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Magnolia Readies Second Superrelease

23 Mar, 2006 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Hailing the near-simultaneous release of Bubble in theaters, on DVD and on cable as a success, 2929 Entertainment's Magnolia Pictures arm is ready to do it again, this time with a Herbie Hancock music documentary.

Herbie Hancock: Possibilities will be available on all three platforms beginning in mid-April, opening in theaters in New York and Los Angeles April 14, arriving on DVD April 18 and airing on HDNet April 23.

The documentary chronicles the production of Hancock's August 2005 CD, Possibilities, in which the jazz icon collaborates with a diverse roster of musicians, among them Christina Aguilera, John Mayer, Carlos Santana Paul Simon, Annie Lennox and Sting. It also delves into Hancock's life with archival footage, including rare shots of the Miles Davis Quintet.

Randy Wells, VP of Magnolia Home Entertainment, acknowledges the “superrelease” strategy got a bad rap when the Steve Soderbergh mystery Bubble opened Jan. 27 in just 32 theaters and grossed $145,000. The film was released the same day on the HDNet cable channel and arrived on DVD four days later,

The press savaged the “superrelease” strategy, with headlines like “Bubble Bursts” and stories slamming the film's theatrical performance.

Wells, however, contends Bubble was a low-budget arthouse film, and its gross was in line with the earnings of similar films that first opened in theaters only. Factor in DVD sales and pay-per-view receipts and the final tally was around $5 million, against a budget of just $1.6 million.

“Audiences went to the theater to see Bubble with the full knowledge that the film was also available on DVD,” Wells said. “Bubble's theatrical performance was consistent with comparable titles and at the same time, retailers and consumers showed very strong support for the DVD release.”

Wells points out that in addition to letting consumers choose how they want to see a film without having to wait, 2929's “superrelease” strategy also saves a bundle on marketing costs.

“Both theatrical and DVD drafted off each other's awareness with a shared marketing campaign,” he said. “By opening up the options on how, where and when a consumer can see the movie, it ultimately grew the overall revenue pie for the film.”

Not everyone agrees — last week, National Association of Theatre Owners president and CEO John Fithian slammed Bubble's theatrical performance and called simultaneous release experiments “radically misguided.”

Of the 32 screens that showed Bubble, 19 were part of the indie Landmark Theatre chain, which is owned by 2929 Entertainment chiefs Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner.

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