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Insights from home entertainment industry experts. Home Media blogs give you the inside scoop on entertainment news, DVD and Blu-ray Disc releases, and the happenings at key studios and entertainment retailers. “TK's Take” analyzes and comments on home entertainment news and trends, “Agent DVD Insider” talks fanboy entertainment, “IndieFile” delivers independent film news, “Steph Sums It Up” offers pithy opinions on the state of the industry, and “Mike’s Picks” offers bite-sized recommendations of the latest DVD and Blu-ray releases.



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 13, 2010
Why Netflix Is Winning



I recently had a conversation with a journalist about the changes in the business and an interesting anecdote came up.

He said a friend of his purchased a season set of “24” on disc and then returned it to get his $50 back.

Why?

He found that through his Netflix subscription he could see the entire season via streaming for no extra charge to his subscription fee. It also explains why Netflix uses the 15-minute streaming measure (rather than one hour or so to connote a movie) in describing its electronic delivery success. Many of Netflix’s streaming customers are watching TV shows online.

Price. That is why Netflix is soaring — and why the studios are trying to push back new release availability on the site. But Netflix may be hurting TV DVD sales as well. Unless a TV show is collectible, TV DVD sales may take a hit. With Netflix streaming entire seasons, the need to buy TV DVD sets may decline.

The real reason Netflix is a success isn’t necessarily its technology, but its value.

By: Stephanie Prange


April 13, 2010
Screen Media Acquires Three



Screen Media Films has made three acquisitions: Gareth Lewis’ Assassin in Love (previously titled The Baker), Steven Kastrissios’ The Horseman and Deon Taylor’s The Hustle.

Assassin in Love stars Band of Brothers’ Damian Lewis and the “Harry Potter” series’ Michael Gambon in a film about a hit man who seeks to reform his ways (and escape his former boss) by taking a job as a baker in a rural Welsh village. The film saw a limited theatrical release and will street on DVD in the fourth quarter of 2010.

The Horseman, to be released in the second quarter of 2010, is a thriller about a father and daughter on a revenge-motivated killing spree in the Australian Outback.

Meanwhile, The Hustle will come out on DVD in the third quarter of 2010 and stars Charlie Murphy (Night at the Museum, your annoying friends’ Dave Chappelle impersonations), as well as certifiably crazy Bai Ling, David Alan Grier, John Witherspoon (Friday), Brigitte Nielsen (she did it with Sylvester Stallone AND Flava Flav!) and David Faustino (Bud on “Married … With Children”). It’s about an exterminator. Wow.

By: Billy Gil


April 12, 2010
New on VOD from IFC: ‘Breaking Upwards,’ ‘The Human Centipede’



IFC Films’ on-demand channel this month is screening the romantic comedy Breaking Upwards (which is playing in select theaters) and the horror film The Human Centipede (starting April 30).

Breaking Upwards, from director Daryl Wein and starring Wein and girlfriend Zoe Lister-Jones, is about a New York couple (named Daryl and Zoe), who try to plan their own breakup and make it as smooth as possible. The film has been getting great reviews from the New York Times and New York Magazine and also stars Olivia Thirlby (Juno), Julie White (the “Transformers,” uh, “films”) and Peter Friedman (The Savages).

The Human Centipede sounds like a typical horror film at the outset — the car of two American girls traveling through Europe breaks down and they wake up in a makeshift hospital with a madman — only this madman, Dr. Heiter, wants to connect his abductees via their gastric systems, in order to make a “human centipede.” Gross! The film won best horror feature at the 2009 Fantastic Fest & Scream Fest, and its description alone is making me reconsider eating whilst I work.

Both films will be available for two to three months in the main on-demand section of such cable providers as Comcast, Cox and Cablevision and Time Warner.

By: Billy Gil


April 12, 2010
Industry Now Playing the Waiting Game


The home entertainment business is being restructured before our very eyes. With Netflix agreeing to a 28-day window on new releases from three major studios--Warner, 20th Century Fox and Universal--we are seeing a new reality that I believe will spread to the other studios as well as the other key non-traditional rental player, Redbox.

The new reality is this: Netflix and Redbox won't get to rent new releases until 28 days after street date. For Netflix, the incentive is money--the three studios that got the subscription rental pioneer to agree to a 28-day window made huge concessions in pricing. For Redbox, which should fall in line shortly, the incentive is both money and hassle--with several studios refusing to sell the kiosk vendor their product, Redbox's only alternative was to send scores of employees to Wal-Mart stores every Tuesday, armed with gift cards and instructions to buy as many copies of verboten titles as they can carry. Talk about a logistical nightmare!

The end result is that Netflix and Redbox customers are going to have to wait a month before they can rent hot new releases. The studios are hoping this will lead to at least a minor bump in the sellthrough end of the business, which is still hovering down about 10 percentage points even from last year. But if you consider how much more money the studios make from DVD and Blu-ray Disc sales to consumers, even a slight uptick in unit sales of 3% to 5% should be enough to put the overall sellthrough business back in positive territory, according to my calculations--particularly when you factor in digital delivery or VOD, which also gains an advantage over rental.

The studios also are hoping that the strategy will allow Blockbuster to survive. Hollywood has never really liked Blockbuster, but the studios dislike Netflix more--and passionately hate Redbox, with its dollar rentals and kiosks conveniently located in the lobbies of supermarkets and discount stores, including Wal-mart, their No. 1 sellthrough account. If Blockbuster goes, Netflix and Redbox become the only real game in town, and the studios certainly don't want those two to have a virtual monopoly on the rental market.

Netflix and Redbox, though, wouldn't go along with this strategy, regardless of how much money they can save (and, in the case of Redbox, hassle they can avoid), if they didn't believe the importance of new releases to their business is vastly overinflated. Even a leading analyst, Eric Wold of Merriman Curhan Ford in New York, told Home Media Magazine news editor Erik Gruenwedel that he believes "most consumers will wait the 28 days in order (and choose a different movie for now) in order to obtain the much lower pricing of Redbox and/or Netflix after the window passes." (To read Erik's story, click here.)

Under the best-case scenario for all involved, the studios will realize a decent gain in DVD and Blu-ray Disc sales as well as VOD transactions, Blockbuster will see a significant spike in rental turns, and Netflix and Redbox will rent more catalog titles and recent releases in lieu of the latest hits. And because of this last point, overall consumer spending on home entertainment will go up. Sales will increase, while the overall rental business will be flat, with older stuff making up for the newer stuff that's no longer available on street date.

The worst-case scenario: The impact on sales will be nil, Blockbuster will die anyway and consumers will simply rent less from Netflix and Redbox. Maybe they'll read more books--regardless, overall consumer spending on home entertainment will go down.

But these are all just theories. Now it's time to wait and see what actually transpires, once these titles-with-windows start coming out. I'm as anxious as anyone, because after a recent conversation with three friends there's certainly no indication which way the business is headed.

Friend No. 1 was disappointed when I told her about the window situation. "I'm tempted to cancel my subscription to Netflix," she said.

Friend No. 2: "I guess I'll just have to wait."

Me: "Why not buy it? You can get just about any new release for $15."

Friend No. 2: "It's not an issue of price. I've got too much stuff in my house and don't want to add anymore clutter."

Me: "What about Blockbuster?"

Friend No. 2: "The one in my neighborhood closed and I don't even know where to look for another one."

Friend No. 3: "Why don't you just pay-per-view it? That's what I do."

Friend No. 2: "No, I just don't want to."

So there you have it, folks. Let the waiting game begin.

 

By: Thomas K. Arnold





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