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Making More Shelf Space

16 Jun, 2005 By: Erik Gruenwedel

With DVD's explosion and shelf space allocation at a premium, enterprising distributors are turning to specialized markets.

Los Angeles-based Shout! Factory wanted maximum retail exposure for the baseball DVD Dodger Blue: The Championship Years, so it offered the title to supermarket and pharmacy chains Ralphs, Vons and Longs Drugs, respectively.

For the Aug. 9 release of its 32-disc pro football college draft DVD collection, Ardusty Home Entertainment is in negotiations with a national oil company to distribute team-specific DVDs at regional gas stations.

Hart Sharp Video has developed an extensive sales and marketing effort for its recently developed, educationally enhanced version of the documentary Super Size Me, designed for health education in schools. The supplier is making a major effort to reach into school systems across the country to get the title placed into the curriculum at middle and high schools.

Gas stations, grocery stores, auto dealerships, public libraries (DVD title offerings are up 56 percent since 2001, according to the National Center for Education Statistics), church and civic groups as unconventional, are among the yet untapped sources of revenue.

Distributors say alternative markets overall now represent 5 percent of sales — a sizeable increase considering the category barely registered a pulse five years ago.

“We have reached saturation in some markets so the studios are continuing distribution into alternative markets,” said Bill Burton, executive director of the National Association of Video Distributors. “It's all about shelf space and how many dollars [retail] can generate per shelf foot. In [alternative markets], you don't have to have a lot of margin to make it worth their while. They are used to operating on narrow margins.”

Asian Extreme Meets Patriotism
To establish a foothold in alternative markets, suppliers are eschewing pricier theatrical releases and opting for DVD bargains that are niche-oriented, feature classic movie stars and are packaged smartly.

With 35,000 titles across more than 20 genres, Westlake Entertainment Group in Canoga Park, Calif., found that forgotten ‘B' titles starring John Wayne and Humphrey Bogart, among others, outsold recent fare by a 2-to-1 margin in the truck stops in which Westlake is placing them. Depending on the retailer and the geographical location, Westlake packages titles in a dump-bin size 99-cent wallet sleeve or $4.98 thin-line snap cases (up to 10-disc variety packs).

“We are trying to focus on a road less traveled,” said Westlake president Greg Summitt. “We put time and effort in the packaging and artwork. Patriotism is big right now, and the classics project that.”

To better market its Asia Extreme label and the Aug. 23 simultaneous DVD and Universal Media Disc (UMD) release of Oldboy ($24.99 both formats), Tartan Video is canvassing comic book stores, conventions and film festivals offering discount coupons to local retailers.

The UMD packaging includes promotional material for the DVD release based on the premise video game retailers don't carry DVD product.

“There's an entire generation of 18-to-34-year-old men and women that have been influenced by Asian culture through video games, comic books and electronics,” said Tony Borg, president of Tartan. “They tend to shop at places that reflect their personalities and interests. That's why it's important to look for retail and cross-promotional opportunities.”

Ben Feingold, president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, said Sony's PSP video game platform has brought movies to national video game retailers such as Game Stop.“That opens up movies to the game crowd,” Feingold said. “It's possible the game retailers will move into DVD, especially with next-generation, [high-definition DVD formats].”

Boy Scouts and Harley Davidson
The proliferation of DVD found WaxWorks shipping to the Boy Scouts of America the family film Follow Me Boys, starring Fred MacMurray as an aspiring lawyer who finds fulfillment mentoring a local scout troop.

The Scouts apparently use elements in the film to help members earn merit badges.

What began as a pitch to The Ford Motor Co. to purchase Warner Home Video's The Aviator for an SUV promotion, sidetracked into the Steve McQueen classic Bullitt for the new Ford Mustang.

Ford decided not to pursue the promotion, but regional dealers took up the offer, according to Kirk Kirkpatrick, president of the video division for WaxWorks.

The Owensboro, Ky.-based distributor didn't stop there. It sold 3,000 copies of a golf-themed movie to a golf-themed business convention; Harley Davidson titles to Harley dealers; Elvis Presley movies to Graceland; James Dean's three titles to his hometown museum in Fairmount, Ind.; and wine tasting fare to vineyards.

“The beauty is that there is something for everybody [and every business] on DVD,” Kirkpatrick said.

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