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<I>Mothman</I> Fights Tier-anny

15 Jul, 2002 By: Jessica Wolf

Video suppliers in the United Kingdom appear to be trying to distance themselves from Warner's unpopular decision to charge rental dealers a premium price for all video product at the same time it's released to sellthrough.

British film and video distribution company Helkon SK Ltd. is breaking its five-year tie with Warner Home Video UK and will distribute its latest title, The Mothman Prophecies, itself.

The company sent letters two weeks ago to all of its video rental dealer clients informing them they will need to order the title directly from Helkon and promising to institute an as-yet-unspecified rental window for the DVD.

“Due to current circumstances between Warner Home Video and the rental industry, we have made the decision that we will distribute and market The Mothman Prophecies ourselves,” the letter read. “We hope the industry will appreciate the difficulties we are facing in releasing such a strong rental title ourselves at such short notice.”

In England, Warner also distributes product for Mel Gibson's film company, Icon Productions. Speculation in the country is that Icon also will pull We Were Soldiers from Warner's release schedule in light of the strained relations between the studio and the retail community, a British video rental dealer said.

Meanwhile, Warner announced it would triple its usual marketing expenditure for Training Day -- its first tiered-pricing release -- to promote the July 15 release's dual availability for rent or purchase. According to British trade magazine Home Entertainment Week, Warner plans to spend more than £350,000 (approx. $540,000) on television and newspaper advertising in the country.

“Releasing Training Day on all formats on the same day has allowed us to pool our marketing resources and create a much bigger campaign than would have previously been achievable,” Warner marketing director Clare Guise told Home Entertainment Week.

“We believe this extra marketing spend will drive both increased rental transactions and incremental retail sales. To support the rental sector, all TV consumer advertising will clearly have an ‘available to rent' message,” she said.

In another counterpoint to Warner's strategy, one of England's biggest independent film production and distribution companies, Mosaic Entertainment, recently announced a commitment to a rental window for all future product, according to the region's View magazine.Unless a Mosaic title is specifically released as sellthrough product, all films will get at least an eight-week rental window in both formats, possibly more, to be decided on a title-by-title basis.

The first release to get an extended rental window in the U.K. is Harvard Man, a sexy thriller starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. Harvard Man streets Oct. 15 and will have a 10-week window.

Mosaic is owned by the same parent company, HEC, that owns Choices Video, one of the largest video rental chains in England.

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