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DVD Strategies Must Evolve With the Industry

5 Mar, 2004 By: Thomas K. Arnold

It’s funny how different studios have different strategies, and how the old ways aren’t always the best way.

Last fall, several studios did things the way they always had — pushed product out the door early in the fourth quarter, with a definite “early bird gets the worm” mentality.

The early bird didn’t. The big winners were Universal and Buena Vista, which waited until December — until the waning days of the holiday shopping season — to release a pair of big titles: Seabiscuit and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Both titles turned out to be runaway hits, affirming the notion that DVD is a commodity business and that many movies are purchased on impulse — or when someone is already in the buying mode.

You can rest assured that in the fourth quarter of this year, December will be a busy, busy month.

This year began with most studios holding off on high-profile product until February or March. Universal and MGM jumped the gun and voila — can you say “mega hit?”

Universal’s American Wedding came out Jan. 2, when New Year’s revelers were still battling their hangovers, and scored big, selling some 3 million units in just three days. Out of Time and Uptown Girls came out a few days later, on Jan. 6, and first-week selloff was reported at 70 percent, putting MGM in the unique position of having to ship reorders.

Again, wait until January 2005.

Most recently, Universal again broke the mold when it went ahead and issued Lost in Translation on DVD Feb. 3, even though the film’s awards buzz had extended its theatrical stay. The result, as Stephanie Prange writes in this week’s Video Store Magazine, was that the film generated an additional $10 million at the box office while selling 1.5 million DVDs, all between the time the Golden Globes were announced and the Oscar nominations came out.

You already know what I’m going to say.

The point to all of this is that our business is changing as we speak, and what worked in the past isn’t necessarily the best path to follow in the future. It will be interesting to see which other rules are broken, which traditions fall by the wayside, as we move forward with 2004.

It should be an interesting year, and one in which a lot of lessons are learned — sometimes, the hard way.

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