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New Show Format Applauded

1 Aug, 2003 By: Thomas K. Arnold

High marks for the 22nd annual VSDA convention came from exhibitors and retailers alike, as the concept of networking and meeting in private suites rather than a central show floor caught on.

“Last year no one really knew what to do, but this year it all works,” said one retailer. At last year's show there was a small exhibition floor; this year, there were only suites.

Final attendance figures aren't in, but VSDA president Bo Andersen on Wednesday said he estimates that more than 4,000 attendees came to the show and that total retail attendance will be up from last year.

Mom-and-pop regulars joined a strong turnout from the big chains, with key executives from such major retail operations as Blockbuster Inc., Best Buy and Giant Eagle.

There was even an invitation-only DVD Retail Summit expressly designed for chain stores. Analyst Tom Adams and Video Store Magazine market research director Judith McCourt presented exclusive research findings, while a panel discussion that included such industry heavyweights as Best Buy SVP Gary Arnold and Blockbuster president Nigel Travis broached a wide array of issues, including advancing DVD into the next 50 million U.S. households.

The Filmmakers Program got lots of praiseworthy comments from filmmakers as well as suppliers. Mike Kyle of Had to Be Made Films, the program's organizer, said, “The independent filmmakers here were thrilled with the results.”

On the exhibition side, suites were sold out several weeks in advance, and several new suppliers joined returning regulars, including Koch Lorber Entertainment, headed by veteran indie video supplier Richard Lorber.

Doug Schwab, president of Maverick Entertainment, took a suite at the last minute and couldn't have been more pleased with the decision.

“We've been meeting not just retailers but directors, writers and producers,” said Schwab, whose company specializes in urban and Latino features. “This is great.”

Adult exhibitors, too, were pleased with the turnout, citing steady traffic that extended well into the afternoon — unlike last year, they said, when the halls were essentially empty by about 3 p.m.

“We got some good leads,”

said Andy Green of Pleasure Productions.

“We saw four, five, six new stores, and a couple of foreign customers. They are coming.”

Parties were plentiful, beginning with a pair of preconvention Artisan Home Entertainment shindigs. An opening-night pool party, co-sponsored by Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment, Playboy Home Entertainment, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Entertainment, was followed on day two by an Adult Interactive Party and a “Night in Venice” bash in the Palazzo Ballroom.

Several other companies, including Ardustry Home Entertainment and Ground-Zero Entertainment, threw private cocktail parties and receptions.

To be sure, there were still some snafus. Traveling to the suites, most of them on the top floors, took as long as half an hour during peak times, as elevator lines extended into the hotel lobby.

Attendees devised all sorts of ways to beat the rush, mostly through a labyrinth of side elevators and stairways.

“I was at the TV show [the National Association of Television Program Executives convention in January,] and the same thing happened,” grumbled one attendee.

“I would have thought they'd have figured it out.”

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