America is watching fewer movies but buying lots more ebooks

201206190340 America is watching fewer movies but buying lots more ebooks
A couple of trend pieces you trend-minded folks may find interesting.

Movie going is WAY DOWN. “Less Than 5% of U.S. Goes to Movies ‘Frequently’”, Graeme McMillan explains, a precipitous drop-off.

Maybe the most depressing thing about the survey in question is that it’s really easy to imagine why movies have fallen so dramatically in popularity (Two years ago, 28% of people rated moviegoing as a frequent source of entertainment, to give you an idea of just how sharp the decline is). After all, going to the movies is both expensive and, often, not that fun of an experience; bad crowds, bad seats and bad movies can all end up ruining the night out. When you start to think about all of the variables that can make moviegoing a less than optimal way to spend your time, suddenly alternative plans become much more attractive.


Graeme explores several ideas for why this should be—the preferred movie-watching experience for most folks we know is lying in bed with an iPad for instance—but the generally crappy and uninspiring output from Hollywood—THAT’S MY BOY? Really??—compared to more adventurous, narrowcasting TV has to be taken into account.

On the other hand, ebooks are more and more popular. For the first time, in Q1 2012 ebooks outsold hardcover books. Paperbacks were still the #1 category but only by a hair, and they are falling fast.

It wasn’t even close. The Association of American Publishers reported that in the first quarter of 2012, adult eBook sales were up to $282.3 million while adult hardcover sales came to only $229.6 million. In last year’s first quarter, hardcover sales accounted for $223 million in sales while eBooks logged $220.4 million.

So where are the eBook buyers coming from? The answer is trade and mass-market paperbacks. Trade paperback sales fell from $335-million to $299.8-million. That’s a drop of 10.5%. Mass market paperbacks sales had it even worse. They plummeted $124.8-million to $98.9-million in the same quarter last year. That’s a fall of 20.8%.


The lesson here for comics is pretty clear—digital is replacing the cheap reading copy but the fancy hardcover is holding its own, even though it’s the #3 format overall.

Once again, anecdotally, the tablet is driving this experience. Our own sainted mother was visiting recently and remarking on how easy it is to just buy a ton of books for the iPad and then marvel at the whopper of a bill.

We’re sure Torsten will be along any moment with more links to surveys and other statistics, but we’ll kick it over to the peanut gallery. Do you go to the movies? Or do you prefer to watch PARTY DOWN via Netflix on the iPad? Kindle or Nook? Sound off!
201206190342 America is watching fewer movies but buying lots more ebooks

Comments

  1. I go to movies, but I try to go to early shows on Sunday. It’s cheaper and there tend to be fewer assholes in the audience. Between cellphone usage and loud conversations, I no longer want to see any movie on opening night.

  2. “The lesson here for comics is pretty clear”

    Yes — we’re not prose.

    -B

  3. Torsten Adair says:

    Sorry… nose to the grindstone so I can go to Disneyland this weekend and hang out with the cool kids at the American Library Association annual conference.

    But I believe Bowker released their yearly stats at BookExpo, so why not take a look at those to see how which subjects and formats are trending?

    Yup:
    http://www.bowker.com/assets/downloads/products/isbn_output_2002-2011.pdf

    Overall, traditional book titles are up 6% from 2010 to 2011, and 9% from 2009 to 2010. That’s actual titles.

    http://pewresearch.org/pubs/2236/ebook-reading-print-books-tablets-ereaders

    via:
    http://publishers.org/resources/

    Tablet ownership doubled during the last holiday season.

    1 in 6 Americans use an e-reader (Sept 2011), 1 in 6 likely to buy one in the next six months. (I don’t own one. I have read e-books on my phone, but not any of length.)

    More people are reading!
    http://www.nea.gov/research/Readingonrise.pdf

    Huge sales growth to overseas readers (750 Million people can read English)
    http://publishers.org/press/68/

    Strong sales growth in January 2012:
    http://publishers.org/press/62/
    “Total Trade net revenue grew by +27.1% vs January 2011. Growth was reflected across Adult, Children’s/Young Adult and Religious categories.

