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First National Pictures Follows 'The Kid'

14 Dec, 2005 By: Erik Gruenwedel

If Ryan Kugler has learned anything about the home entertainment industry, it's the growing power of kidvid.

Kugler is president of family-owned Distribution Video & Audio (DV&A), which sells excess DVD, music and video game inventory and close-outs. The majority of his 350 accounts representing 24,000 storefronts want children's fare, he said.

Hence was born First National Pictures, a name once owned by the original Twentieth-Century Pictures studio and made famous through such film classics as The Kid with Charlie Chaplin and The Maltese Falcon. Branding played an important role in Kugler's decision to acquire the name rights to First National, which he says conjures images of a bank and safety.

“It was a driving force in the early 1900s that brought out good, quality entertainment,” Kugler said.

But he wanted that quality entertainment to be highly saleable.

“When I started First National Pictures, I didn't want to distribute all those ‘B' movies, horror movies and action flicks with Jean-Claude Van Damme,” Kugler said. “I wanted to do children's because that is the most commonly requested [genre] I get.”

The Los Angeles-based distributor Feb. 21 will release The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin: The Journey Begins Vol. 1 and The Journey Continues Vol. 2 on DVD. The first two installments representing 12 episodes of the popular 1987 children's animated TV series will retail for $14.98 each.

In addition, First National May 2 will street the first of three “Baby Felix” videos ($14.98 each), based on the 2000 Japanese animated TV series.

To jumpstart awareness of the DVDs, First National is including four “Felix” music videos — including “Go Go Felix,” “A Musical World,” “Friends” and “Playground” — together with a trailer and cartoon in the “Ruxpin” releases.

First National, which plans to distribute one or two titles per month, will attend Toy Fair 2006 in February to underscore the importance of children's DVD to toy retailers.

Kugler says that unlike typical ‘B' movies with unknown talent and little branding to promote the product, the “Felix” and “Ruxpin” DVDs can be associated with more than 200 commercial licenses for toys and children's products related to the brands.

“We're going to have content that is already branded,” Kugler said.

Kugler also said the company is in negotiations to distribute an animated feature film with “major ‘A' movie stars” for late summer release.

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