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Scary Movies

22 Jun, 2003 By: Dan Bennett

Suppliers agree on this creepy, curious tidbit: Scary movies don't sell just around the Halloween season. Folks like to be frightened close to tears almost every month of the year.

Video suppliers are just fine with that, because it means consistent business. Many suppliers trot out their top horror titles in time for retailers to create Halloween displays, then watch as many of the titles sell well past Oct. 31.

“The horror fan has definitely become a year-round fan,” said Tom Bambard, director of marketing for Anchor Bay Entertainment. “Retailers look for seasonal opportunities, and Halloween is among the best of those. They want to leverage the season, so we coordinate our releases accordingly.”

Anchor Bay has been sending some of film history's top horror titles out to frighten the masses for two decades. The supplier Aug. 5 releases Halloween: 25th Anniversary, described by Anchor Bay as the ultimate “all-new, hi-definition anamorphic widescreen transfer” of the classic horror flick.

The title includes a 90-minute documentary that features interviews with director John Carpenter, star Jamie Lee Curtis and many others.

“It's very comprehensive,” Bambard said. “This is the one horror film fans have been waiting for. This film was really the predecessor to all of the later, well-conceived slasher movies, the one with arguably the most recognizable character in all of horror. Michael Myers was the prototype for other great characters, like Jason. It's not camp, and gives a serious scare. It's a film like The Exorcist that you can go back and watch again and again.”

Also falling within that classic realm is the George Romero-directed Day of the Dead, which Anchor Bay is releasing in a two-disc set Aug. 19.

“George Romero fans have been eager to see a proper special edition for a long time,” Bambard said.

Horror titles are where Anchor Bay has focused its technological efforts, he said.

“Horror fans have high expectations,” he said. “You need to deliver quality standards.”

Anchor Bay is preparing a huge promotional event, an all-night horror film festival at a four-screen drive-in movie theater in Pennsylvania, featuring new film prints of some of the titles the supplier has already converted to DVD.

“It will be a reprise of the great drive-in experience,” Bambard said. “If it goes well, we hope to repeat it.”

Old-school shocks are a staple of Halloween video product, as seen in the two popular lines supplied by Media Blasters, with its “Shriek Show” line and its “Tokyo Shock” line, featuring titles from around the world.

“Horror is a good overlapping genre, in that horror translates in so many languages,” said Mike Pascuzzi, VP of sales and marketing for Media Blasters. “Just before Halloween is a good time of year for these titles, because everybody gets in the spirit.”

Pascuzzi agrees that horror fans are a discerning group.

“These are fans who have proven they like extras,” he said. “They also study the releases very carefully. If there is a single frame missing from the original, they let you know about it. They are purists.”

As well as traditional retail sales, horror film sales also come from e-tailers.

“Online is probably the easiest way to sell many horror titles,” Pascuzzi said. “The fans for these genres are connected to the Internet. Avid buyers scan various sites looking for different versions.”

Supplier-retailer partnerships are common for Halloween titles, as retailers set up special displays and suppliers provide materials.

BCI Eclipse is releasing what can only be described as a monster amount of four-disc horror sets this week, including such titles as Graveyard Tramps, Anatomy of a Psycho, Servants of Evil and Beasts of Terror.

“Our big push is our horror-Halloween mix endcap promotional fixture,” said BCI Eclipse president Greg Glass. “We expect most retailers to participate in this promotion.”

Halloween titles for children are a big part of this season, of course, and several studios are trotting out proven favorites, including TV-to-video titles from popular programming at Paramount/Nickelodeon, Buena Vista/Disney Channel and Warner/PBS Kids.

While horror films are good-to-go all year long, suppliers say this is the time of year when providers and retailers can team up to grow sales.

“The sales period for these titles becomes acute just before Halloween,” said Hosea Belcher, SVP of marketing for Artisan Home Entertainment, home of The Blair Witch Project and several other horror films. “That's when merchants really get prominent with displays for some of the titles that have been released throughout the year. At Halloween, it really takes off. There's a high level of consumer awareness

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