Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Ventura vs. the Underground Entertainment Industry

Before I begin, I should probably note that my DVD copy of FULL METAL JACKET does have a 5.1 mix.

Yeah. Warner did a remaster and put it in the same goddamn package. I didn't realize this, and figured I had the original disk. I don't. Thanks a bunch, Warner, for making sure I need the goddamn 15 year old laserdisc to ensure that I can see Kubrick's film the way he actually shot it. Seriously WB. What the hell?

Anyway. Ventura Distribution is fucking with my company. No, not the bootleg outfit I run out of my living room. Media Blasters is usually the one who - inadvertantly (maybe) - is quietly threatening my stranglehold on the yaoi and horror-porno market. I'm talking about that "real" job for a certain horror distributor who shall remain nameless for plenty of reasons. Mostly keeping my ass from getting chewed out. The industry is very secritive, and I'll tell you why someday. Or maybe today. Who knows.

So, Ventura Distribution is a MASSIVE company that sells DVD's to wholesalers in bulk. They get a cut of the profits, the studio gets more disk sold in places like Best Buy and Blockbuster, everybody wins. Unless the distributors decide to douche out, not pay what they owe, and most importantly decide to liquidate all assets when their pet store Musicland goes under. What can I say, gas is $2.95 a gallon, butter is $2.50 a pound, so I'm spend that combined to get enough goddamn butter to make my ghetto-ass maccaroni and cheese dinner. It's a shitty time all over, and the entertainment industry is feeling it pretty hard. But here's the big problem for us, the guys who don't make any goddamn money to begin with: Ventura is holding our DVD's ransom, and plans to keep them and sell them to pay off it's own debt. And the worst part is, the way things are now, they can legally get away with it.

The recent Harry Potter DVD sold over 1 million copies in the first DAY. Cowboy Bebop, probably one of the most successful anime TV series' in the US, sells a million copies over a 5 year period.

I'll also explain why anime is a shit hole from which no profit can be made: after a few break out hits, thanks mostly to increased exposure on Cartoon Network and Adult Swim, a very small number of anime became massive hits capable of pulling in millions. Cowboy Bebop, for instance, sold a million copies. It took 5 years... but a million sold is still a million sold, and for an anime studio to have hose sorts of numbers you feel like the hand of fucking God is guiding it. Around 2001, a couple anime studios started getting cocky and started bid wars for titles they figured would make a bundle. A show that was worth $5,000 an episode is worth about $30,000 these days, and that's for a middle of the road sort of title. Even without American money co-producing anime, high profile theatrical movies can cost up to a million dollars for distribution rights alone. Steamboy, Cowboy Bebop: Knockin' on Heaven's Door, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children... do these titles have something in common? They should. They were all released by Sony Entertainment, a company used to making the BIG bucks, and can actually afford these high profile films. Similarly, both Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, Millenium Actress and Tokyo Godfathers are owned by the monolithic Dreamworks in the US, a studio which could eat ADV and VIZ whole if it wanted to. While I'm sure Geneon or FUNimation or a number of other anime specific studios would have loved to release these movies... the rights were probably just too goddamn expensive. Even when a title does WELL, getting it there can cost you an arm and a leg: remember APPLESEED? The 40,000 copies sold suprise hit of 2005? Geneon put that in theatres. You could easily argue that this helped propel the sales of the DVD (being on 2 screens and all...), but Geneon just barely broke EVEN on the cost of securing the theatres and getting the 35mm film print to play. Forget that the DVD has fucked up Japanese audio tracks and was never/will never be fixed... that Geneon was released to DVD as all is almost a miracle.

