chapter  1
26 Pages

The DVD Cinephile: Viewing Heritages and Home Film Cultures

WithBARBARA KLINGER

Given the current DVD-saturated media landscape, it is hard to imagine that this new entertainment technology made its debut in the consumer market little more than ten years ago. DVD’s meteoric rise owes to a powerful combination of economic, marketing, and technological trends. Motivated by the possibility of new and improved profi ts, by the end of the 1990s, the major studios were involved in releasing recent fi lms, as well as their libraries, on DVD. Even more than VHS, DVD represented a windfall for the studios. Costing about $2 per disc to produce (Leipzig 2005: 28)—far less than the manufacturing cost of a videocassette-and identifi ed more strongly than this older technology with the sell-through market because of its comparative quality and lack of degeneration in replay,1 DVDs meant bigger profi t margins for studios and distributors. Whereas at the height of the popularity of VHS, consumers bought approximately fi ve videocassettes a year, by 2002 they were buying at least fi fteen DVDs annually (Lyman 2002: 13). Of the 10 million copies of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Columbus 2001) sold from May to June in 2002, for instance, almost 60 per cent were DVDs, while Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings (Jackson 2001) sold 5.2 to 6.5 million copies in the fi rst week, with VHS comprising only 1 to 1.5 million of these sales (Nichols 2002: 25). By 2004, sales of feature fi lms on DVD to US audiences amounted to nearly 50 per cent of the annual feature fi lm revenue earned by the studios (Belson 2005: sec. C, 1, 6). While fi lm sales on DVD have slowed, causing some anxiety in the industry, this source of income still represents a tremendous boon to the media conglomerates.