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Easter Basket Should Be Full at Retail

8 Feb, 2010 By: Susanne Ault

Easter should bring a basketful of DVD revenue to retail, as stores are excited by a strong upcoming slate and healthier-than-expected January momentum.

The approximately $1 billion in combined box office attached to March titles is actually slightly less than the theatrical haul behind last year’s comparable period, retail sources say. Also problematic is the fact that last year’s Easter marked a downturn in overall gift giving as consumers worried about the struggling economy. In 2009, people spent on average $116.59 on presents for the holiday, representing a 14% fall from 2008 levels, according to the National Retail Federation.

However, store managers are heartened by the great variety of hits among this year’s title batch. They believe everyone can be satisfied with March 2’s $166 million action blockbuster 2012 (Sony Pictures), March 16’s $100 million kid-friendly Disney flick The Princess and the Frog (with three Oscar noms), March 20’s $294 million teen juggernaut The Twilight Saga: New Moon (Summit) and March 23’s $238 million family drama The Blind Side (Warner), among others.

“There is such diversity where there really is something for everyone,” said Kirk Kirkpatrick, president of video at wholesaler WaxWorks VideoWorks. “And these are big movies that had a big impact at the box office.”

There are also a lot of opportunities to cross-promote March new releases with like-minded catalog items. DeepDiscount.com plans to call out documentary 2012: An Awakening with the theatrical 2012, as well as underscore vampire-themed TV series “True Blood” with upcoming New Moon. There are also chances for the site to tie in book source material with Warner’s Where the Wild Things Are and Lionsgate’s Precious: Based on the Novel Sapphire by Push, streeting on DVD/Blu-ray March 2 and March 9, respectively.

Airport-based retail InMotion Entertainment will be value-bundling New Moon with the movie’s soundtrack, which released last fall.

“The season is really being driven by what the studios come out with — and that’s the driver for sales,” said Gary Rawlings, SVP at DeepDiscount.com parent Infinity Resources. “But you can really benefit from the [related] catalog.”

Redbox has overall plans to help heavily promote the March title slate. Customers who rent 2012 at its machines in Walgreens will score savings when buying the movie there. The kiosk company also will feature a number of cross-promotions this Spring at store partners such as McDonald’s, HEB, Supervalu and Giant Eagle, providing consumers access to New Moon and the rest of its Spring slate.

“With a significant number of popular titles scheduled to be released in the next few months, we are excited to provide affordable entertainment to millions of customers this spring,” said Gary Cohen, SVP of marketing and customer experience at Redbox.

Plus, retailers believe that store traffic is picking up in 2010, after an anemic, recession-plagued 2009. January revenue appears to be on the upswing for many, spanning small and large titles, standard DVD and Blu-ray.

“We saw some very encouraging numbers in January, where we saw double-digit increases versus last year,” said Steve Torr, director of software purchasing and rental services at InMotion. “Also, direct-to-video titles like [Jan. 19 release] Smokin’ Aces 2 have done really well. Those types of films really fell off the map last year. Then [December releases] Inglourious Basterds and The Hangover still have strong legs.”

Seattle-based Scarecrow Video believes that people want to make a fresh start in 2010 with movies, after so much careful spending last year.

“I totally see people happy to spend money on Blu-ray now,” noted Scarecrow buyer Mark Steiner, noting that Criterion Collection’s Jan. 19 release Che sold three times more on Blu-ray than on standard DVD at the store. “We are seeing a big uptick there. And we’re just selling more, period. For us, January was a better month than October last year.”

Also heartening for retailers is how Easter, falling on April 4, should usher in an extra-long spring-break period. Students are expected to be taking weeks off of school, perfect for family-movie viewing, starting the third week of March all the way through the second week of April, say stores.

“With Easter falling early and the potential for spring breaks to be extended, Redbox is looking forward to providing affordable entertainment to the millions of consumers who may have some extra time this spring,” added Redbox’s Cohen. “Redbox is the perfect solution for movie lovers whether they are on vacation or simply enjoying a night at home.”

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