    While Children’s/Young Adult physical format Hardcover and Paperback both saw strong double-digit growth (68.9% and 61.9% respectively), AAP’s first monthly data on Children’s/YA eBooks showed a massive +475.1% increase from 2011 to 2012. Some publishers have attributed this to the availability of more options for devices aimed at those demographics as well as a number of popular new releases.”

    Lots of comics readers not near a comics shop. Lots of English readers not near an English bookstore.

    Before the Millennium, books were purchased via mail order (like 1-800-THE-BOOK). After the Millennium, books were purchased online.

    I’ve ordered books online from New Zealand (the Footrot Flats omnibuses), they arrived in two weeks.

    (CURSES…sucked in…back to work!)

  4. I do a bit of everything… which I assume isn’t helping the various media outlets enough because my entertainment pie is split so heavily.

    I think a lot of people no longer put all their eggs in one basket. Media will have to scale to a *new normal* if they wish to survive the long haul — especially the film industry when so much technology is street-level. Often some of the more entertaining viewing comes off Youtube and other independent sources. The same can be said for digital content (web comics, ebooks, et.)

    When that genie is out of the bottle it is nearly impossible to get it back in. This is a fork in the road for a lot of folks. But I believe each industry will hold their own ground… just in a more targeted fashion… until that runs out.

  5. Likewise, Brian Hibbs is right. Comics continues to be the unique medium / format that is not easily replicated.

  6. I see about 60-70 movies a year, mostly at night (a Monday or Tuesday) or midnight shows. I VERY RARELY have any problems with the audience. I have more problems with people on cellphones at restaurants or driving then I ever do at the movies.

    Yes, there’s crap out there (Anything with Adam Sandler or Julia Roberts qualifies) but if you live near a large metro area, like I do, your choices for films are more than just the standard Hollywood fare.

    I would ALWAYS choose seeing a film for the first time on the big screen then on TV at home or even worse, an iPad or smaller.

    Seriously, who the hell a movie (especially one with great sets, effects and a grand story) on a tiny screen?

  7. Watched Netflix on iPad last night. Read a couple of comics on Comixology app before bed. This morning, previewed some music on ‘This is My Jam’ then downloaded some short story compilations for Kindle app. I saw ‘Safety Not Guaranteed’ in the theaters last weekend. That audience was very involved in the film and not on texting so it was an all too rare enjoyable time at the flicks. So yes, as a whole I am spending more time on tablet but will still buy an expensive art book in print because digital does not cut it on that.

  8. @ Rafael K
    That’s the same slant I have on it. I’m doing a bit of everything. From small scale devices to audience-wide events and films. I think rather than hope for the good old days of movie-going in today’s sea of information that industries find a new normal and embrace / combine with other formats.

    I buy print comics. I buy digital comics. I watch stuff online. I watch movies in theaters. I’d rather they get along instead of fight each other to be exclusive and then report how down they are in sales each year.

    Where’s the positive spin on this? Hahah!

  9. For the win, it’s Breaking bad on the iPad in the conservatory.

    Or Amanda Conner’s Power Girl on comiXology for 99 cents an issue.

  10. Thomas Wayne says:

    Here is the short list for the decline of the overall cinematic going audience…

    1. Alternative Entertainment Outlets – See Above…this is what the article was about.

    2. Lack of Quality Storytelling – yes…I stand on this soap box when it comes to films and movies just like I do when it comes to comics. All you have to do is look at concept movies like BATTLESHIP and see that $200 million and poor storytelling equal disaster. However, small budget flicks with heart like WINTER’S BONE, THE HELP, JUNO and so on do well because they are well told and well performed and word of mouth spreads and the film is enjoyed by all, and they make money because they didn’t have to recover a quarter of a billion before they could start turning a profit. Like with comics and gimmicks, movies and big budgets does not equal sales or good storytelling.

