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New Movies: To Wait or Not to Wait?

By Bert Ehrmann
August 19, 2011

The window between the time a movie is released in theaters to the time it's available on Blu-ray/DVD/digital download (home video) is quickly shrinking. Back in the days when VHS was king, movies were almost always available on home video six months after the initial theatrical release and then premiered on one of the pay cable channels six months after that.

Now that isn't the case. With movie studios trying to capitalize on new releases as quickly as possible, a film like the Denzel Washington/Chris Pine vs. a train Unstoppable can premiere in theaters in November, be available on home video in February and air on HBO just nine months after the theatrical release in August.

Bruce Lee

Thor movie poster

Even movies released just a few months back are already scheduled to debut on home video in the coming weeks. The movie Thor is set to be released on home video September 13, just 130 days after it premiered in theaters on May 6. And X-Men: First Class is set to debut on home video even sooner. That movie premiered on screens June 3 and is scheduled to be released on home video just 98 days later on September 9.

Which means that Thor and X-Men: First Class ALMOST have the distinction of being films released during the summer movie season AND ALSO being released on home video that same season, but with the summer season ending in August they just missed the cut.

All of which begs the question; with there being very little time between the theatrical release of a movie and the time it's available on home video, is the experience of going to a theater to watch films becoming a thing of the past? Maybe.

When I saw Thor back in May I paid $12.50 for the ticket to see it in 3D. Regardless of whether or not 3D delivers a superior experience to a 2D one, $12.50 is $5.50 more than the standard 2D ticket at that same theater. And $12.50 is the middle of ticket prices; some tickets can go as high as $14.50 for an “IMAX 3D Experience.”

Captain America

X-Men: First Class banner

Let's assume a family of four went to see Thor, bought the cheapest tickets and didn't end up buying anything at the concession stand. They'd end up paying something like $28. Which isn't too bad until you consider that this same movie will be available on home video a few months after its theatrical release and can be purchased for LESS than the cost of these tickets on Blu-ray and for much less on DVD.

And don't forget, a movie bought on home video can be watched over and over again while one seen in the theater is a one-time experience.

Some people might argue that there's much more to going to the theater that just seeing a movie; it's a whole experience onto itself. Unfortunately, in my opinion seeing a movie in a theater might once have been an experience but now is mostly a drag.

Cowboys & Aliens

Cowboys & Aliens poster

You have to find a parking space, buy the tickets, find a seat, change seats when you find the one you were sitting is emits a loud squeak everytime you move, find another seat after the next one has an odd stain on it, listen to the teens in the back of the theater chatter, watch the light on the guy's cell phone light up the theater as he takes a call, listen to crying babies, sit through 20 minutes of commercials then 20 of movie trailers all before finally getting to the movie. Which in the end might be dim and out of focus.

Honestly, I see far fewer movies in theaters these days than I did a decade ago. I much prefer sitting in the comfort of my own home and watching a rental from iTunes or Netflix than surviving the theater “experience.” I find I pick and choose what movies I see in theaters very carefully; Captain America: The First Avenger yes, Cowboys & Aliens no, and instead just wait for the home video release. It's just easier that way and I don't have to listen to the teens talk about Bieber.