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Warner Targets Budding Urban ‘Blu’ Market

3 Jun, 2009 By: Erik Gruenwedel


Warner Home Video June 1 said it is aggressively marketing Blu-ray Disc to the black community with the re-release of three classic urban titles on the high-definition format for the first time.

The studio Sept. 8 will debut Friday (about the lighter side of life in South Los Angeles) starring Ice Cube and Chris Tucker (of the “Rush Hour” franchise); female crime caper Set It Off, with Oscar nominee Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett-Smith; and 1993 Cannes Film Festival standout Menace II Society, which underscores the downward spiral of a young black man when saddled with limited education, poor role models and easy access to guns, and stars Larenz Tate (Crash, Ray, “Rescue Me”) and screen veteran Samuel L. Jackson. The Blu-ray Discs will be available at $28.99 each.

The titles, which underwent a $1 million remixing, including audio (7.1 for Friday), will also be released as deluxe edition standard DVDs for $14.96 each, featuring the same bonus material as the BD editions.

Warner, which inherited the titles from shuttered New Line Cinema, said it chose the titles due to their retail prowess over the years (nearly 9 million units sold collectively) at Wal-Mart, Best Buy and others, according to Tom Lucas, VP of marketing with Warner Home Video.

He said internal and third-party research showed that black households account for 12% of Blu-ray households, compared to 6% of DVD households. Lucas said the data underscored that Blu-ray had evolved past the early adopter stage to the mass consumer.

The executive said research in the fourth quarter 2008 indicated the urban market had an above-average interest in bonus material, special-edition releases and directors’ cuts. The intent to purchase BD hardware and software was equally high throughout the urban market.

“As [Blu-ray] is evolving, it is also becoming increasingly ethnic, to reflect more of the population,” he said. “[That] really motivated us to take another look at what we’re doing with these titles.”

Each release includes the director’s cut (including an extended version for Menace II Society), in addition to extensive bonus material.

Friday: Deluxe Edition (originally released in 1995) features a new 30-minute vignette entitled “Friday Straight Up,” plus music videos from Ice Cube and Dr. Dre.

Set It Off: Deluxe Edition (the 1996 follow-up from Friday director F. Gary Gray) includes a new 30-minute featurette “Setting it Straight: Making of Set It Off,” and Ray J’s “Let It Go” music video. 

Menace II Society: Deluxe Edition features a new featurette “Gangsta Vision: Making Menace II Society” and new commentary by directors Allen and Albert Hughes, producer Darin Scott, screenwriter Tyger Williams, actor Tate and rapper Ryan Williams.

“We think the urban Blu-ray market is a growing opportunity,” Lucas said.

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