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DTV Sequels Make Dollars and Sense

26 May, 2006 By: Thomas K. Arnold

It's ironic that at a time when the DVD business is either flat or down a little from last year, studios are announcing more direct-to-video sequels and other made-for-video projects.

Buena Vista Home Entertainment perfected the art of the direct-to-video sequel, producing inexpensive follow-ups to animated theatrical hits and effectively minting money.

Other studios are focusing on live-action films, led by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, which has produced a string of direct-to-video sequels to such theatrical hits as Cruel Intentions, Wild Things, Single White Female and 8mm. Universal Studios Home Entertainment scored big with DTV follow-ups to American Pie and Carlito's Way, and New Line Home Entertainment has gone back to the till with The Butterfly Effect and House Party.

Now, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment says it is working on a direct-to-video sequel to the cult horror hit Wrong Turn as its fifth “DVD exclusive movie.”

One of the big topics of conversation in Hollywood these days is whether DVD has lost its luster. We're not seeing the highs we once did. The top seller of 2006 so far is Disney's The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, with 11 million units sold domestically. Unless something dramatic happens between now and the end of the year, Narnia just might retain its crown for the year with a sales tally dwarfed by that of such previous winners as Finding Nemo (27 million DVDs), Shrek 2 (20 million DVDs) and, just last year, The Incredibles (19 million DVDs).

But over the past 18 or so months, the theatrical world has been hit a lot harder than home video. Studios continue to derive more money from DVD sales than from ticket sales, a trend that began in 2001. In certain cases, it makes more sense for studios to spend less money and skip a theatrical release than spend a ton of dough and roll the dice.

My hunch is that Fox's Wrong Turn 2 will be the right turn for the studio — and a harbinger of things to come, not just at Fox but at all the other studios, as well.

Content, as they say, is king.

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