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Indies Partner With Studios for Sellthrough Biz

26 Jul, 2004 By: Erik Gruenwedel


Longtime music distributor Universal Music and Video Distribution (UMVD) has launched a separate unit earmarked to dispense home video product from select independent sources to mass merchants and other direct accounts.

Nascent UMVD Visual Entertainment in September will release The Best of Chavo del 8 and The Best of El Chapulin Colorado Vol. 3 (both $14.98 DVD), two long-running popular Mexican TV comedies from Santa Monica, Calif.-based Xenon Entertainment Group.

Other undisclosed releases include product from New York-based Palm Pictures, Trinity Home Entertainment and Atkins Complete, a UMVD spokesperson said.

The move mirrors a growing trend among independent content holders that are signing home video distribution deals with major studios. This month, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and UrbanWorks Entertainment announced plans to produce and distribute urban-themed comedy DVDs featuring Cedric The Entertainer, Steve Harvey, Dave Chappelle, D.L. Hughley and others, which will be branded under UrbanWorks' “Platinum Comedy” Series. Maverick Entertainment's upstart Breakaway Films sold its first six home video releases to Lions Gate Home Entertainment. They include A Miami Tale, I Accidentally Domed Your Son, The Hustle, Sweet Potato Pie, Señorita Justice and Out on Parole. Hart Sharp, which made headlines when it acquired the home video distribution rights to the sensational documentary Super Size Me, said it was partnering with Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment to get the title into Wal-Mart and other retailers.

“The Sony machine can take this film to the next level of distribution and get the film into consumer hands in a quicker fashion,” said Joe Amodei, president of Hart Sharp.

Chris Hollas, general manager of sales and marketing at Xenon Entertainment, said the strength of UMVD's distribution network coupled with ongoing control over its product line sealed the deal.

“Their strength in the urban and Spanish music side of things really fit what we are doing,” he said.

Smaller distributors are jumping at the opportunities afforded by the major studios to market their product to mass merchants. The studios, in turn, can effectively offer inexpensive fare mandated by the mass merchants without undercutting their catalogs.

“I think it is tied to the continued growth and market share by mass merchants and the fact that there are fewer players overall,” said Chris Arns, VP of marketing and business development with Vanguard Cinema, in Costa Mesa, Calif. “As product has shifted to sellthrough, the business models of some of the smaller distributors have changed. If they want to be successful, they need to go with the bigger distributors.”

Arns said he is analyzing similar business relationships for 10-year-old Vanguard, adding a major attraction to partnering with the studios — even if for just one title — is the fact that many of the mass merchants have limitations on the number of vendors that they will deal with.

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