Consumer Electronics vs. Iron Man

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Iron Man

It’s the latest Hollywood cliffhanger: how will you spend your economic stimulus check?

If the New York Times, NPD Group and other leading-indicator-watchers are to be believed, you’ll head right down to Best Buy, Game Stop or Costco and use that money to buy a shiny piece of consumer electronic hardware.

Two Times stories in the last three days have mentioned how sales of HDTV’s, video game consoles and software, DVD players and other home entertainment devices have been rising during the economic downturn. It seems that when hard times hit, most people will be content to cocoon in front of their 42-inch LCD’s, watching high-def newscasts full of talking heads holding court on the cost of gasoline and food.

Hollywood uberblogger Nikki Finke says Hollywood is paying attention to this mashup of commerce and technology because “Iron Man” is about to launch in multiplexes nationwide – waving the green flag for the summer movie season – and the videogame “Grand Theft Auto IV” just came out and it’s getting the kind of reviews you usually see for a Coen Brothers film. Sure, you spend $60 bucks for the game, but how many hours of 1080p gameplay (plus cinema-worthy storytelling) does that buy you vs. the 126 minutes it will take to watch Robert Downey Jr. blow stuff up? Do we even need to mention related spending/downtime like parking, pre/post-movie dining, babysitters, etc?

Don’t think that the major electronic retailers aren’t aware that there are about to be a lot of shoppers wandering in with new cash from Uncle Sam. A quick check of their websites show plenty of sales and discounts, and surprise: “GTA IV” is a popular item to bundle with a Playstation 3 and an LCD screen.

But pure gaming aside, more sales mean more ways for technology/media companies to digitally save me the trouble of leaving my living room. I look at my current home setup and there are three avenues for downloading semi-recent blockbusters in high definition: an Xbox 360, with its Xbox Live Marketplace, an Apple TV with iTunes and a cable box/DVR with Comcast On Demand. Tell me again why I’d want to spend money to take my rowdy clan to a crowded theater to see “Horton Hears a Who.”

I can’t wait to find out how this Perfect Storm of IRS refunds/economic stimulus checks, an economy in freefall and the summer movie season will truly impact consumer electronic sales for May and June and the summer box-office receipts for all those sequels, prequels and Hollywood franchise tentpoles.

The Consumer Electronics Association usually releases its end-of-year stats at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, but the analyst group NPD should have some preliminary figures before then. Meanwhile, entertainment watchers should have end-of-summer figures for Hollywood around Labor Day. Check back then and see how this drama unfolds.

Read [NY Times] Read [Deadline Hollywood Daily]

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