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John Latchem

Agent DVD Insider

, Managing Editor

A graduate of UCLA, John Latchem worked as a newspaper editor and did freelance work for such publications as The Hollywood Reporter before joining Home Media Magazine in 2005. He serves as editor of the reviews and TV DVD sections, as well as the annual Agent DVD consumer issue that coincides with San Diego Comic-Con International.
 

July 13, 2010
Doldrums of Summer



With the summer box office heating up, stores seem to be caught in a rut awaiting the hit movies from spring on DVD and Blu-ray.

In a week offering a smattering of modest box office performers, it’s not uncommon for stores not to stock everything, with a different assortment of titles depending on the retailer.

Best Buy, for example, gave a nice push to the Ben Stiller starrer Greenberg, while Walmart and Target sold it only online. Lionsgate’s direct-to-video thriller Caught in the Crossfire was readily available on Walmart shelves, but online only at Target and Best Buy. And so on.

For the most prominent new title, The Bounty Hunter, Walmart offered a two-pack with romantic comedy Maid in Manhattan.

Best Buy offered a promotion with Sony Pictures, packing $10 theater coupons for upcoming releases Salt, The Other Guys and Eat Pray Love with copies of DVDs of The Pursuit of Happyness, Talladega Nights, Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Snatch, at $7.99 each.

By: John Latchem


July 08, 2010
Emmy Nominees Make a Statement


"South Park"


The 2010 Emmy nominations as unveiled July 8 by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences consisted of the usual list of perfunctory nominees that really shouldn’t surprise anyone. Looking at the list, it’s hard to quibble with a majority of the selections (unlike the asinine winners list from the recent Saturn Awards).

Sure, I would rather have seen “The Big Bang Theory” up for best comedy instead of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” which was probably nominated on the gimmick of its “Seinfeld” reunion. But I’m glad to see “True Blood” up there on the list for best drama series. And it’s nice to see Hugh Laurie nominated again for “House” in the best actor category, which he should have dominated the past few years but has never managed to win, and probably won’t win again this year.

Beyond the major nominees, however, are a few selections that really stand out to me.

First, in the Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series category, is the nomination of “The Tonight Show.” But not the Jay Leno “Tonight Show.” It’s “The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien.” That’s right, the redoubtable redhead gets a bit of vindication following his very public ouster by NBC earlier this year (he returns in November on TBS, which mounted the Emmy campaign on his behalf).

But I think more interesting is the Outstanding Animated Program category. “South Park” picked up its 10th nomination in the animation categories, which isn’t a surprise since the show has won four times, including the past three years. The amusing thing about this particular nomination is that it’s for the two-part episode “200/201,” which is the infamous episode that was censored by Comedy Central for fear of offending certain religious groups, then yanked from the Internet so fans couldn’t watch it there either.

From what I understand of the Emmy process, nominations are based on the submission of individual episodes, rather than the show as a whole. This isn’t always apparent since the best comedy and drama series and acting categories are listed by show and not episode (that’s why some mediocre shows can make the list if they have a couple of standout episodes). The animation category actually lists the specific episode because one-shot specials are also eligible for the category.

To further simplify the process, only one episode of an animated show can be submitted for the category in a given year, so the producers and network have to make that determination.

Ergo, Comedy Central, after demonstrating their confidence in the episodes “200” and “201” by censoring them, later submitted them for Emmy consideration (though I suspect creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone had more to do with the selection of the episode to present for the Emmy).

Looking at the nominees list, there’s really no reason it shouldn’t win, either (though “The Simpsons” has won the category 10 times and is nominated again this year). But to simply nominate the episode after such controversy demonstrates courage, and is a positive statement in support of free speech — the very statement the episode was trying to make in the first place.
 

By: John Latchem


July 06, 2010
A ‘Despicable’ Selection


Best Buy's Despicable Me app


A slow week for new releases, such as the one following the July 4 holiday, gives stores a nice excuse for sales or other promotions.

Best Buy covered its weekly ad circular with references to the new animated film Despicable Me, for which Best Buy is offering a smartphone app tie-in.

Related to this promotion, Best Buy is offering a $10 coupon toward a Despicable Me theater ticket with select Universal titles, such as Coraline, Land of the Lost, The Tale of Despereaux and The Incredible Hulk, listed at $14.99 each for the Blu-ray version.

Best Buy’s CinemaNow movie download service offered Greenberg for $15.95. The movie won’t be released on DVD or Blu-ray until July 13.

Best Buy also has a Clash of the Titans cell-phone skin for free with preorders of the movie on DVD or Blu-ray. It hits shelves July 27.

Catalog Blu-ray titles were offered for sale by Best Buy at $9.99 and $14.99 each.

Target offered select catalog titles on Blu-ray at $14.99 each.

