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Retailers Grab For the Gold <I>Ring</I>

31 Jul, 2002 By: Kurt Indvik

Out of the twilight mists an armada of small boats carrying hooded “emissaries from Middle-earth” will sail across Manhattan's Central Park lake Monday to deliver the first official DVD and VHS copies of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

The transformation of portions of Central Park into Middle-earth for a major home video launch bash by New Line Home Entertainment will be only the first of a nationwide rollout of marketing promotions big and small for the $313 million box office hit, which arrives on retail shelves Tuesday.

New Line marketing executives have been busy setting up the Rings launch next week, working with retail and co-marketing partners to ensure that unless you happen to be living on the moon, there would be no escaping the Lord of the Rings home video debut.

“The buzz so far has been great,” said Justine Brody, New Line VP of marketing and promotions. “All the retailers we have heard from have been having very successful presales campaigns, getting their POP materials out early. They're getting great feedback from consumers. Everyone is acknowledging the street date.”

“They have all really stepped up,” agreed Lance Still, the studio's executive director of promotions. “Regardless of their class of trade, they are excited and participating.”

There is “an unbelievable amount of POP” in the market already, much of it customized, Still said.

The major rental chains have a variety of special promotions readied for the title, Still noted.

Blockbuster, for instance, is offering a free copy of the Lord of the Rings DVD or VHS with the purchase of a 10-week rental card as well as a free rental with the purchase of the title. North of the border, No. 1 Canadian rental chain Rogers Video has mounted a pre-street-date sweepstakes awarding five online customers the November collector's set.

Some supermarket chains, such as Albertsons, are planning to aggressively merchandise the title, and Best Buy is doing on-site radio promotions in 21 markets for a midnight launch.

Best Buy will open 23 stores in the electronic chain's bigger markets at 12:01 a.m. Aug. 6. Also, those stores will run Rings events with local radio stations from 10:30 p.m. to midnight Aug. 5 “so people waiting in line (will) have some things to do,” a Best Buy spokeswoman said.

“The radio stations will keep them entertained,” she said.

The Wherehouse chain also will open select stores at midnight on street date to sell the title, said Rusty Hansen, manager of video marketing and marketing finance. At deadline, chain executives were pondering whether to do a chainwide midnight opening. Wherehouse already has been running a preorder campaign, under which customers who preorder the title get $3 off coupons applicable to purchases greater than $10. The chain is also offering collectible Rings gift cards and execs are considering an upgrade program for customers who turn in their August Rings version to purchase the extended version due in November.

“It's just an idea at this point,” Hansen said.

In addition to its own midnight sales in select locations, Virgin Megastore has mounted both presell and post-street-date campaigns. The first 5,000 customers to prepurchase the title receive a Virgin-exclusive, limit edition lithograph and all customers prepurchasing the two-disc set receive an exclusive collectible gift card and customized holder. The first 10 people buying the title at Virgin Megastores in West Hollywood, and San Francisco, Calif.; New York; Boston; and Orlando, Fla. can purchase the DVD or VHS for $10. (The DVD retails at $29.95, the VHS at $22.94.) The next 40 in line at each of these stores will get free Rings T-shirts. Virgin also will have a national sweepstakes on the movie's street date in which the winner will get a limited edition 24 karat gold replica of the One Ring. Consumers can enter the sweepstakes at virginmega.com or at one of the five select stores.

Among some of the major brands acting co-marketing with New Line, Gateway and Intel have teamed to offer a free DVD of Lord of the Rings with every purchase of a DVD-enabled Gateway computer that includes the Intel Pentium 4 processor.

Kia is rolling out a major co-promotion around the launch of its new Sorento midsized SUV. Beginning Aug. 5, consumers who stop by a Kia dealership to test drive the Sorento or any Kia vehicle through November will receive a mail-in coupon good for a free DVD or VHS copy of Lord of the Rings. Kia launches a major Rings-themed ad campaign with TV spots hitting the airwaves Aug. 9. The auto maker is also executing a national on-pack/online instant win game on early shipments of the movie. The grand prize is a Sorento and a trip for two to New Zealand, where Lord of the Rings was filmed.

New Line will also execute its own advertising campaign with a significant presence on TV starting Aug. 1; the bulk of the TV ads will run for three weeks. Overall, New Line executives estimate the total value of the advertising and promotions campaign for the Lord of the Rings home video launch to be upwards of $45 million.

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