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First Look Raises Its Profile

10 Feb, 2005 By: Holly J. Wagner

First Look Home Entertainment is raising its profile with a short theatrical-to-DVD window on its first title to appear in Target Stores and a partnership with DEJ Productions.

The biggest departure from past practices is an experiment with a “superdistribution” release for National Lampoon's Blackball, which streets Feb. 15 after opening theatrically in six markets the Friday before (Feb. 11). First Look Home Entertainment's SVP of sales and distribution, Bill Bromiley, acknowledged that some exhibitors were reluctant to screen the film because of the short window, but he's hoping the strategy will pay off.

“We're trying to create some awareness for this title,” Bromiley said. “The theatrical release is more of a commercial for the DVD. If it takes off theatrically, then we will continue to support it [in theaters].”

The title also will get support from limited print and cable TV advertising and promotion via National Lampoon's college network.

When it streets, the title will be First Look's debut in Target Stores, a key account for suppliers.

Another big step for First Look is its partnership with DEJ Productions, inked in November, but just coming to fruition now.

Though titles from the partnership will roll out beginning in March, the first “big film,” Back in the Day, comes out in May, Bromiley said.

“It stars Ving Rhames and Ja Rule,” he said. “It's a very big-budget urban drama.”

Rhames' profile will get a boost from his starring role in a new “Kojak” TV series due on FX this spring, and that fits well with the goals of the partnership.

“I think we were both pretty much going after the same types of films,” Bromiley said. “We tended to favor the specialized films in some cases, where they favored the bigger, cast-driven films.”

In this case, bigger is better. The partnership expands First Look's library to 400 titles, increases the release slate from roughly 30 to 50 titles per year and, to support that, DEJ's former sales force has moved over to First Look.

Cliff Henderson and Tim Warren join First Look as regional sales managers, while First Look's former VP of sellthrough, Mike Katchman, moves up to VP of sellthrough and rental. Katchman will oversee the expanded catalog.

“There was a little bit of speculation as to how this was going to be received in the industry,” Bromiley said. Blockbuster Inc. owns DEJ. “It crossed our minds as well, but the reaction has been 100 percent positive.”

The pairing also helps both companies make inroads into new retail outlets. “There is power in volume,” Bromiley said. “Most retailers have to have big titles because they know they will make money on it. Once you are in with one title, they say, ‘What else have you got?’

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