Today it's a guest blog from Jacobs Media's Dave Beasing:
That's how John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theatre Owners, explains this summer's box office slump in the LA Times. Not unlike in other businesses, the tendency in the movie industry is to fix blame – elsewhere – whenever things go wrong. That's why it's surprising to some that it's actually the movie studios and producers who are soul searching this year, while movie theater attendance is off almost 9% so far. That includes a string of 19 straight weekends when 2005 didn't measure up to the same weekend in 2004.
Naturally, there are other explanations also – from people enjoying DVDs on their new home plasma screens, surfing the Internet or playing videogames. But as Sony Pictures Vice Chair Amy Pascal says, "It's really easy… to blame the condition of the theaters, gas prices, alternative media, population changes and everything else I've heard myself say. I think it has something to do with the movies themselves."
Reflecting a typical viewpoint of the creative people in the industry, "Capote" director Bennett Miller blames the studios for playing it safe. "The market creates conventionality and conformity, but that's not really what people want to see." Since two of the summer's biggest surprise hits have been a nature film about Antarctic penguins and an unconventional (and inexpensively made) comedy about a "40 year-old Virgin," he may have a point.
Similarly, there's been plenty of finger pointing in the radio business lately. I've caught myself doing it, too – blaming new technology, archaic ratings measurement, and overly cautious management. And there's probably some validity to all that. But just as an AA meeting ends with a prayer asking for "serenity to accept the things I cannot change, (and) courage to change the things I can…" we'd be wise to focus on the factors that are under our control.
As with movies, content matters. If we create innovative, compelling, entertaining programming – it doesn't matter whether it's delivered on FM or newer technologies. People will find it. Much as I hate to admit it, the blame game needs to stop. If we find ourselves with fewer listeners, "It's the programming, stupid."