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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.
 

April 20, 2010
‘Avatar’ Brings the Hype to Retailers



While the Thursday, April 22, release of Avatar dominates the week, promotions connected to the movie are kind of muted. Several retailers are preparing midnight madness sales, but most don't offer anything by way of specific exclusives for anyone who doesn't attend those events.

Wal-Mart, which offers Avatar at midnight, offered a 3D sticker to the first 50 buyers at each store.

Other promotions were tied to sales of existing product. Best Buy offered the Avatar soundtrack at $7.99 and Avatar video games for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii at $19.99. A total of 250 Best Buy stores will open at midnight, with 10 core major-market stores offering gaming promotions sponsored by Ubisoft. Participants can receive T-shirt giveaways at core stores, with poster giveaways at other midnight madness events. Anyone who buys the movie has a chance to have a tree planted in his or her name. More information is available at BestBuy.com/Avatar.

Target offered a $3 savings off Avatar with the purchase of select Fox titles, such as Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, with qualifying Blu-rays at $14.99 each and DVDs at $7.99.

Also big this week were titles that were retailer exclusives.

Best Buy scored a coup with the exclusive Blu-ray availability of The Drawn Together Movie: The Movie!, while other retailers could offer only the DVD version.

Wal-Mart had the TV movie Secrets of the Mountain for $12, which included a DVD and the CD soundtrack.

Target has been offering a selection of Bravo reality show DVDs.

Since April 22 also is Earth Day, some retailers also set up displays in that direction. A Wal-Mart in Long Beach, Calif., had a nice endcap display with a selection that included Planet Earth, National Geographic titles and other nature documentaries.

By: John Latchem


April 19, 2010
A Day at the Con


(L-R): Burt Ward and Adam West


This past weekend’s Wizard World Anaheim Comic Con proves that not every fanboy event has to be up to the level of that show in San Diego.

The Anaheim event was the kind of quaint, low-key festival that really gives fans their money’s worth: a chance to see a handful of reasonable celebrities without the god-awful crowds bigger shows often attract.

There couldn’t have been more than a few thousand people at the Anaheim show over the weekend, compared to more than 120,000 who descend upon San Diego. Comic-Con International, of course, draws fans from around the world. Wizard World mostly caters to local audiences.

In fact, Anaheim Comic Con wasn’t even the biggest show held at the Anaheim Convention Center over the weekend. That honor goes to a convention of coffee industry professionals, which took up most of the floor room. Due to how the halls were sectioned off, the Comic Con show floor (which was half exhibitors and half celebrities offering paid autographs) was at the extreme south end of the convention center, while panels were held in rooms on the second floor of the north end of the hall, several hundred feet if not a quarter mile away. Covering that distance can be quite a chore, especially considering the average attendee isn’t in the best of shape, and the average panelist must have been in their 70s. (At one point I passed by an exhausted-looking Mickey Rooney, who was being dragged around in a wheelchair by his handlers.)

I know that Anaheim has been making a play for the International show (which is close to a three-year extension with San Diego, to 2015, according to Internet buzz). But if this past weekend is any indication, I have yet to be convinced the Anaheim Convention Center is an ideal venue for a show the scope of Comic-Con International.

Still, even the few hours I spent there were a reasonable experience, and a tad more mellow than the hustle and bustle of the big show, which is how I prefer it.

Of the three days (April 16-18), I attended only on Saturday and caught some of the afternoon panels. (Click here for photo gallery).

One I was really keen on seeing was a panel celebrating the 30th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, one of my favorite movies. At the same time, it seems, the real “Star Wars” news was emanating from the C2E2 Con in Chicago, where Lucasfilm’s Steve Sansweet said a Blu-ray of the saga was in the works. TheDigitalBits.com estimates a release date of October 2011.

The Anaheim panel turned out to be underwhelming, consisting only of a Q&A with Billy Dee Williams, who mostly defended Lando’s decision to betray Han Solo, and who discussed how much the Sarlaac in Return of the Jedi looked like a part of the female anatomy.

ESB director Irvin Kershner was slated to appear but sadly had to cancel after being hospitalized a few days earlier due to complications from cancer.

Still, the room was packed to capacity with hundreds of guests, as opposed to the next panel, a Q&A with Superman producer Ilya Salkind, attended by only about 50 people. He was joined by Aaron Smolinski, who played the baby Kal-El in the first movie and the kid in the photo booth in the third (I said it was a low-key event). Salkind has a habit of being verbose, but he can be really insightful about the making of the franchise. He said he was encouraged by news that Christopher Nolan would oversee the next Superman movie because he thought Nolan’s Batman movies were great.

Salkind continued to justify his creative decisions for Superman II and said Superman III’s original concept involved Supergirl and traditional Superman villains Brainiac and the impish Mr. Mxyzptlk, yet the powers that be started meddling after Richard Pryor mentioned on “The Tonight Show” that he wanted to be in a Superman movie (though if anyone has seen the original plot outline for III online, you’ll probably agree it was mostly unfilmable). Remnants of the original concept that survived into the final film include Superman’s battle with the super computer, and the fight between Superman and Clark Kent (which most fans consider the best part of the movie).

