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Panel: Theatrical, Video Arms More Closely Tied

19 Jun, 2003 By: Holly J. Wagner


It's not just talent that's getting involved with DVD production earlier and earlier in the filmmaking process. The drive for fancy extras and the recognition that home entertainment generates the lion's share of a movie's revenue has pushed the marketing department's involvement back as well, video executives said.

“With VHS, we inherited a finished film,” said Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment EVP and GM Robin Russell. “The biggest change is in the marketing. They will not use music in the trailers that is not cleared for the DVD. They will not use talent that is not cleared for the DVD in the trailers.”

More talent involvement in the extras makes a disc more collectible, said Jeff Fink, sales and marketing president at Artisan Home Entertainment, citing director James Cameron's first DVD commentary on the label's Terminator 2: Judgment Day Extreme DVD. The title also won recognition from Microsoft for its innovation in using Windows Media 9 technology to enhance the presentation.

“They look to us now to be the center of attention,” said Buena Vista Home Entertainment SVP Gordon Ho, noting that Buena Vista looks to DVD to promote other products like soundtracks.

Recognition of home video's revenue contribution is a mixed blessing, panelists at the DVD in 50 “The Business of Entertainment” panel agreed, since theatrical performance can change expectations of what a title should do on home video.

“When they have a bad weekend at the box office, they come in to you on Monday and change your [target] numbers,” Russell said. “The most pressure is when your entire slate is built around a couple of tentpole movies.”

Some films do better on video than theatrically because their appeal is narrower, said Peter Staddon, SVP at 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

“If you're going out to watch a movie on Friday night with a group of people, it's very difficult to get a consensus on a film like Fight Club,” he said. The movie performed much better on disc partly because it appeals to a specific audience and partly because the bonus features successfully extend the movie experience for fans.

Timing, marketing, competition in theaters and other variables can dent a film's theatrical performance even if it's a great film, said Kelley Sooter, domestic head of DreamWorks Home Entertainment. Bonus features — and making consumers aware of them — can change a title's fortunes on video.

“It's really about quality of content, not quantity of content,” she said, adding that communicating that to consumers is sometimes difficult. “We're giving them more than they know they have.”

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