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End of the Year Sales Begin With <I>Rings</I>

15 Aug, 2003 By: Holly J. Wagner

Retailers are already rolling out the discounts and promotions on The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, with prices on the two-disc set as low as $17.96 and a variety of limited availability perks.

Instead of packaging movie ticket vouchers for the final theatrical installment in Two Towers packages as was done in last year's Fellowship of the Ring, New Line Home Entertainment will package an Adventure Card loyalty/reward card with each disc set. Each card has a unique PIN code that consumers can use to get downloadable coupons, promotions and unique content from lotradventurecard.com. Best Buy, Target and Circuit City will each sport custom-branded Adventure Cards that direct consumers to retailer-specific Web sites, where each will have its own special offers.

Best Buy's advance promo lets customers preorder the set for $19.99, then receive discounts of $5 off one, $10 off two, or $15 off three additional discs from a list of 40 New Line titles, including the two-disc set of the first episode in the franchise.

Target and and Circuit City are not offering in-store preorders, but other individual retailers have special offers to lure consumers.

Blockbuster Video is using the set to play both sides of the sellthrough-rental equation: The chain offers a seven-movie rental card (a movie a week for seven weeks) to customers who preorder, but they will pay the full list price of $29.99 for the set.

Virgin Megastores began offering preorders on the title Aug. 5, promising an exclusive lithograph with each purchase while supplies last. Customers preordering in stores paid $24.27 for the two-disc DVD set and received a customized gift card displaying Gollum's face. When the title streets Aug. 26, customers will redeem the value of the card to get their preordered sets. Amazon.com handles online fulfillment for Virgin Megastores.

Amazon.com offers the set for $17.97, and preorder customers get immediate access to a free streaming media featurette on the making of the movie. The site also offers preorders on the four-disc set due Nov. 18, with a 35 percent discount off the $39.95 list price, to $25.99, and free shipping.

Walmart.com is undercutting Amazon by one penny on the shorter theatrical version, pricing the set at $17.96 and offering preorders. The site is also taking preorders for the extended edition, priced at $25.87.

On the brick-and-mortar side, 1,600 Wal-mart stores will open at midnight Aug. 26 and will offer light-up Ring pendants with the purchase.

Buy.com offers the theatrical cut for $18.99 and the extended cut for $26.98 with preordering available on both.

New Line is providing premiums, posters and POP materials to all merchants. Along with the retail partners and the Adventure Card, New Line has partnered with other products to cross-promote the title in a variety of retail environments.

Selected packages of Duracell batteries will carry $5-off coupons for the title on DVD or VHS, and Chrysler will offer $500 off on Town & Country minivans, which are available with a six-disc CD/DVD changer.

Containers of 7 UP, Diet 7 UP, Cherry 7 UP, Sunkist Orange Soda, A&W Root Beer and Canada Dry Ginger Ale will feature Two Towers imagery on 12-ounce cans, 12-packs, 20-ounce bottles and 2-liter bottles, as well as on point-of-sale and merchandising materials.

As part of the Dr Pepper/7 Up promotion, consumers will be able to collect points from specially marked product packages and bid on collectible merchandise in an auction-style promotion at LiquidLoot.com, the soft drink company's consumer loyalty program and Web site. Consumers who activate Adventure Cards will receive an automatic 100 points to use for bidding in the auction. Consumers also will be able to enter an online sweepstakes at LiquidLoot.com for the chance to win a trip to New Zealand.

Air New Zealand is offering a Middle-earth fly/drive vacation package that lets visitors explore areas where the film series was shot in New Zealand. New Line also will offer a monthly sweepstakes for the trip.

Starting Aug. 8, new subscribers to Verizon Wireless who buy a one- or two-year service contract will get the DVDs for free. Verizon's Web site also offers a chance to enter the contest for a trip to New Zealand.

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