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‘5th Quarter' Packing Less Punch

23 Dec, 2004 By: Erik Gruenwedel


Studios may have lost some of their coveted “fifth quarter” demographic this year, but it's still a lucrative period.

With DVD player penetration reaching 75 percent of U.S. households, according to the Consumer Electronics Association, it would appear the so-called “fifth quarter” — an industry marketing term for the post-Christmas period when studios typically target first-time DVD consumers with a surfeit of titles — will yield fewer new DVD households. And those who are new are those who have resisted the allure of DVD and are unlikely to be as big buyers of discs as previous new-owner segments.

That said, for the top 18 studio video releases scheduled for January 2005 (led by Warner Home Video's $133 million Troy Jan. 4), total box office power topped $713 million — up $166 million from last January.

“We have a phrase, ‘Feed the machine,’ said Gordon Ho, SVP of marketing, Buena Vista Home Entertainment. “We have the products and promotions to take advantage of the consumers who want to buy DVDs.” The studio will street four titles in the fifth quarter, led by The Village ($114 million) Jan. 11.

Despite the anticipated slowdown in first-time DVD player consumption, January sales remain a coveted opportunity for a variety of reasons, according to Marshall Forster, EVP North America with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Forster cited factors like ever-shrinking release windows; consumers flush with holiday gift cards; seasonal cold weather patterns; and ongoing widespread distribution of DVD titles. Sony will release 23 titles during the period, led by The Forgotten ($66 million) Jan. 18.“Sony has had tremendous success during the period,” Forster said.

Consumers looking to put additional players in master and children's bedrooms are the primary drivers of DVD player purchases now, according to Sean Wargo, director of industry analysis, Consumer Electronics Association.

“We are in a pretty aggressive replacement and additional cycle now,” Wargo said. “Most of the DVD players are second and third purchases.”

With almost 25 percent of U.S. households owning two DVD players, Universal Studios Home Entertainment (USHE) is bowing 15 titles, including Friday Night Lights ($60 million) Jan. 18.

“The biggest thing is picking the right date,” said Ken Graffeo, EVP of marketing with USHE. “Right after Easter is our slow period.”

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment made the strategic decision not to release the $80 million Alien vs. Predator (one of 42 scheduled fifth-quarter releases) before Christmas to avoid pre-holiday clutter.

“The timing [Jan. 25] just worked out perfectly for that title,” said Steve Feldstein, SVP of marketing communications for Fox.

“It's an all-year-round business now; January is an important month like any other,” said Martin Blythe, VP, publicity with Paramount Home Entertainment, which is releasing 22 titles, including Without a Paddle ($57 million) Jan. 11.

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