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Standing Out in a Crowd

16 Dec, 2005 By: Thomas K. Arnold

The package for Anchor Bay's The Happy Elf lights up and sings with the push of a button.

DVD marketers are screaming for attention. Faced with a critical shortage of retail shelf space, they're doing everything possible this fourth quarter to make their products stand out and be more appealing to retailers and consumers.

There are DVDs that blink and DVDs that sing. There are DVDs in collectible tins and DVDs in huge plexiglass cases. There are DVDs in lunchboxes and DVDs in three-ring binders.

“We've created some extraordinary packages for this season, most notably our collectors edition of La Dolce Vita,” said Dan Gurlitz, GM for Koch Lorber Films. “Included in this oversized box are three disks, a rolled poster, five high-gloss photocards and a 40-page book.

“The overall presentation is intensely collectible, akin to a coffee table edition of a great book.”

Gurlitz is hardly alone. Warner Home Video released its restored King Kong in an oversized tin box. HBO Video put the entire six-season “Sex in the City” series in a big plexiglass container. Universal put season one of “Leave It to Beaver” in a 1950s-style lunchbox, complete with plaid trim, and a trio of “Brat Pack” movies — The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles and Weird Science — in a denim-covered binder.

Anchor Bay Entertainment just released The Happy Elf, with Harry Connick Jr., in a package that lights up with Christmas lights and even sings when you press a button.

“Anchor Bay has been a leader in innovative packaging,” said Tim Fournier, Anchor Bay's SVP of marketing. “With The Happy Elf, we wanted to expand that tradition to our children's line,” said Tim Fournier, Anchor Bay's SVP of marketing. “We wanted to make sure consumers could find it on the shelf and remember it.”

Just recently, Anchor Bay packaged Evil Dead 2 in a rubbery case that looks like a zombie face. Press one of the eyeballs and you hear a blood-curdling scream.

On Dec. 13, Universal released The 40-Year-Old Virgin in a bright orange foil case modeled after the theatrical poster.

“While we have created special packaging for a number of our high-profile titles in the past, we believe that sometimes less is more,” said Ken Graffeo, EVP for Universal Studios Home Entertainment. “We elevated a great iconic theatrical poster to make it visually leap off shelves. The DVD has the advantage of being both instantly recognizable and eye-catching. After all, even the most frazzled holiday shopper isn't going to miss the orange colored, rainbow foil packaging.”

DVD suppliers also are bundling movies in collections with snappy names designed to grab eyeballs.

Warner Home Video has its “Controversial Classics” set, with Blackboard Jungle and other older films that once ran afoul of censors or the press. Anchor Bay is packaging cheesy horror movies in six-flick “Fright Packs,” shaped like six-packs of beer.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is hoping to appeal to space-conscious consumers by slimming down. The studio is bundling movies in ultra-thin packaging, grouped by director, star or theme. The latest example: the “Robert Rodriguez Mexico Trilogy” — El Mariachi, Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico — comes in a case just a little fatter than a regular single DVD.

“We understand the importance of [retailers'] valuable shelf space and have launched new titles and redesigned others to accommodate their request,” said Sony's Marc Rashba. “If we can fit more units on a shelf, why wouldn't we do it?”

A growing number of suppliers are packaging DVDs with bonus discs, sometimes exclusive to one retailer, or a gift with purchase. Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment's Fantastic Four hit Wal-Mart with an exclusive 50-minute making-of DVD, while Target also got a bonus disc of exclusive behind-the-scenes footage.

DreamWorks Home Entertainment also created separate bonus discs for Madagascar for key retail chains “that extended the interactivity and play of the characters,” said studio domestic head Kelly Sooter.

In addition, DreamWorks bundled character-themed wristbands with Madagascar DVDs sold at Target and matted, numbered lithographs with DVDs on sale at Best Buy.

“What you're trying to do is engage the consumer immediately and translate that into an immediate purchase,” Sooter said.

DreamWorks also has been revving up its standalone DVD displays. Madagascar displays had a sound chip, activated by a motion sensor, that played the movie song “Move It” whenever anyone walked by.

For War of the Worlds, DreamWorks built a 12-foot-tall tripod just like the one featured in the movie.

“It's about bringing entertainment into the retail theater,” Sooter said. “It all goes back to event marketing, which is more critical now than ever.”

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