.

Already the average guy has been priced out of professional sports, live theater, and anything that involves an orchestra or a tutu. Soon it will be movies. What will happen then? Downloads will increase. Illegal copies will be burned. Even more counterfeit copies will be bought on the street. What is sad is that all this is not inevitable if the film industry wakes up. And here is how:

Why not frequent viewer clubs that reward our loyalty? Why not offer two-for night on the slowest box office night of the week? Give parents a break when you know they have to haul kids in for those pre-Christmas releases. We're the ones buying the kid's ticket and, again, that over-priced popcorn. How about $6 for our tickets to show your appreciation? Working with the cable companies, they could have a pre-release "Dinner and a Movie" at home for families. The cable companies know the demos on households, and in exchange, the families could answer a few questions about the film that might help the theatrical release.

Will this entirely stop the downloads? But it will slow the process and demonstrate that the aggressive pricing policy is as much to blame as the Internet. Americans are fair people, they understand the free enterprise system, and really do want to pay their fair share. What they don't like is being taken advantage of.

Adam Guild is the president of Interep Interactive.

Next story loading loading..