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January Titles Capitalize on Gift Cards, Returns

19 Oct, 2006 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Snakes on a Plane

The fourth quarter has barely gotten underway, but already studio DVD marketers are eyeing January as a potentially lucrative time slot to release films that either broke theatrically too late for a pre-Christmas release, or were purposely held back to avoid the fourth-quarter clutter.

Granted, January doesn't have as much appeal as it did just a few years ago, when Christmas brought millions of new DVD households eager to feed their new machines. DVD players have become nearly as ubiquitous as VCRs, and buy rates have dropped now that the novelty has worn off. That's why no fewer than eight new theatricals with box office grosses of more than $50 million have been pushed into December, including Buena Vista's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (Dec. 5), the year's No. 1 movie, and $100 million-plus earners Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, from Sony Pictures, and 20th Century Fox's The Devil Wears Prada, both arriving in stores Dec. 12. Paramount's Jackass Number Two hits Dec. 26.

And yet, what's known as the “fifth quarter” will still likely be packed with high-profile theatricals, studio marketers say, primarily because of the flourishing gift-card business. A January 2006 Accenture survey of more than 500 consumers found 82% of them had either given or received a gift card during the preceding holiday season, and this year promises more of the same.

The first theatrical to drop into January is New Line's camp horror film Snakes on a Plane, due Jan. 2 — nearly five months after its theatrical bow. Other likely January releases include Sony Pictures' Open Season and Gridiron Gang, and Buena Vista's The Guardian.

“We have experienced much success with early January releases, particularly Wedding Crashers,” said Matt Lasorsa, New Line's EVP of marketing. “Specifically, we secure great merchandising in a less-cluttered environment and benefit from consumers who are exchanging holiday gifts and using gift cards for new purchases.”

At the beginning of this year, New Line released Wedding Crashers Jan. 3 and wound up selling 8.3 million DVDs. A similar strategy was employed in previous years by Universal Studios, which scored big with early January releases of American Wedding in 2004 and American Pie 2 in 2002.

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