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Fourth Quarter Lineup Is Shaping Up Well

1 Aug, 2002 By: Jessica Wolf

A couple of video blockbusters are already set to spring into action in time for the upcoming holiday shopping season, and more than a few others are waiting in the wings for official release dates. But how is this year's fourth quarter shaping up to compare with last year's explosive denouement?

“DVD software sales are going to be driven by the doubling of DVD homes between June of 2001 and June of 2002,” said Tom Adams, president of Adams Media Research. “That bodes extremely well for strong growth in the fourth quarter. DVD homes are buying a lot more movies than they ever did as VHS homes.”

Eight of the top 10 selling DVDs for 2001 were released in the last quarter of the year, according to VideoScan research, and nearly half of last year's VHS top sellers were fourth-quarter releases.

“For any of the big summer movies, we're all looking to get them out in the fourth quarter, “ said Tracey Garvin, VP of marketing for Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment.

This year is no exception, with Columbia TriStar's Spider-Man, Fox's Ice Age and Universal's The Scorpion King already set for release. And based on an average six-month theatrical-to-video window, other big hits like Minority Report, The Sum of All Fears, The Bourne Identity and Scooby-Doo should arrive in time for the heavy buying season.

“With The Mummy franchise, we've really been able to own October,” said Ken Graffeo, EVP of marketing for Universal Studios Home Video. “That should continue this year with The Scorpion King.

Universal also has a unique position with its DVD debut of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, which will only be available during fourth-quarter 2002. The title goes back on moratorium (where the VHS has been for nearly five years) Dec. 31. “All the marketing, the theatrical release, the premiere with John Williams conducting a live orchestra -- that was always designed to set up the DVD release,” Graffeo said.

With a little studio elbow grease, New Line's Austin Powers in Goldmember, Columbia's Men in Black II and Vin Diesel actioner XXX also could hit before the end of the year.

“It's already looking like there's gonna be a whole lot of good product out there, so we're looking forward to it,” said John Thrasher, VP of video purchasing for Tower Records and Video. Thrasher also pointed out that this year's summer box office has been much more lucrative than last year's, which is good news for those summer theatrical titles that will be ready for video's fourth quarter.

But any fourth-quarter title faces stiff competition from non-fourth-quarter hits Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and the shortly forthcoming The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (street Aug. 6), Thrasher said.

The built-in theatrical-sequel marketing potential for these two fantasy-franchise titles throws a new dynamic into the fourth-quarter mix, with follow-up box office releases for the “Harry Potter” and “The Lord of the Rings” series also arriving this fourth quarter.

“That's kind of a new phenomenon,” Adams said. “There really hasn't ever been anything sort of predesigned to have sequels every year before. It's pretty unprecedented and it gives marketers a chance to do some interesting stuff.”

Nov 11, New Line bows The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Limited Edition Collector's Set, which will basically be competing against another Fellowship release, the August special edition.

“People who already own the August release also are going to be the primary purchasers of the November release, because they really are two completely different movies and the bonus special features on each release are completely different,” said Justine Brody, New Line VP of marketing.

One thing about this year's fourth quarter for Lord of the Rings -- with a new film in theaters and effectively two video products in the market -- is that franchising will be much stronger for the title, Brody said. “Now that it's been established as a $300 million movie, the market is really getting behind it,” she said.

While the theatrical hits will surely drive the sellthrough market and make a splash on rental, don't forget some smaller titles that will find a great home on rental, industrywatchers said.

New Line's horror flicks Jason X and Jason Goes to Hell are already set for Oct. 8 and word-of-mouth favorite from IFC films My Big Fat Greek Wedding could arrive in October as well. Universal's Hugh-Grant starrer About a Boy lands Oct. 22 and Columbia's butt-kicking Enough with Jennifer Lopez arrives Oct. 8 and MGM's Windtalkers breezes in Oct. 15.

By November, video should have Fox's Richard Gere drama Unfaithful. Retailers also will likely look forward to getting Insomnia from Warner by November, directed by Memento's Christopher Nolan. December highlights may include the acclaimed IFC films Y Tu Mamá Tambi?n, featuring Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron. Warner's ultimate chick-flick Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood also may be home for the holidays.

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