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Disney Gifts Wal-Mart Holiday DVD Exclusive

26 Aug, 2005 By: Thomas K. Arnold

In a move that reflects the growing clout of big retailers, the Walt Disney Co. is giving Wal-Mart exclusive sales rights to the animated holiday feature film The 3 Wise Men, which debuts on DVD Nov. 1, through the end of the year.

The Arenas Entertainment production, released theatrically in Spain and France in 2003, was animated by Animagicstudio, with principals who are veterans of such Disney hits as Fantasia 2000, Hercules and Tarzan.

Martin Sheen, Emilio Estevez and Eddy Martin were among those tapped to provide voices for the English-language version of the film. The voice cast also includes Christian recording artists Jaci Velasquez and Marcos Witt.

Both the English- and Spanish-language versions will be on the same disc at $19.99.

“It's by no means a regular strategy we're adopting,” Lori MacPherson, SVP of brand marketing and product management for Buena Vista Home Entertainment, said of the exclusive deal.

“But every once in awhile, there's an opportunity that seems to make sense in certain channels or with certain retailers, and in this case, in speaking with Wal-Mart, they felt this was the type of title they could maximize.”

MacPherson noted that The 3 Wise Men appeals to three of Wal-Mart's core demographic groups: families, Latinos and Christians.

Santiago Pozo, CEO of Arenas, said Wal-Mart promised additional promotional and marketing support in return for the exclusive.

“We jointly decided with Disney it was the best choice, because it will help us bring our product to the public, from day one, in a very exclusive and special way,” Pozo said. “Wal-Mart is treating this as a special thing that no one else has, with special displays around the store.”

Pozo said Wal-Mart also will promote the title on its in-store TV monitors as well as in its magazine. In addition, commercials will run on the Telemundo network, targeting Latino consumers.

As the market for DVDs has become increasingly competitive, big retailers are aggressively vying for exclusives — and, in more and more cases, getting them. Wal-Mart, with close to 40 percent of the home video market, is in the catbird seat, studio sources say.

“I think two things are driving this,” MacPherson said. “First, retailers are looking for ways to differentiate themselves and provide value to their customers. And, secondly, from our perspective, some titles we feel can be maximized by being launched in a pedestal way, akin to theatrical — some open wide, and others open in a platform manner.”

Last year, Buena Vista gave Wal-Mart an exclusive sales window of several months on The Miracle Worker, a “Wonderful World of Disney” title about the life of Helen Keller.

“It's not a set strategy or something we're doing on an ongoing basis,” MacPherson said. “It's really an exception.”

Wal-Mart isn't the only big retailer to seek and get exclusives. Earlier this year, Buena Vista gave Best Buy exclusive sales rights to the TV DVD title Buddies, Dave Chappelle's short-lived 1996 series that was canceled after 13 episodes, only five of which ever aired.

Best Buy executives specifically spelled out their intent “to pursue exclusive arrangements” in the consumer electronics chain's annual report for fiscal 2005.

So far this year, the chain's other video exclusives have included the single-disc TV DVD releases Buffy: The Best of Spike, from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, and The Best of Welcome Back Kotter, from Warner Home Video. Since Aug. 2, Best Buy has been selling several Warner action titles — including American Kickboxer, Hellbound and Delta Force 3 — that won't be available at other retail outlets until Dec. 6.

Exclusives aren't new to music either. Just this week, country singer Garth Brooks cut a deal to sell his music exclusively through Wal-Mart.

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