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5th Quarter: Coming Out Party for Blu-ray Discs

8 Feb, 2008 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Blu-ray Disc is readying for its close-up in the so-called “fifth quarter,” when studios traditionally up new releases designed to overcome the winter holiday logjam and take advantage of consumer gift cards.

The National Retail Federation reported that gift card purchases topped $26 billion in 2007, up 6% from 2006. Through the first two weeks of 2008, more than 60% of those cards had not been used.

Following Warner Bros.' decision to exclusively release high-def packaged media on Blu-ray after May 31, all major studios supporting the format said they will ramp up marketing and distribution efforts in the first months of the year.

Lionsgate said it will spend $20 million on theatrical TV spots that include marketing the Blu-ray releases of War, 3:10 to Yuma, Good Luck Chuck, Saw IV and crime thriller Trade.

The Santa Monica, Calif.-based mini-major reportedly hopes to sell 50% of each title's standard DVD and Blu-ray disc shipments in the first six days of release.

“Thus far, the results speak for themselves,” said Lionsgate's EVP and GM Ron Schwartz. “Sales have been very robust on our Blu-ray product, including War and 3:10 to Yuma.”

Mark Horak, EVP and GM of worldwide operations with Warner Home Video, said the studio will mine its library for possible Blu-ray releases as well as aid in consumer education.

“Speaking very clearly to the consumer about what the benefits of high-definition content versus standard-definition are going to be the key priority for us in 2008,” Horak said.

Marshall Forster, senior EVP, North America, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, said the focus will be less on winning the format war and more on addressing the needs of the consumer in adopting Blu-ray.

“Already we have seen a very positive response in BD sales activity in just the first week after the announcement. Sales were close to 6-to-1 in favor of Blu-ray sales last week,” Foster said.

Ralph Tribbey, editor of The DVD Release Report, cautioned not to put too much weight on studio hyperbole regarding Blu-ray.

“Six [Blu-ray] titles a week is not going to cut it,” Tribbey said.

Tribbey forecasts about 3,000 titles, including HD DVD, to be released in the first quarter — on par with last year, he said. Tribbey said studios should avoid digging themselves a hole in sales when new releases are put on the backburner from May through September.

Lionsgate's Schwartz thinks Blu-ray could be a prime filler for such as hole during that time.

Home Media Screening Room

3:10 to Yuma
Good Luck Chuck

Saw IV

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