Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Hollywood Babble On & On #939: Warner Plops Premiere

Movie and media conglomerate Warner Bros. is closing down its direct-to-DVD division Warner Premiere, which they founded in 2006.  

Now the folks at Warner Bros. is blaming the collapse of the DVD market for the division's collapse, but let's look a little deeper.

Yes, the DVD market is weak. Cable, internet, and other mediums have stolen its thunder, and people are iffy over whether or not to commit to Blu-Ray, but that's not the whole story. If it was the whole story, then Warner Premiere would still be running, just selling its output to the aforementioned other mediums, I think what sank WP was its very business model.

You see, since the advent of home video as a viable market in the early 1980s people have been making movies directly for that market, and often making money out of it.  

Usually these were low budget "exploitation" movies in the genres of horror, action, science-fiction, and lowbrow comedy. For the most part the big studios avoided this market, thinking it was beneath them.

However, they soon realized the money-making potential wasn't beneath them, and jumped in with both feet.

And this is where they screwed up, not only their direct-to-video divisions, but the DVD market as well.

"What was the screw up?" you are asking, furrowing your brow in a feeble attempt to understand.

The screw up was the choice of movies they made and released.

You see the big studios couldn't let a division of theirs pump out low budget exploitation movies by new talent heavily ladled with of over the top novelty. No, that wouldn't be right for a major studio like Warner Bros. to do.  Instead, they churned out a bunch of cheap knock-off sequels and prequels to movies that did well in the theaters, but not well enough to justify a theatrically released sequel.

I'm talking about films like this--
Movies guaranteed to repel fans of the original, and fail to win over new fans. 

Now I'm not saying that every one of these knock-offs was a stinker financially. But it's like running a pyramid scheme, eventually you will hit a wall, and folks will stop buying what you're selling.

Add that to the general ennui the audience has been feeling towards a lot of the big studios' output in recent years and you have a recipe for the collapse of the home video market.

Not only that, other mediums, like cable TV, downloads, etc... more or less shut out the bulk of these officially sanctioned knock-offs.  


Imagine you run a cable channel, you're starved for content and a studio comes to you with a package of movies to sell, and the meeting goes something like this:
STUDIO STOOGE: I got a bunch of sequels and prequels to big hit movies for your channel.

CHANNEL GUY: Great, do they have the original stars?


CHANNEL GUY: The writer?


CHANNEL GUY: The director?


CHANNEL GUY: Is there anyone from the original movie involved?

STUDIO STOOGE: No. But the replacements all have the same haircuts as the people in the original movie.
CHANNEL GUY: I think we'll stick with reruns of Small Wonder and Lifetime 'Woman in Peril' movies.
These same outlets might spend money for the broadcast rights to a novel low budget genre movie, but they're not going to spend it for a cheap counterfeit that's guaranteed to leave audiences disappointed.

From what I was able to gather, the most popular stuff put out by Warner Premiere was the DC Universe series. They were animated movie adaptations of popular comic books with an eye towards giving the fans what they wanted.

The DCU animated movies will be the only thing continuing after the shuttering of Warner Premiere, and obviously so.

What sticks in my craw the most was that Warner Bros. pissed away an opportunity to use a direct-to-video label to develop new talent and new ideas. Instead, they tried to rehash old ideas cheaply, and that's why they failed.

1 comment:

  1. Your post made me think of the many American Pie sequels they've created over the years. Nothing comes close to the original film. Not even those films with the original actors in them. Okay, this is American Pie. I can use better examples, but that's the first movie that came to mine.