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'Raisin' Aligns With New TV Paradigm

21 Mar, 2008 By: Thomas K. Arnold

A Raisin in the Sun

It is a reflection of changing times that the May 13 (prebook April 3) DVD release of a TV movie, A Raisin in the Sun, is being treated by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment as one of its big event titles of the year.

The marketing campaign plays up the high ratings the Sony Pictures Television movie adaptation of the Tony Award-winning Broadway revival scored when it aired on ABC Feb. 25. It's the highest-rated movie-of-the-week among women this entire TV season, and was the No. 1 program among all households the night it aired.

Sony Pictures marketers also are making a big deal that Raisin is coming to DVD two months after its TV debut. That alone represents a dramatic turnaround of how things used to be, back in the days of VHS rental cassettes. TV exposure of any kind meant certain death on the home video market, as far as retailers were concerned. They lobbied to keep feature films off the tube as long as they could. Any studio that released a film to pay-per-view within two months of its home video release could expect hundreds of protest letters and calls for a boycott. And TV movies, which actually could be seen for free on television before they hit video, simply weren't bought at all.

These days, that mindset simply doesn't hold. TV exposure is seen as a boon to DVD sales — and as the soaring growth of the TV DVD market indicates, made-for-TV programming is now considered a rightful art form with a built-in DVD audience.

“In recent years, we have found tremendous equity in releasing television event movies shortly after their TV airing,” said Marc Rashba, VP of marketing for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. “The networks help build awareness and impressions as they market movies and miniseries for tune-in. And our DVD releases become the beneficiary of that effort a few months later when we launch our campaign.”

Moreover, Rashba said, the trend toward creating exclusive content specifically for a DVD release gives studios the opportunity to work closely with producers of the original TV program to develop a new, enhanced product with even more appeal to fans.

Raisin in the Sun follows in the tradition of the recent success we enjoyed with Commanche Moon and Broken Trail by allowing us to work collaboratively with our Sony Pictures Television movie team from the start of production and continuing with added-value development all the way through the release of our DVD,” he said.

Indeed, the $24.94 Raisin DVD will feature an assortment of extras of the kind normally reserved for high-profile theatricals, including an audio commentary with director Kenny Leon and a documentary on the making of the film, which tells the story of a family living and struggling in Chicago's South Side in the 1950s.

A Raisin in the Sun was the first play written by a black woman, Lorraine Hansberry, to be produced on Broadway. It opened in 1959 with a cast that included Sidney Poitier, Diana Sands, Ruby Dee and Lou Gossett Jr. A Columbia Pictures feature film with the same cast followed in 1961.

The play was revived on Broadway in 2004 and adapted for television by director Leon, who also helmed the Broadway revival. Both the play and TV movie feature an all-star cast that includes Sean Combs (Made, Monster's Ball), Phylicia Rashad (“The Cosby Show”), four-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald, Sanaa Lathan (Out of Time, Something New) and John Stamos (“ER”).

A Raisin in the Sun also was the first broadcast-network made-for-TV movie to screen at the Sundance Film Festival.

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