    3. Non-Creative, Non Imaginative People running (and ruining) the movie business – Kevin Smith once said Hollywood has all the money and no imagination. This is an absolute fact. For every Nolan, Fincher, Tarantino and PT Anderson there are 20 toeing-the-company-line yes men who call themselves writers or directors or producers who decide how a film is made via committee or focus group survey. No one wants to see the same crappy film made for the 453rd time or a crappy ass remake of a much better film from 25 to 30 years ago. No one wants to see “what you think will make money”…we want to see good (if not great) stories and performances. These idiots in charge simply do not get this…

    4. Best Movies are now on TV – Over the last decade the best movies have all become TV shows…mostly produced by FX, HBO, and AMC. Look at shows like BREAKING BAD, MAD MEN, THE KILLNG, SONS OF ANARCHY, THE WALKING DEAD, THE SHIELD, JUSTIFIED, RESCUE ME, THE SOPRANOS, THE WIRE, LOUIE, ITS ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILLY, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and so on. To a lesser extent 24 and HOUSE on FOX. Why go to the theater when the best “movies” are on tv. This is why NETFLIX reports that over 70 percent of their streaming business is TV programming and not movies.

    5. Famous Movie Stars are no longer relevant – 15 years ago if Tom Cruise or Jullia Roberts opened a movie all of their “fans” would come out to see it no matter what. Same for Eddie Murphy, or Adam Sandler or insert whatever big name here. But in the day and age of “you can be famous tomorrow on You Tube or Facebook or whatever” and dreadful Reality TV no one cares about famous actors anymore. You could argue the most famous person on the planet is Kim Kardashian. My step daughter constantly talks about cool video makers she is a fan of on You Tube. She knows their names and works by heart…just like I knew all of Clint Eastwood or Tom Sellicks work when I was a kid…the younger generation (whom most movies are targeted) simply don’t care about actors anymore…not when they have Justin Bieber and the Teen Moms to watch after they are done Skypeing about what happened on Jersey Shore. Hollywood will continue to bank on actors but for the most part…FAMOUS ACTORS NO LONGER MAKE A MOVIE A PREDETERMINED HIT. Plain and simple.

    6. Movie Target Age – Like in #5 most films are either dumbed down to be PG13 or dumb to begin with so that they can sell to the teen and twentysomething audience. Have you seen the remake of FOOTLOOSE (sadly, I have…but I survived…a nice man talked me down off the ledge and I am seeing a therapist weekly now)? It could not be enjoyed by anyone over the age of 30 who has even the slightest adult tendencies. Now consider this – if the generation that most films are aimed at are now more interested in everything but going to the movies (a generation raised on the internet and tv with 500 channels) why would they keep making movies to try to bring that generation in? Stupidity and the fact that almost all movies make money on one level or another would be my guess. I propose this…start making movies targeted to people born prior to 1987. Make us…the people who grew up wanting to go to the theater daily if we could…the target audience. In a few years we are going to be the last group of people who enjoyed and loved the theater going expirience anyway…so start caterring to us now.

  11. The next summer blockbuster movie has hit your ereader and book shelves.

  12. It’s much cheaper to read (more then once) it on your tablet then the one time $13.00 movie ticket.

  13. Maclaine Diemer says:

    I’ve averaged roughly 2-4 movies in a theater per year for the last 6 or 7 years. I find the theater going experience so dreadful and the content so lackluster, it simply isn’t worth my time or money. I only just saw The Avengers a couple of weeks ago after it had been out for a month. This was at 11am on a Monday. It’s the only way I could bear the thought of seeing a big summer blockbuster in a theater.

    I still buy quite a few books, but as they continue to pile up in my living space, I’m finally admitting to myself that I need to get rid of them and go mostly digital. The occasional art book and beautiful comics collection aside, I have a hard time justifying having a million paperbacks clogging my shelves.

  14. Interestingly, while ebooks have sailed past hard covers, hard covers are actually up.

  15. monopole says:

    I have a 720p LED DLP projector (only 300 lumens but more than enough with the lights off) a 100″ projection screen, and a decently tweaked 5.1 sound system, all for less than a year’s worth of movie tickets.
    It pretty much blows the doors off of any theatre experience available, and is literally an order of magnitude better than watching on a tablet.
    Most importantly, I have the best seat in the house, no audience to deal with, eat gourmet food, and can pause the movie at any time, for anything from a bathroom break to a quick check of Wikipedia to clarify a reference in the movie.
    The best part is that I have free reign on the films I watch, in the past month I’ve watched Patton, Ip Man, A Woman a Gun and a Noodle Shop, and Endhiran The Robot.
    I also read prolifically on a mixture of Android apps ans well as a Nook Simple Touch. Books, Comics and Manga.

