Weekend Question: How Much Is a Movie Worth?

iTunes_MoviesThere’s been a lot of chatter recently about the value of movies. Studios are duking it out with Redbox over its $1-per-night movie rentals, and now Amazon and Apple’s iTunes appear to be locked in a price battle over digital downloads.

Video Business notes how both digital distribution outlets are cutting prices not just on catalog titles, but on new-ish releases as well. For example, iTunes is running a back-to-school sale with many older titles selling for as little as $4.99 (though I’m vexed by what back-to-schooler would want The Paper Chase). Relatively new releases like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Slumdog Millionaire have also seen their prices slashed.

All this price-cutting got me thinking — what is a movie worth? I realize that’s subjective, but that’s precisely why I want know what you think.

An anonymous executive with an indie studio speculated to Video Business that the price cuts are part of a digital land grab as the two powerhouses try to get an early market share advantage in this nascent industry. That certainly seems like part of it, but there are probably other factors at play as well.

One of which is a perception that digital downloads should be cheaper than their physical counterparts. Downloads don’t come with packaging, artwork, or any of the other extras bells and whistles that can accompany a DVD. It’s hard to justify a big sticker price when you literally have nothing in your hands to show for it.

Then there’s Netflix, which offers tons of movies and an all-you-can-watch subscription model that can makes it seem like you’re not paying anything at all. Not to mention the rerunning of old movies on plain ole TV.

The whole industry is in a state of flux as we move from physical to digital goods — including the pricing of said goods. As I was thinking about this post, and what I would or wouldn’t pay for a movie, music downloads came to mind. Music is creeping up from the former industry standard flat rate of 99 cents a track to $1.29 for new songs (at least on iTunes). I, however, can’t imagine paying more than 99 cents for a song — whether it’s brand new or decades old, I derive the same basic entertainment from it.

But it’s different for a movie. There’s no way I’d pay the same amount for Watchmen that I would for Misery (though Misery is the better movie). Is it because unlike music, we can see how dated a movie is from the clothes, hairstyle and special effects? I’m not sure. It’s probably a combination of factors.

But I want to know what you think. How much is a movie you can watch at home worth to you? One dollar? Five? Does it matter if it’s a new release or old movie? Weigh in below, in the comments section.

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