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Lewis Packs Keynote Address

27 Jul, 2005 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Jerry Lewis

Telling the crowd he's spent a lifetime getting paid doing what children get punished for, legendary comic Jerry Lewis kept the crowd laughing during the packed opening session dominated by ubiquitous concerns over piracy and a maturing DVD sellthrough market.

VSDA president Bo Andersen, in his state of the industry address, took square aim at the growing threat of Internet piracy of movies here and abroad, calling on the industry to attack aggressively piracy through public education.

Andersen said that for every 10 DVDs sold by studios, another one is sold illegally on the black market. He said it is the industry's role to emphasize the concept that piracy is morally wrong and can't be ignored.

To demonstrate how easy it is to download a movie, Andersen asked a member of the audience, Carl Friedlander of Super Video in Southfield, Mich., to go to an Internet-enabled computer set up onstage, and, using Morpheus, find and prepare to download a copy of Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith, which he was able to do quite easily.

The theme is addressed in a new antipiracy filmed spot the VSDA selected from entries submitted in a competition of independent filmmakers, coordinated by Had To Be Made Films. The spot, created by Cal Arts student Joshua Smith, is about a young illustrator's time-consuming charcoal drawing that is illegally reproduced onto hundreds of copies tacked onto construction sites and blowing in the gutter. It will be made available to retailers and suppliers, to run in conjunction with a separate antipiracy comic strip in select consumer publications, and funded in part by the National Association of Video Distributors, theater owners and the Motion Picture Association of America.

Andersen applauded Congress' tougher stance on illegal camcording of theatrical releases and said the recent Supreme Court decision that allowed file-sharing networks to be held accountable for their users' illegal activities underscored the notion that peer-to-peer could amount to doomsday devices for home entertainment.

Regarding the maturing of the DVD market, Andersen, while not denying that the rate of DVD growth has noticeably slipped compared to last year, said the home entertainment market shouldn't forget that it already was considered a mature market in the 1990s and its moderate growth would be the envy of many a mature industry.

“There is no reason to belittle our growth when it is in single digits,” Andersen said. He said home entertainment experienced an 8.5 percent growth rate in 2004, with sellthrough up 15 percent and consumer spending on packaged media exceeding $24 billion.

The VSDA president also addressed the ongoing battle between next-generation disc formats, Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD. He said the industry has reached a significant “pivot point” that, depending on whether there is a format war or a unified format, could have a lasting impact on the packaged media business. The VSDA has released a document, “Baseline Criteria for High-Definition DVD Format,” offering a “retail perspective” to CE manufacturers and studios on retail and consumer criteria necessary to make a successful format launch. It covers copy protection; product dimension and quality; packaging and labeling; and marketing support.

Jerry Lewis' joke-filled keynote was interspersed with poignant memories about his early career with Dean Martin, the duo's breakup, and then reunion after 20 years orchestrated by Frank Sinatra, and other career highlights as well as his struggle with chronic pain. Also shown were clips of the October-scheduled 10-disc boxed set release of selected Lewis films from Paramount Home Entertainment.

In an unplanned moment, an unidentified man leapt on stage clutching a printer's proof copy of a book Lewis wrote about his career with Dean Martin, scheduled for release this fall. He asked Lewis for an autograph, but instead Lewis grilled the man about how he got a hold of the book. “See, I'm a victim of piracy on my own book,” Lewis said. He reportedly later agreed to sign the book for the man.

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