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Columbia Adjusts VHS Program on ‘Ali,' ‘Teen Movie'

1 Mar, 2002 By: Stephanie Prange

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has increased its typical 50 percent free goods offering to 60 percent on upcoming titles Ali and Not Another Teen Movie to make VHS rental product “more attractive” to retailers, according to Joel Goldman, VP of sales.

“We're trying to enhance the program on our rental VHS product,” he said.

The studio recently made the same offer on A Knight's Tale.

Ali ($58.2 million box office) and Teen Movie ($37.9 million box office) goals are based on a retailer's previous buy of Ghosts of Mars ($8.4 million box office). To get free goods, retailers must buy 2.6 times their Ghosts order for Ali and 2.1 times their Ghosts order for Teen Movie.

“It sounds like a lot, but Ghosts of Mars made less,” Goldman said.

Indeed, some retailers have taken issue with the goals as being too high.

“Big deal, we now get offered 60 percent instead of 50 percent free goods,” said New England Buying Group president Todd Zaganiacz. “In reality, with goals rising we are spending more to get the extra 10 percent. It doesn't sound like a deal to me.”

The New England Buying Group, which rates studios based on their retail friendliness, recently gave Columbia TriStar a rating of ‘F' for its VHS pricing. “Our New England Buying Group rating of ‘F' for Columbia probably should drop if it could,” Zaganiacz said. “Columbia and Fox are the worst studios out there. Fox is trying to improve, but Columbia is going in the wrong direction.”

Tom Hannah of Video Quest in Joliet, Ill., also thinks the goals are too high, noting his goal on Ali is twice that of Fox's Behind Enemy Lines, which made about the same at the box office ($58.6 million).

However, Ted Engen, president of the Video Buyers Group, said the goals are not “unreasonable.” In fact, he said the group is mounting a “huge marketing campaign” for Ali with a national scratch card contest.

One distributor executive praises the increased free goods as “a change for the better” for retailers, even though he thinks the goals are still “a little too high.”

As a distributor, his concern is sideways selling, a practice in which retailers pool buys and sell to each other, bypassing distribution. “We're afraid for all the sideways selling,” he said. “We'd like to see flat pricing and not more of these programs.”

Columbia TriStar's Goldman responded that sideways selling is “a concern.” However, he added, “We haven't really been in the arena of 200 percent 300 percent bonus units like some of our competitors. We feel we can go from 50 percent to 60 percent without really drastically affecting the overstock situation.”

Flat pricing, at least on ‘A' titles, doesn't generate as much revenue for the studio, Goldman said. Columbia TriStar has offered flat pricing on lesser titles.

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