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Studios Are Boxing It Up

25 Sep, 2003 By: Thomas K. Arnold

'Tis the season for boxing DVD.

Home video marketers this season are quick to capitalize on the high buy rates of even the newest DVD households.

In addition to a steady parade of blockbuster new releases, the studios are assembling a variety of multidisc sets aimed squarely at the gift market or at diehard DVD fans looking to enhance their collections.

Analyst Tom Adams isn't surprised at the proliferation of boxed sets, spurred in part by the soaring popularity of “complete season” packages of popular TV shows like “The Sopranos” and “The Simpsons.”

“DVD households are collecting movies at the rate of 15 titles a year, versus five at the peak of the VHS era,” Adams said. “This takes advantage of that situation at a higher price point — it's not $15 for a recent hit, it's $49 and up, and that's a nice ticket to write up for the retailer.”

“Marketing people will find as many ways as they can conceive of to package and repackage a title,” added Ralph Tribbey, publisher of The DVD Release Report and a former marketing VP at MGM. “With DVD, new collectors are coming online all the time, and what you're doing is getting a slightly larger dollar share than if you would only release the titles individually.”

As the holidays draw near, Adams expects strong sales for many of the upcoming boxed-set releases, including season four of “The Sopranos” and Paramount Home Entertainment's Indiana Jones trilogy.

“People are in the mood to have collections and subcollections, sold in attractive packaging,” he said. “And we're seeing boxed sets sell as many units, directly to consumers, as rental cassettes used to sell to retailers a decade ago. TV packages like ‘The Sopranos' are selling 500,000 to 600,000 units, while Indiana Jones could go well into the millions.”

Mark Dana, a physician in Carlsbad, Calif., is putting MGM Home Entertainment's three boxed sets of James Bond movies on his Christmas list. Each set includes seven Bond movies and retails for $124.96; the first installment was released last year, and sets two and three are both due Nov. 18.

“They're classic spy movies,” he said. “They belong in my movie collection.”

Jeff Slankard, a wine buyer in San Diego, is hoping some kind soul will present him with the special four-disc The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers gift set New Line Home Entertainment is releasing Nov. 18. The package, which retails for $79.92, includes a specially designed “Smeagol” Gollum sculpture as well as a companion book and a fifth disc about Lord of the Rings collectibles.

“I've been a fan of The Lord of the Rings since I was in junior high, and I've been waiting for years for the movie to be made,” Slankard said.

Matt Lasorsa, New Line's SVP of marketing, said the Lord of the Rings gift set was designed for hardcore fans, like Slankard, “who have a strong affinity for the books and love for the movies.”

“I think if this was pre-DVD, Lord of the Rings would still be a huge title,” he said. “But the added collectability of DVD just extends it that much further, and the interest DVD has generated in added value makes it so much more compelling.”

Executives at 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment will second that. Oct. 14 the studio is releasing no fewer than seven new DVD gift packs, including a collection of “rude and crude” comedies; family, action and “chick flick” DVD packs; and, with Artisan Home Entertainment, a set of Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. The latter was a last-minute addition, assembled to capitalize on the action star's run for the California state house.

“Boxes have always been perfect for fans and collectors alike, and we've had tremendous success with them, particularly in the DVD era,” said Steve Feldstein, Fox's SVP of marketing communications. “It's a lot of entertainment, at a great value.”

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