Summit Aims High24 Apr, 2008 By: Thomas K. Arnold
A year after Summit Entertainment officially opened its doors as Hollywood's newest studio, the home entertainment division is up and running with its first release, P2, a thriller that was in theaters last fall.
Steve Nickerson, the former high-def guru at Warner Home Video, heads up Summit Home Entertainment as president. Initial plans call for his division to release 10 to 12 titles on DVD and, in some cases, Blu-ray Disc, a year — virtually all of them from the parent studio's theatrical slate, at least at the start.
“We're a studio with a business plan that calls for us to develop, produce and self-distribute films, so our first priority in the home entertainment space is to maximize the 10 to 12 releases from the studio,” Nickerson said. “As far as supplementing that, we will look for properties that we can sell and market and distribute on DVD, but they will have to be complementary to what our first priority is.
“We have to be successful with our theatrical product first, so in the first 12 to 18 months our focus is really on getting positioned to do that — and anything that could possibly take away from that focus is not something we will do.”
Summit released P2 two weeks ago and found itself with a solid seller; the film debuted on the weekly Nielsen VideoScan First Alert chart at No. 11. It was one of only two releases from a non-major studio to make it into the top 20.
Next up on Summit's DVD plate is Penelope, a family oriented fairy tale, starring Reese Witherspoon and Christina Ricci, that has grossed about $10 million so far in theaters. Penelope will arrive on DVD July 15.
After that comes Never Back Down, a drama about an underground fight club, starring Sean Faris and Amber Heard, that was released theatrically in March as Summit Entertainment's first self-produced film. So far, Never Back Down has grossed nearly $24 million at the box office. A firm release date has not yet been set because the film is still in theaters, but Nickerson said it will likely arrive on DVD in late July or early August.
Never Back Down also will be Summit's first Blu-ray Disc release. Unlike other studio presidents, Nickerson isn't promising to release all upcoming theatrical titles simultaneously on both DVD and Blu-ray Disc.
“We think Never Back Down, both the film itself and who it appeals to demographically, is right in that sweet spot for Blu-ray Disc,” Nickerson said. “After that, as the business develops, we will obviously release more films on both formats, but I don't think it's necessarily a given that everything theatrical will be day and date.
“There are still challenges for an independent studio to bring Blu-ray to market in an economical fashion, and until that market grows to the point where we have the same access to resources and pricing that the major studios have, I can't make the declaration that everything we do will come to Blu-ray. Some things, demographically, just don't make sense, from a financial standpoint.”
Like a fellow Warner Home Video alumnus who went on to lead his own home entertainment operation, Genius Products' Trevor Drinkwater, Nickerson has named to his inner circle a cadre of studio veterans. Bobby Gerber, EVP and GM, also worked at Warner, as did T.J. Moffett, Summit Home Entertainment's SVP of home entertainment marketing. Jennifer Dunlap, VP of home entertainment marketing creative services, worked at Warner and Walt Disney Studios, while Sandy Friedman, EVP of operations, was head of operations at DreamWorks Home Entertainment.
Vivian Mayer, SVP of worldwide publicity for Summit Home Entertainment as well as its theatrical parent, was SVP of publicity at Universal Studios Home Entertainment for many years. Universal's home entertainment unit will handle Summit's backroom “pick, pack and ship” functions.
“It's an exciting opportunity to have a hand in building a studio during the 21st century that is geared toward where the business will be in the 21st century,” Nickerson said. “We're taking advantage of all the experience all of us have had at the major studios to build something entirely new.”