Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct an earlier misinterpretation by the writer. For more, please see Rick's Take " Jet Li, I'm Sorry ." The Fool apologizes for the error.
If you didn't catch Cry Wolf at the movie theater, you weren't alone. The horror flick opened a disappointing fifth at the box office over the weekend, raking in a mere $4.6 million in ticket sales.
Then again, it's probably hard to get excited about going to see a new film in the theater when the movie's print ad promises that an even bolder, unrated version of Jet Li's Unleashed will be available on DVD in a few weeks. As theater chains head toward their third-straight annual decline in attendance, studios have been shortening the gap between the time when a new piece of celluloid hits the big screen and when it gets stacked up on the video-store shelf. These days, you will find new releases at a rental chain near you four to six months after they complete their movie-house run. Most of the summer's biggest blockbusters will be out on DVD over the next two months. That's cold. And bold.
The move isn't as daring as the indie-produced Noel that hit the multiplex during last year's holiday season. Its theatrical release coincided with its same-day release on destructible DVDs that had a shelf life of just a few days. However, expectations ran low on that one. Cry Wolf is a low-budget thriller, but it's also being put out by Rogue Pictures, a subsidiary of General Electric's
Unfortunately, early DVD releases haven't really helped much. Movie studios like Pixar
Struggling movie chains have countered by turning to larger screen installations. IMAX
This leads us back to Cry Wolf, one of the many horror films coming out over the next few weeks in order to cash in on the frightfully festive Halloween season. The premise is that an Internet prank goes awry, with a concocted serial killer legend becoming all too real. That's a lot like Hollywood these days. It created a monster by faulting the theater operators for their recent slump. As that weakness has bled through to the retail market, it's clear that the multiplex wasn't the only one to blame. It seems the monster has been hiding under the bed of the movie studios all this time -- it's the content.
Exhale if you must, Hollywood. Then run for your lives.
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is always up for a good scary movie. He owns shares in Pixar. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.