William Shatner then put in a brief appearance to discuss not only the pilot he shot for a sitcom based on the Twitter meme “Sh*t My Dad Says,” but also previous projects such as Invasion Iowa, Kingdom of the Spiders and “Boston Legal” (not much talk about “Star Trek,” oddly). He also discussed current projects, such as his celebrity interview show, “Raw Nerve,” and a new show, “Aftermath,” in which he catches up with media figures years after their 15 minutes are up. In one amusing interlude, Shatner was asked about playing a villain in three “Columbo” movies, and began to memorialize Peter Falk when an audience member said he was dead. “I know he died, I just forgot about it,” Shatner commented (which isn’t a surprising sentiment, since as far as I know Falk is still very much alive, and only about 4 years older than Shatner). It’s probably a miracle Shatner could attend at all, since he was almost grounded in Europe by the Iceland volcanic ash cloud.

But the best panel involved a reunion of the 1960s Batman cast, which quickly devolved into a battle of double entendres. Describing how they got to the Batmobile, Adam West said, “his pole was bigger.” Julie Newmar (Catwoman) said her costume was like “melted licorice poured onto her body.” Lee Meriwether (Catwoman in the movie based on the show) looked so happy to be among the fans, but embarrassed by the tone of the conversation. West said Fox and Warner lawyers were trying to divvy up the DVD rights to the show and hoped it would be resolved soon (his analysis may be overly simplistic, but we might as well hope for the best, right?). He nonetheless plugged his own DVD reflections on the show. What a fun panel, and proof that you don’t need the superstars of today to have a good time at the Con.
 

By: John Latchem


April 13, 2010
Playing Retail Roulette


Target's Crazy on the Outside DVD


After a few weeks marked by several major films hitting disc, the past couple of weeks have hit a comparative lull.

The only major theatrical title released April 13, the underperforming Pirate Radio, wasn’t even stocked at a Wal-Mart in Long Beach, Calif., which classified the title as online only. Yet the store had abundant copies of smaller fare such as Lionsgate’s direct-to-video Tenderness and Sony Pictures’ indie Defendor on hand.

Target filled the new-release void with a wave of exclusive titles, led by the Fox’s Tim Allen vehicle Crazy on the Outside on DVD ($10) and Blu-ray ($19.99). The retailer also had a selection of exclusive season sets of Bravo reality shows on disc.

At Best Buy it’s all about Avatar. A store in Costa Mesa, Calif., was filled with Avatar preorder displays, and the Best Buy Insider circular has a cell phone code that lets fans get a special promo video. The Best Buy Web site promises midnight madness sales when the DVD and Blu-ray is released April 22.

By: John Latchem


April 06, 2010
‘Rings’ Still Reigns at Retail


Best Buy's Lord of the Rings with sword


Nearly a decade after its debut, the impact of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings is still being felt. With the Blu-ray disc boxed set of the theatrical version of the trilogy hitting retail April 6, studios kept the shelves relatively clear of any groundbreaking new releases.

The only new theatrical title was the Nicolas Cage-starrer Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, which barely made a blip in theaters. It had enough star power, however, to earn decent placement at most retail outlets.

Another title earning some unsuspecting attention was Party Down: Season One, which most retailers didn’t bother including in their weekly ad circular. Best Buy offered a $25 gift card deal to buyers who also ordered the Starz cable channel on which the show airs. And Wal-Mart gave fans a treat with a bonus disc containing two episodes from the upcoming season of the show.

As for Rings, while the boxed set was a featured title at most locations (a Wal-Mart in Long Beach, Calif., devoted only a single slot for it in its Blu-ray section, and it was sold out), most shied away from any special promotions.

Best Buy offered the trilogy Blu-ray with an exclusive letter opener shaped like the Andruil sword from the films. This deluxe set also includes a $10 coupon for the purchase of Weta collectibles.

By: John Latchem


March 30, 2010
Making a Squeak at Retail


Target's Sherlock Holmes with comic


March 30 saw the release of two $200-million hits to disc, with Sherlock Holmes and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel generating considerable retail interest. But both titles were rather light in the exclusive content department.

Those who bought the Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel Blu-ray at Best Buy could get Alvin and Brittany beanie babies for $2.99 each. On their own, the dolls were $6.99 apiece.

At Target, fans could get an exclusive deluxe edition of Sherlock Holmes that had a limited-edition cover and a collectible comic book, a re-creation of the comic used to pitch the movie to the studio.

A lot of the promotions for the week were centered on the Disney’s new “Un-Anniversary Edition” of the animated Alice in Wonderland, a title the studio’s home entertainment department kept under the radar in terms of press promotions.

Barnes & Noble, which remains among the most overpriced retailers despite a nominal percentage discount on new titles, was nonetheless one of the few stores to display details for a sweepstakes for Alice in Wonderland for the ultimate play home. Details are available at DisneyMovieRewards.com/Alice.

Best Buy offered a savings of $6 with the purchase of two select Disney hits on DVD, or $15 off two on Blu-ray. And Target had a display of such recent DVDs as The Princess and the Frog and Ponyo listed at $13.99 and tagged as “Fresh-Picked DVD Hits for Kids.”

Target also extended through May 1 its offer of a $5 gift card with purchase of The Twilight Saga: New Moon with Twilight in Forks, Astro Boy or Bandslam.

A Wal-Mart in Long Beach, Calif., had an interesting display piece. A display shelf of new releases carried a large sign touting the titles as $24.96, yet none of the DVDs on the shelves were more than $20. (The “Toy Story” Blu-rays were $24.96, but the spaces for them were empty).


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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