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NAVD Stalwarts Gather at Shrinking, But Lasting Event

25 Apr, 2007 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Like the brave men of Custer's Last Stand, the few remaining video distributors gathered on a Santa Monica, Calif., hotel balcony April 24 for a cocktail party meet-and-greet with supplier and studio executives.

The party, part of the National Association of Video Distributors' 24th annual gathering, was a shadow of the big galas that used to take place at a posh resort in the Palm Springs area, attended by every studio president and his top sales team.

This time around, not a single major-studio president came out, while at least one studio, Univeral Studios Home Entertainment, didn't send anyone. The bulk of the attendees came from the mini-major and independent side, who mingled with executives from the NAVD's six members: Alliance Entertainment Corp., Baker & Taylor, Ingram Entertainment, WaxWorks, Flash Distributors and Canada's Entertainment One.

Bill Burton, the NAVD's executive director, concedes distributors have had a rough time in recent years, as their core clientele — independent video rental stores — has dwindled to maybe 15% of the overall home entertainment business.

But unlike the doomed soldiers in the Battle of Little Bighorn, the six NAVD members don't see themselves as endangered species, Burton said. Rather, he said, distributors are changing with the times, taking on different product lines and going after different classes of retailers, from Hallmark card shops and certain Circuit City locations to grocers and drug stores, to compensate for the exiting mom-and-pops.

“With traditional retailers shrinking, they are all adapting and adjusting,” Burton said.WaxWorks, for instance, has gotten into the lucrative business of producing its own regional sports videos, including a batch of recently released bowl game highlights such as 2007 Fiesta Bowl and 2007 Sugar Bowl.

“It's hard, but it's hard for everyone to figure out how to stay alive and keep pushing product through the pipeline,” Burton said.

Richard Buchalter, SVP of sales for Image Entertainment, agreed, but added, “They still serve a purpose. Everyone needs to reinvent themselves. The ones who did are still here.”

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