By: John Latchem


June 30, 2010
‘Avatar’ Push Exemplifies Fan Frustration Over Double-Dipping



Watching the NBA Finals recently, I was struck by how many ads were being run for the Avatar Blu-ray/DVD combo. This was nearly two months since the April 22 debut of the disc, which signifies a rather aggressive marketing effort on behalf of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

The commercial urged viewers to pick up the disc quickly because it would only be available “for a limited time.” This is a bit of industry speak for “we have too much product still on the shelves, and we want to clear as much of that as we can before we introduce a deluxe special edition in a few months.” Of course, the upcoming beefed up edition of the film was not mentioned in the ad.

While I can appreciate the marketing effort (after all, several retailers I visited within the past few weeks are only now downgrading their Avatar displays), I have to wonder about its effectiveness in the long run. How many people who would have purchased the sure-to-be-more-expensive special edition in five months bought the bare-bones version and now won’t buy the new version when it hits?

It’s not just Avatar. We’re already getting announces for other major films from last year that are receiving a big special-edition boost later this year, such as a new deluxe edition of The Hangover Oct. 12. This kind of double-dipping has been studio practice for years, but judging by the sales data, it seems that frustrated consumers just aren’t going to take it anymore.

With some titles, at least, the studios recognize this frustration and offer a rebate to anyone who bought the previous version. Paramount did it with Blu-ray upgrades for titles such as The Godfather, and Fox is planning a rebate with the first season of “Glee.” Given this pattern I can only assume they would do something similar with Avatar.

But it raises a question about the efficacy of good marketing in the face of diminishing returns. Is the practice of double- and triple-dipping more effective than, say, putting extra effort into the DVD or Blu-ray presentation the first time around? The Blu-ray from last year’s Star Trek movie, for example, was absolutely loaded.

I understand if some movies don’t meet expectations and studios don’t want to pay for extensive extras. But I don’t think the audience will mind if movies that make more than $200 million (or $700 million) are put on ice for a month or two to really pump up the bonus content.

I think any edition of a movie that is put on disc should be the definitive presentation of it for at least 10 years. There is something to be said about an anniversary edition because a good retrospective documentary fueled by hindsight can yield insights not available during the production (I’ve certainly seen enough bad movies in which the actors while on set talk about it as if it’s the greatest thing they’ve ever done). Plus it gives studios a chance to re-release the title in a new format that may have emerged.

Even then, there’s no reason to leave off the old extras (at the very least, put a slot for the old disc in the new packaging so fans can keep their collections nice and tidy and keep all the extras from the old disc).

Of course, with Avatar that might not be much of a problem.
 

Update, July 1, 2010: Based on some comments I received, let me clarify a few points. First, the idea of waiting a month to release the DVD or Blu-ray would only apply to studios that get caught off guard. Since every movie is released on DVD, there should be enough lead time to prepare for the extras. If a movie becomes a bigger hit than expected, use the grace period to prepare the extras.

As for shortening the window to address piracy, well, that argument could be used to justify a one-week window, let alone 3-4 months. The people who are willing to pirate a copy of a film probably don't care about buying the DVD anyway.

However, the key issue here is double dipping. I have no problem if a studio releases a bare-bones disc and an extras-laden disc on the same day, since the consumer would have a choice. It's the idea that someone buys a disc only to be blindsided by a bigger badder edition a year later. So the solution to assuage piracy concerns is to release the bare-bones edition but make it well known that the deluxe edition is coming a month later, if the extra time is needed to prepare one.

I'll admit that Blu-ray vs DVD throws a bit of a wrinkle into the plan, but I've said before that if studios are going to include a DVD in the Blu-ray package, they might as well not even sell a standalone DVD edition. I think that's a separate issue that has more to do with ensuring the long-term viability of Blu-ray by subtly building consumer Blu-ray libraries to encourage hardware sales, and thus Blu-ray catalog sales down the road.

By: John Latchem


June 29, 2010
‘Inception’ of ‘Twilight’ Fever


Inception


Though new June 29 releases Hot Tub Time Machine and Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief garnered a fair amount of retail promotions, a lot of stores were turning their attention toward some of the big titles hitting theaters this summer.

Timed for the July 16 release of Inception, Best Buy offered a display filled with Blu-ray Discs of previous movies directed by Christopher Nolan and earlier movies starring Leonardo DiCaprio at $16.99 each. These titles came with a coupon for $5 off a concession purchase at the theater.

Target went into “Twilight” mode for the theatrical release of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, offering DVDs and Blu-ray Discs of the first two movies at a discount, as well as tying in promotion for Remember Me, a recent movie starring “Twilight” star Robert Pattinson.

Best Buy also ran an interesting promotion called “Flashback to the ’80s,” offering such favorites as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Top Gun, The Goonies and E.T. on DVD for as low as $4.99 apiece.

By: John Latchem



Geared towards comic book and genre fans, Agent DVD Insider scoops DVD and Blu-Ray release announcements and news, along with commentary from industry experts and fellow comic fans.





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