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Multidisc Sets Pose Rental Dilemma

20 Nov, 2003 By: Thomas K. Arnold

The proliferation of multidisc sets, from four-disc extended versions of such films as “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and Pearl Harbor to complete-season packages of popular TV shows, is testing rental dealers' ingenuity.

While their initial inclination might have been to forego rentals and focus on sales, the fact that there's been such a sharp uptick in the number of multidisc releases — 247 so far this year, nearly three times as many as in 2001 — has prompted rentailers to experiment with various ways to avoid leaving rental dollars on the table.

“We always break them up and rent them individually,” said Marc Oringer, owner of Champagne Video in New York City. “If there are four discs, then we rent four discs, all at new-release prices. We make color copies of the original box and label them accordingly — disc one, disc two, and so on.”

Steve Scavelli, president of Flash Distributors, said many of his indie-retailer accounts give their customers the option of renting the entire set for one price or individual discs at a lower rate. And based on what his accounts tell him, “most customers will rent the entire set,” except in situations like Paramount Home Entertainment's collection of “The Honeymooners” episodes, where there's no story arc. “Those are mostly rented individually,” Scavelli said.

Not surprisingly, retailers applaud studios that package discs individually inside boxed sets, such as Paramount, which used individual Amaray cases for both “The Honeymooners” and its recently issued Adventures of Indiana Jones. Martin Blythe, VP of publicity for Paramount, said the decision “was consumer-driven.”

“We heard, in our market research for Indiana Jones, that the public wanted individual packaging within the box, presumably so they could lend individual movies to family members,” he said. “It's about keeping the customers happy.” And if rental dealers are happy as well, so much the better. “They're our customers, too,” Blythe said.

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