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Extra Features Vital to Indie, Special Interest DVDs

3 Jul, 2002 By: Joan Villa

Mainstream DVD consumers lack enthusiasm for special features on hit movies aimed at the rental market, but those same value-added elements may boost purchases of independent films, fitness product and children's entertainment, agreed experts during an independent studio panel discussion led by Video Store Magazine publisher Don Rosenberg at the “DVD at 5” conference.

“I thought in a few years we'd be out of the special features business, but we aren't,” said Bill Sondheim, president of GoodTimes Entertainment.

Instead, as children embrace DVD for playback on PlayStation 2 game systems and computers, extra content that provides value for parents -- like teaching preschoolers colors and letters -- may entice a sale. The interactivity that VHS never quite accomplished may blossom in the DVD format, he added.

In fact, while special features are becoming less crucial to the rental market, they're more important than ever to the success of independent movies that film fans collect, panelists agreed.

Buyers for stores like Best Buy and Borders Books will be swayed by special features, while at mass merchants they're still “looking at what traditional video buyers have always looked at -- box art, cast and genre,” explained Bill Bromiley, SVP of sales and distribution at First Look Home Entertainment.

While it may be easier now to get DVD onto store shelves, suppliers have to back their product with marketing so their DVDs will be sold through to consumers or face getting cut by mass merchants who have sophisticated systems for tracking sales, cautioned Glenn Ross, president of Family Home Entertainment and EVP of Artisan Home Entertainment.

“In the first two weeks if you haven't sold 48 percent to 50 percent of your inventory, they send it all back to you, so the bigger challenge is getting it off the shelves,” he said. “We have to be more creative and entrepreneurial in acquiring product, getting retailers to put it on their shelves and getting the consumer to buy it.”

One of the first suppliers of DVD product, Image Entertainment, has grown by mining a 7,000-title library and tapping niches like music, Broadway shows and classic TV programming that sells particularly well online, said marketing VP Garrett Lee.

“We have a lot of product you won't find at Virgin [Records] or Tower [Records and Video] or anywhere else that at Amazon goes into their top 100 sales lists, so we love virtual space,” he said.

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