  16. We prefer to rent via Amazon. Or buy.

    The correlation could be made that the monthly comic book is the equivalent of the hardcover (the new release in prose) while the collected editions are the paperbacks.

    Comics are also in a digital era right now. Graphic novel sales are down while the monthly comic sales are up.

    Maybe that trend won’t continue. I won’t predict the future. But the naysayers of the monthly comic have yet to see its doom. They are actually seeing a slight resurgence. Comic shops across the board had record sales in May.

  17. “Best Movies are now on TV….This is why NETFLIX reports that over 70 percent of their streaming business is TV programming and not movies.”

    I’m not sure one dictates the other — TV is much much much “longer” than film. The first season of THE WIRE, for example, is 13 hours long, compared to 90 minutes or so for the average movie. Many other shows have 20+ hours per season. If TV was actually “taking over”, you’d think it would be 10:1 or better, no?

    -B

  18. Thomas Wayne says:

    Brian,
    You have a point…but I think the idea of TV storytelling is you can sit down and get a “chapter” of your favorite “movie” once or twice a day or at whenever you choose.
    I also think one of the reasons more TV is streamed on Netflix than movies is two fold…one…a movie is one and done…TV gives you something to follow for a longer period of time..and two…Netflix went for a six or so month period there where there selection of streaming movies left quite a lot to be desired. TV was the only thing worth watching….at least for some of us.

  19. John Shableski says:

    Would love to see the ebook report broken down by genre. It would make complete sense that the rabid romance and scifi readers (who can and often do read more than 10 books a month) are the biggest consumers of ebook content. What digital also provides is a vetting process. The more successful a title is in ebook shows there’s promise in hard copy.

    As for the movie going experience, the overall statements above are fairly on target. Just because someone threw 200 million at a movie doesnt mean it will be good. Small movies break through more often then we pretend to notice.

    Got a tip for those of you with an LCD projector: Hook up a 9x 12 sheet( or smaller) of Tyvek house wrap on one of your walls. I’ve got one on my barn and it freakin rocks! Drive in thrills but with a lawn chair and a grill.

  20. horatio weisfeld says:

    “Less Than 5% of U.S. Goes to Movies ‘Frequently’” ..”Two years ago, 28% of people rated moviegoing as a frequent source of entertainment, to give you an idea of just how sharp the decline is.”

    >>

    Really? So how come year over year film grosses aren’t down massively – or (seemingly) at all ?

  21. “Really? So how come year over year film grosses aren’t down massively – or (seemingly) at all ?”

    The average ticket price has gone up due to inflation and 3-D premium pricing, and studios are releasing more number of movies.

    Also, it’s not true that the grosses aren’t down at all. When you compare 2011 numbers to 2010, total gross was down 3.7% and number of tickets sold was down 4.2%.

    In fact, the number of tickets sold in 2011 (601 movies released) was the lowest since 1996 (471 movies released).

    http://boxofficemojo.com/yearly/

  22. Johnny Memeonic says:

    Reality disagreeing a with a statistic? But…but statistics are never faked or poorly derived! How can this be?

  23. horatio weisfeld says:

    Reality disagreeing a with a statistic? But…but statistics are never faked or poorly derived! How can this be?

    >>

    I wouldn’t be surprised if we find out that in fact film grosses have gone off a cliff — but the weekly grosses (the ones we see in the paper) are being manipulated, one way or the other, to compensate.

    It would have been much more interesting if the article had actually bothered to address why people say they are no longer going to the movies –while movie grosses seem to stay about even — of course then the writer probably would have been accused of fostering conspiracy theories ..Don’t forget: House prices only go up.

  24. Saber Tooth Tiger Mike says:

    Several mature adults have complained about how cellphone use and cellphone noises have ruined the movie-going experience. Many mature adults have realized the distraction and moral hazard posed by cellphone use during driving. Perhaps cellphones, and to a large extent the internet is fragmenting society to a point that we can’t have a shared experience such as going to a movie anymore.

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