Brit Production Co. Continues to Break Ties With Warner3 Sep, 2002 By: Jessica Wolf
British production company Helkon SK is breaking its long-running distribution relationship with Warner Home Video UK for the second time, a further reaction to the studio's decision to eliminate a rental window on all video product released in the United Kingdom, but still charge rental dealers in the country a premium for product.
Helkon will independently distribute its popular Brit title Bend it Like Beckham, as the company did earlier this summer with The Mothman Prophecies.
“I'm delighted to announce that Helkon SK will continue its support for the rental industry by giving its biggest film to date a rental window,” Helkon CEO Simon Franks said. “This is a brave move, but the rental industry supported us hugely when we took the decision to go it alone on The Mothman Prophecies and I'm delighted to be able to return that support in kind.”
The retail community in the United Kingdom responded strongly after Warner released details of it's new pricing strategy, which allows consumers and sellthrough retailers to purchase VHS and DVD product at a lower price than rental dealers. A European law called the Rental Right Directive allows Warner to dictate the price for its product in consideration of how it will be used in the marketplace, either for rental or sale.
The top six chains in the country vowed not to carry any Warner product, beginning with Training Day. which launched the pricing strategy in mid-July. Blockbuster UK representatives have repeatedly said the chain will not carry Warner product. Though a competing chain in the country, Choices Video, released a statement earlier this month saying it would carry Warner titles, including Training Day and the upcoming We Were Soldiers, Blockbuster UK is sticking to its original plan to not order Warner product.
Earlier this week Blockbuster CEO John Antioco told Video Store Magazine the chain is supporting the rental business by not ordering Warner-distributed releases, like many independents and most other chains in the country.
The U.K. video community was also hopeful that Mel Gibson's Icon Productions would pull its We Were Soldiers release from Warner's lineup. But late last month Icon announced it would stick with Warner and allow the title to fall under the studio's unpopular pricing shift.
At this year's VSDA convention, talk among retailers centered mainly on Warner and the new strategy. Retailers from the U.K. told Video Store Magazine the true test of the retail community's unofficial boycott of Warner titles would come with We Were Soldiers.
“But as long as Blockbuster doesn't carry it, we can get away with not having it too,” one retailer said.