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How Are You Focusing On Indie Product?

15 Feb, 2004 By: Kurt Indvik

I especially enjoy seminars and panel discussions that put together both the retailer and the supplier on the same stage to talk about an issue. Especially in the packaged goods business, it's a great way to get an instant view of a segment of the business from all sides.

At the Ventura Distribution summit last week in Santa Barbara, a panel discussion on the future of independent films, and especially as it affects home video, was addressed by a group that included major retailers such as Blockbuster and Tower Records, as well as suppliers such as Showtime and UrbanWorks, along with producers such as Skourus Films and Edward James Olmos, actor, director and producer.

This has always been a “hits driven business” as has been said a thousand times, but with the rental business slowly being degraded by the retail sales of these hits, perhaps more so than ever, the independent short-run theatrical and direct-to-video titles may be the one area where specialty home entertainment retailers have a chance to build some growth into their business.

I am not talking about the low-budget, formulaic genre horror or actioner titles. But serious films with good production value and solid story telling that may or may not have a recognizable talent attached to it. The tortuous path many of these films must travel to reach some level of notoriety is hard to believe. Many a serious and worthy film not backed by major studios or with bankable stars may travel a long road of film festivals, and may even win awards, and still get little or no commercial theater exposure.

If they are lucky enough to reach the home video market they may suffer from poor packaging, non-existent consumer promotion and likely little or no trade promotion. But there are good films being brought to home video by good companies that care about those films and give them as much push as they possibly can.

I was struck by how important the video retailer becomes, then, as the place where America comes to find cutting edge movies made outside of the Hollywood mill. But consumers have to know these titles exist. Good quality packaging, on the supply-side, and aggressive merchandising, on the retail side are two fairly simple areas that this industry can work on to not only improve their own businesses, but help contribute to ensuring a continuous flow of good films that we all know the public is hungry for.

How are you getting your customers to focus on the non-hit independent product? I'd like to hear some of your ideas.

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