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More 'Pie' for DVD

12 Jul, 2007 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Universal to expand 'American Pie' series with third DTV installment.

Bye-bye, Miss “American Pie?” Not hardly. The franchise lives, both as a proven moneymaker for Universal Studios Home Entertainment and Rogue Pictures and as a poster boy for the hot new Hollywood business of producing inexpensive sequels to theatrical blockbusters exclusively for DVD release.

Principal photography began last month in Toronto on American Pie Presents: Beta House and is on target to end next week. The film this holiday season will follow American Pie Presents: Band Camp and American Pie Presents: The Naked Mile in coming directly to DVD. The two rank at No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, on the list of best-selling live-action, non-family DTVs, with Band Camp (released in December 2005) at 2 million units and Naked Mile (December 2006) at 1.5 million.

“The ‘American Pie' franchise has already harnessed a staggering half-billion dollars and continues to tip conventional industry scales despite its ‘R'-rated nature,” said Craig Kornblau, president of Universal Studios Home Entertainment and Universal Pictures Digital Platforms Group. “Not only has the brand made an indelible imprint at retail, but its success also is a testament to the power of Universal's DVD Originals line.”

Indeed. Over the past few years, more than a dozen DTV sequels have come to market, with high-profile pedigrees and compelling sales numbers. 20th Century Fox had Behind Enemy Lines 2: Axis of Evil and Just Like Mike 2; Paramount had Save the Last Dance 2; New Line had The Butterfly Effect 2; Warner had The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning, actually a prequel.

But none has performed like Universal's “American Pie” franchise, a DTV juggernaut based on the trilogy of off-color comedies about teens and sex, the first of which hit theaters in the fall of 1999 and boasted as its tagline the double entendre, “There's something about your first piece.”

The three films generated more than $350 million in combined box office earnings. After American Wedding it was decided to go the DTV route. Cast members were replaced with younger, greener stars. The sole exception: Eugene Levy, who appears in all six “American Pie” films.

“Over the past eight years, the ‘American Pie' films have transcended their blockbuster success to become a pop cultural phenomenon,” Kornblau said.

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