It's the Economy, Stupid!

Several months ago, I posed a question in my blog, asking you how high gas prices had affected your entertainment activities. Now, of course, things are much worse as the entire economy circles the bowl, even while gas prices ease up a bit. So I thought it would be interesting to revisit the question in light of the worsening economic crisis.

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, sales of HDTVs may be starting to slow as consumers watch their investments and retirement accounts dwindle. This will have serious consequences for retailers such as Best Buy, which reported a 2-percent decrease in same-store sales after predicting growth of over 4 percent for mid-September. At the same time, MasterCard's SpendingPlus service reported that spending in the electronics category dropped by 14 percent compared with September one year ago.

On the other hand, I can't help thinking of the relative success enjoyed by the movie industry during the Great Depression. Apparently, people flocked to movie theaters to escape their dismal reality for a couple of hours. In those days, movie tickets cost around 25 cents, though even this wasn't an entirely insignificant sum under the circumstances.

I wonder if we will see something similar happen now—only this time, people will flock to their home theaters, choosing not to pay 10 or 12 bucks for a movie ticket and burn the gas needed to get there. Of course, equipping a home theater is not an inexpensive proposition, so if you don't already have one, you might be less likely to pony up the required dough in these tough times.

So I ask you—How has the economic crisis affected your entertainment activities? Do you have a home theater? If so, are you using it more and more in lieu of going out? Are you thinking about investing in a home theater? If so, has the economic downturn put the kybosh on that plan, or are you more determined than ever to bring your entertainment home as things go from bad to worse? I invite you to post a comment here or e-mail me at the address below and share your thoughts.

If you have an audio/video question for me, please send it to

Share | |
David Graham-Costain's picture

I have a somewhat antique home theater: Denon 2803 AVR, Denon DVD 1600, Sony 35" CRT, Dish Network, Infinity Kappa 6.1 fronts and Fosgate dipole surrounds. I have been planning to update to the Panasonic 50PZ800U and the Mar antz 8002 with speaker updates and Blu-Ray to follow but, all is on hold for now. Money is way too tight to spend $3,000-5,000 on electronics even if they would gretly enhance the viewing experience. I rent movies through Netflix and re-watch movies from my collection of DVDs and seldom go out anymore. We did go to the latest Batman to see Heath Leger`s performance (I`m an actor), but that is unusual. So, unless prices go down or I hit a windfall its stay at home with my old home theater for me.

Mar k Olsen's picture

I have not really changed my habits or planned purchases. Drove my V8 that runs on Premium 36 miles to work today simply because it's more fun even though the 4-cyl. sits in the driveway. May be the midwest is not getting hit as hard but business is better than ever (we do professional and theatrical AV design and installation as well as rental and staging). We have seen a slight increase in dealer cost across the board from manufacturers as they try to deal with transportation costs but other than that it's pretty much business as usual. I'm looking forward to Christmas sales being a litter deeper as retail tries to deal with the slump.

Paul's picture

The Depression era movie goer "throngs" are overestimated (not in absolute numbers--there are stats for that--but as a percentage of the population). I'm an historian of American history, and I encounter this popular notion a lot. That said, it is true that movies provided an escape for millions (compared to other forms of entertainment, it was quite inexpensive). I would be a bit cautious in drawing too many conclusions regarding similar behaviour in HTs, however. For one thing, we are not experiencing anywhere near as dramatic as the Great Depression. Secondly, the trend, among HT owners (I'm one of them), of staying home rather than going to the cinema has been growing for some time now--well before the recent economic downturn. It will likely accelerate a bit, but I suspect that those who can afford an HT worthy of the name have more disposable income than the average person (I know that is true for our household). Those without an HT will likely put off such a purchase, thou

michael's picture

Despite the "recession", I've been saving a few dollars every month to purchase a large screen LCD this Christmas. I currently own a large screen DLP that works fine, but owning a DuoPlayer with 24fps capability matched with a DLP with the inability to capitalize on the technology is killing me :). So, I'll keep saving, and come this Christmas, I'll soothe my economic woes with a fully paid for gift to myself. In the end, though, I can confess the economy helped me decide between the 60" Plasma I wanted, and the 52" LCD I'm going to purchase.

Stan A-Z's picture

Being one who; signed up for a good/fair loan, pays off his credit cards, has a stable job, and doesn't mess with the stock market, my entertainment dollars are flying out into the economy. Currently I'm shopping for some high end noise-canceling headphones (thinking Bose), then looking at a nice, high end TV or a 24" iMac for the living-room. I'll most likely have to re-wire the house to get good ethernet/fiber LAN set up, but that's OK, I can afford it... It's amazing how the prices are falling as merchants are forced to cut their profits vice pay taxes on unsold inventory. Change? Change what? For me, things are pretty darned good. Like Warren Buffet said (paraphrased): If you have the cash, BUY! May be a 2nd house for Christmas?!?!

Eric's picture

I heard your request on Leo's radio show and came to your blog. I always enjoy your spot on The Tech Guy. Yes, I am in title insurance for the housing market and the industry is laying off hand and foot....thus my layoff. Yes....I enjoy my HTPC and home theatre alot more now.

Luis Lorenzo's picture

The current situation hasn't impacted my entertainment choices too much. I have a Mitsu 65" D.L.P. and a Xbox 360. For sound a Yamaha RX-V1 with Boston Acoustic speakers. and Rock Solid surrounds with a Klipsh 12" Sub. This system satisfies my entertainment needs and so we have decreased theater going. We still go to the movies but we spend a lot of time watching movies and also TV shows at home. We really do not see the need to go out to see a movie as much as before. I do want to upgrade my speakers but I can't make up my mind what speakers to go with. Any suggestions?

Breetai's picture

I haven't changed for the most part. I'm a gamer and my expense is my PC itself and occasionally switching games. I also get together with my buddies for some tabletop RPG gaming and gas cost went up for that since I moved across the street from the office (but of course overall it went down,) now I've got a trek to go hang out with my buddies. Vote Yak/LoMak '08 "DPS you can belive in" - This message has been approved by Yak

Scott Wilkinson's picture

Luis, what is your budget for upgrading your speakers?

GadgetGurl's picture

This is a great question by the way. In my household, it's just me and my husband and we haven't changed our entertainment habits at all. Long before the "economic crisis" hit, we decided to cut our costs of entertainment. So last year we invested in a Samsung 40" HDTV - got a great deal on it. We have TiVO plus cable with every station and a DVD player. With that combination, we have seen every movie that has been released. We see them a little later, for instance, we just saw Iron Man a few weeks ago when the DVD was released. But the wait is not a problem for us. We are not fanatical about seeing a movie when it first comes outand we don't have kids, so we don't have to worry about "staying busy." Occassionally, I will buy a DVD here or there or I will just record my own on my PC. We do plan to get a blu-ray player in the next few months. We may consider a home theater system. I love the Bose system, but its not our immediate buying plans because the TV has excellen

RobertDSeals's picture

One question I have is my video camera. I would like to upgrade, but I'm not sure what to get. I found that most of my video taking is in very low light at my kids school performances (dance, drama and such). The video I have now works great for outdoors and indoor under normal light, but I get lousy quality when shooting the stage (which is lit) when I'm in the audience (which is dark). I don't know that the "back light" setting is the answer because the performers aren't backlit. Any ideas on good video camera for this type of situation?

Enter your Sound & Vision username.
Enter the password that accompanies your username.