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More Special On Street Date

1 Jul, 2006 By: Jessica Wolf

The double-dip — that time-honored studio tradition of taking a popular title, adding content and new packaging, and releasing a special edition — has taken a bit of a twist this year.

A handful of titles from as many suppliers arrived on DVD in both special editions and less-loaded versions on the same date. While they don't sell as well as the vanilla versions, the juiced up DVDs seem to have done much better than if they had been released at a later date.

Consumers had their choice of a simpler, lower-priced version or a multidisc special edition of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment's Walk the Line, Warner Home Video's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Lionsgate's Lord of War, Buena Vista Home Entertainment's The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Universal Studios Home Entertainment's Munich.

Consumers went more for the vanilla editions of these titles, according to sales results from the all-important first four weeks of release. More than 80% of a title's lifetime DVD sales happen that first month, according to Understanding & Solutions research.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was the first of the popular fantasy series to arrive in plain and double-disc, extras-laden versions simultaneously. Its two-disc special edition fared the best in the bunch, selling about 44% of the amount the single-disc version sold in the first month of release, according to Nielsen VideoScan data.

The detailed Munich: Two-Disc Special Edition sold about 25% of the historical drama's vanilla DVD version in the first four weeks of release. Action-drama Lord of War's sparsely populated double-disc special edition sold about 18% of its single-disc version in the first month. The Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line: Collector's Edition clocked in at 16% of the plain DVD's first-month units. And The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — with the most elaborate special-edition offering, a four-disc specially packaged set — sold just 11% of the first-month units of the leaner, two-disc version released the same day.

Releases like this help the studio assign value to special features, said John Quinn, EVP of service management for Warner Home Video at the recent Entertainment Supply Chain Academy Conference in Los Angeles.

“If you price it with and without the special features, you get a sense of what people are really willing to pay for in extra features,” he said.

Of course, the packed sets are the pricier option, anywhere from $2 to $20 more than the less-loaded versions.

Consumers are increasingly price sensitive, but it's also getting harder to capture their attention for special editions, David Bishop, president of North American business for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, said at the recent DVD Nine Lives Conference, sponsored by Home Media Retailing.

“On the feature film side, the consumer is becoming a bit more discerning,” he said. “That special edition better deliver.”

Still, the strategy of releasing both versions at the same time may be paying off. Other 2006 special editions that had some breathing room between DVD dips didn't sell as well.

Fox's Kingdom of Heaven DVD streeted in October of last year. The four-disc director's cut arrived May 23, 2006. Its first month on shelves, the four-disc version brought in just 5.5% of the original DVD's unit sales in the same period the year before.Fox's Mr. & Mrs. Smith: Unrated Edition streeted June 6. After two weeks on VideoScan charts, the disc has sold a scant 2.5 % of the first Smith DVD release's first-two-week tally, back in November.

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