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Studios Hoping to End Holiday Season With a Bang

15 Dec, 2005 By: Thomas K. Arnold

With DVD sales running just slightly ahead of last year, the fate of the year in the home entertainment business may hinge on the very last week of 2005.

That's when a cadre of high-profile new releases hit stores on Monday, the day after Christmas, rather than the traditional Tuesday. Studio executives say they made the move in the hopes of capturing a greater share of the lucrative gift-card redemption business, now valued at $18 billion a year, as well as capitalize on consumers returning and exchanging gifts.

“The way the Christmas holiday fell this year created a unique opportunity to be in stores when consumers are there en masse,” said 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment's Steve Feldstein, SVP of marketing communications. “It's only one day removed from when we would ordinarily be there, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity.”

Buena Vista Home Entertainment was the first to make the switch, moving the thriller Dark Water, and then the two-disc special edition of Toy Story 2, to Dec. 26 from Dec. 27.

Then came Universal Studios Home Entertainment, with the direct-to-video sequel American Pie Presents Band Camp; Fox, with season four of the TV series “The Shield”; and Lions Gate Home Entertainment, with the documentary Grizzly Man.

All told, of the 165 DVD titles originally scheduled for Dec. 27 release, 33 have been moved up a day, to Dec. 26, said Ralph Tribbey, editor of The DVD Release Report.

“Once it starts, no one's going to hold it,” Tribbey said of the move. He said he expects virtually every new title streeting that week to be for sale Monday, Dec. 26, regardless of whether the studio has changed the date officially.

The strategy shows just how keen DVD marketers are on ending the year with a bang. At the onset of the fourth quarter, most industry watchers stuck to their previous predictions that the business would grow 5 percent this year. Unit sales were essentially flat in October, then rose sharply in November, which according to an analysis of Nielsen VideoScan data saw a 13.6 percent rise for the top 50 DVD sellers (see story, cover).

Whether consumer spending is rising accordingly is unknown, however, due to rampant discounting during the holiday season.

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