Cinematic Explosion: New Products, Unpredictabilty and Realized Quality in the Digital Era

While file sharing has undermined firms’ ability to generate revenue for their products, other technological change has reduced entry barriers in cultural industries, with substantial positive impacts on the availability of new books and recorded music. Unpredictability of product quality is a generic feature of cultural goods, including music, books and movies, so an infusion of new products holds the possibility of bringing not just low-appeal products but also new products that consumers find highly appealing. This paper explores the effects of reduced costs of production, promotion and distribution in the motion picture industry, asking four questions. First, we document substantial growth in the number of movies brought to market, particularly since the early 2000's. Second, we document growth in institutions by which consumers can discover new movies, many of which are produced outside of the major studios and not released in theaters. Third, we show that the new independent movies account for a growing share of commercially successful movies. Finally, we present evidence, based on both critical assessments and usage, that recent vintages are more appealing to consumers than earlier offerings. These findings on movies echo developments documented elsewhere for recorded music and books.