Plus, you have to dub anime. And every now and again an Otaku stands up and says "no you don't!" Yes. You do. I don't like dubs most of the time. There's maybe half a dozen I can actually watch without twitching and wanting to pierce my brain Kakihara style. But if you're praying for 20,000 units sold, you need as MUCH mainstream money as is humanly possible. The only studios to release subtitled-only anime these days are Dreamworks (who are doing it more to preserve the artistic integrity of KON Satoshi and OSHII Mamoru - and good for them), rinky dink hentai studios who can't even afford a dub, and yaoi/shounen-ai titles from Media Blasters. MB doesn't dub them because... well, it's yaoi. Either you're a WAI~ fangirl and you'll buy every yaoi title out there or you won't. That it's not dubbed has never deterred any yaoi fan. Myself included. They won't hope to sell more than maybe 5,000-10,000 copies of something like MY SEXUAL HARASSMENT, so why bother? Dubs, shockingly enough, cost just as much as the licenses do these days. Shows need to be dubbed fast and hard for TV broadcast, and with so much anime coming over the usual stable of US voice actors want to be compensated for their time. Even at non-union pay (ie: shit pay for long hours) these dubs are insanely expensive to produce, and without them there wouldn't be enough sales to actually make them investment of the show back at any point in time.

Anime ain't cheap boys. So don't buy bootlegs unless they're from me.

Horror studios don't dub. And horror movies are a little cheaper. But, the same the principles apply.

Oh, and the reason everybody's so secritive? You don't want to get screwed. If studio guy A says to studio guy B "hey, I found the rights to movie X." "Really? How much is it?" "Eh, $cheap." "Really? That's very interesting. Blah blah blah." "'Kay, cool. Bye!", then studio guy B is going to find the guy with said rights and offer $less cheap. Guy with rights calls up studio guy A and says "hey, we've had some good times and I will always cherish our memories together... but dude, I've been sucking dick for booze money. Sorry." And then studio guy B announced he has movie X 2 days later. Studio guy A then bangs studio guy B's girlfriend/mother/dog in revenge. It rarely gets prettier from here on in. Plus, if the rights holder is a crazy Japanese studio they'll get the offer or $more money, and may either take it and not tell studio guy A, or may turn to studio guy A and go "dude, wtf?! I thought what we had was special! I WANT A DIVORCE!" NEVER, EVER piss off the crazy Japanese licensor. They will make you pee razor blades for it later.

So, there's no money in gore, and even more non-money in anime. We do it because we want to get payed to watch movies all day. We don't get payed a lot. But we have our mac 'n' cheese, our DVD's and our internet porn. It's maybe not all we want. But it's all we need. But what happens when the guy you give all your DVD's to doesn't pay you for the meager thousands of disks you've sold? And what happens when they hold your product and won't give it back to you? You lose money. A SHIT load of money.

And my mac 'n' cheese is gettin' pretty gross without that butter.

To be fair my boss is the one who's really up a creek. The poor guy's lost about a million total in assets. I wasn't even sure the company I worked for was WORTH a million. But, yeah, it was. And he hasn't gotten that waiter job yet, so I guess we'll be all right. We already have a new distributor lined up to carry the new movies we've been sitting on for nearly a year now, though sadly plenty of the flicks coming up are in English, which means I go from being "the subtitle guy" to a sort of cheerleader who shoots the shit with the boss man. Not that I mind being a gore cheerleader. I look great in the uniform. That he makes me wear. Seriously. I should be getting payed more for this.

So, what's a poor bastard who lost a million dollars to a massive and now fledgling company to do? What America does best: SUE! He's going to need to find every single company that got 'effed in the a' by these motherfuckers and do his best to bitchslap them with a class action lawsuit. If we win, we'll get our DVD's back (the mother fuckers even snatched them back from store shelves in the hope that they can sell them off later... bastiches!), we'll get the money owed, AND we'll pay off that hefty legal fee we'll incur. How much is it to file a case of this magnitude? Only a hundred thousand dollars.

Sucks... but when you're out a million anyway, maybe you can go halfsies and hope for the best, right? The only upside I can see to this situation is EVERYBODY Ventura was working with got screwed, and I can only imagine that they're going to get together like a big goofy Superhero Team - The Animated Artsy Gorehound League! - and shove the court papers up Ventura's peehole. Come to think of it, I'm so drawing that sometime this week. Yeah. What time is it? 4:30? Why/how the hell am I still typing?

So, my mac 'n' cheese.... which I haven't been eating to begin with, but I like the symbolism, damnit... is getting pretty crunchy. So I should probably go to bed.

P.S. - See boss? They don't know who you are. Even if a curious bastard poked at my blog at random, they wouldn't have a clue who we are. Come to think of it, I don't know who I am anymore. Damnit, why aren't I asleep?

You don't know my name, you don't know my number, you don't know my face at all~

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