I have to admit an idealistically intolerant view of the word product when it is used to describe movies, particularly by people who work in independent and specialty film. So deep is this pet peeve that I spent about 20 minutes on the Variety site last night trying to figure out when the word became part of the lexicon.
It turns out that Army Archerd used the word in 1941 — writing about a United Artists film sales exec, he wrote:
Sears knows exhibs. They trust him. For United Artists he should be a natural tower of strength. He should and is able to convince consumers that the product he represents is the best, not alone in quality, but in profits as well.
But the term immediately faded from usage for 40 years, returning in 1992, with numerous appearances in the fall of that year. The first apparent usage in connection with specialty film is fittingly found in a story about then independent October Films securing financing from investment bankers:
October’s expansion comes on the heels of a contraction in the independent film arena, where fewer companies compete for product, which has created a general downward pressure on independent film titles of roughly 20% to 25% over the last year.
But the word has truly fourished recently, according to the Variety site. Today I hear it regularly in conversation and read it often in trade news stories. Even when used in the context of movie marketing or sales, I still can’t help but find the term crude. Personally, I’ve been trying to swap in the word “content” instead. Anyway, I’ll stop there…