Did I just give Daniel Day Lewis a penny?
March 29, 2012 6:08 PM   Subscribe

What happens to the two dollars I paid for a DVD?

The other day I bought a DVD copy of "There Will Be Blood" at the going out of business sale of a Blockbuster store. Prices had been reduced and reduced again on everything to the point where I paid two dollars for this award-winning movie. (Great film - now I'm going to re-do the kitchen in rough-hewn wood and grit and dust but that's another story.)

I wonder if, as the bar code was scanned at the checkout counter, (also for sale), that sale was noted back in Hollywood. Was any tiny royalty fee for actors or producers triggered? Or did the money all go to Blockbuster, the moviemakers having long since gotten their cut when Blockbuster first obtained the DVD copies ?
posted by longsleeves to Media & Arts (7 answers total)
Blockbuster paid them when they got the original shipment of copies.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:23 PM on March 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Or did the money all go to Blockbuster, the moviemakers having long since gotten their cut when Blockbuster first obtained the DVD copies ?

This, I'm afraid.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 7:17 PM on March 29, 2012

If it's a GOOB sale the contents of the store were more than likely purchased by liquidators, who are selling it to you.
posted by Gridlock Joe at 8:24 PM on March 29, 2012

If the disk was a former rental then all the money went to Blockbuster. Because of the First Sale Doctrine once Blockbuster bought the disk in the first place they could do anything they wanted with it including renting it out or selling it again without paying anything back to the original producer.
posted by TeknoKid at 8:34 PM on March 29, 2012

Even though Daniel Day Lewis received no direct payment from your purchase, maybe you can take solace in the possibility that somewhere in the Blockbuster Video machine you incremented the "sales of movies starring Daniel Day Lewis" ticker by one, increasing the likelihood of future purchases ever so slightly.
posted by contraption at 10:50 PM on March 29, 2012

While the specific $2 that you paid went right to Blockbuster, some money was paid to the numerous people responsible for the movie when Blockbuster originally purchased the DVD. If it makes you feel better, it's very likely that Blockbuster paid more to the "moviemakers" (in the broader sense) than you paid for the DVD.
posted by The Lamplighter at 1:33 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, you need to not be thinking of this as "DDL does not get paid until my $2 gets split up and sent back to Hollywood and split up among all the other people with a money interest in the film". First of all, this was paid for when it was purchased. You may remember a few years ago when there was a period when all movies (VHS/DVD) were out at a high price for a few weeks, then reduced to a "sell through" price. Blockbuster and other rental establishments would buy them at the MUCH HIGHER original price to service their new release market. (Today, almost all movies are immediately available at the sell-through price, weeks or months sooner than in the past.) They may or may not have gotten a volume break, but the whole point of this inflated price was so that Blockbuster et al. would pay more to theoretically pay for the great numbers of viewers of these discs.

After that, though, it's the same as if your neighbor were selling it at a rummage sale. There isn't any secondary-market royalty system at work, and the disc is property of the owner, in this case Blockbuster. They probably made many more dollars in rentals on the disc than they paid for it, none of it accruing back to the studio.

Finally, you also need to realize that in most cases, actors are paid up front. Some of the biggest A-list names, people who in the parlance can "open" a picture by their mere presence, get paid through what's called participation, that is to say, a percentage of the gross. But this is where Hollywood accounting comes into play, notoriously ... throwing obstacles of every type in the way of sending that 0.5% or whatever is in the contract back to the people who signed it. Without checking, my assumption is that DDL received his actor's fee at the very beginning, or at least at the completion of his work on the film, and the studio from that point forward owed him nothing but, say, broadcast royalties. So the studio pays Day-Lewis, pays PTA, pays the crew, and is before the movie opens somewhat in the red to high eight figures. At this time, the whole energy of the studio is in making its money back (see: John Carter). Whatever it sells to Blockbuster, to Wal-Mart, to Amazon, it is basically eking its way back to black on the budget.
posted by dhartung at 3:26 PM on March 30, 2012

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