They Want to See More!27 Jun, 2003 By: Jessica Wolf
DreamWorks Home Entertainment's Old School DVD burned up VideoScan charts its first week, with the unrated version hitting No. 1 and making up more than 90 percent of total DVD sales for the irreverent comedy.
But Old School's not the first unrated disc to find the love. Almost without exception, for titles that have DVDs with day-and-date rated and unrated or uncensored versions, the unrated option makes up a majority of sales.
Part of that hunger for the racier version is the DVD consumer mentality. DVD shoppers are constantly on the lookout for offerings that extend a movie beyond the theatrical experience, say industry watchers.
“Our research shows that 35 percent to 40 percent of consumers read the back of the DVD packaging before buying to see what's being offered beyond the movie itself,” said Universal Studios Home Video EVP of marketing Ken Graffeo.
DVDTalk.com editor Geoffrey Kleinman said that desire for a deeper experience is exactly why most consumers tend to gravitate toward the unrated version of a disc. But there's more to it as well.
“Many of the rental outlets won't stock unrated product,” he said. “The greater motive for the studio is to both satisfy the wants and desires of DVD consumers who have come to expect that DVD means they'll see the full Monty, the complete director vision, while at the same time not foregoing the huge revenue opportunity by getting similar product into rental.”
Unrated versions are a “real boon” to the fan who wants to see the directors' vision unlimited by theatrical ratings.
When choosing what film gets the dual treatment, it's all about fan base, suppliers agree. Graffeo said it's not necessarily just teen or sexy comedies like the studio's American Pie franchise that fit the bill. Universal has found success with day-and-date unrated/rated versions of the sci-fi actioner Pitch Black and 8 Mile.
“After we did American Pie, we began to take a look at other titles coming out,” Graffeo said. “We go out and do research to gauge consumer interest and find out what the expectations are and what more of an experience the consumer is looking for, then you have to make sure you can deliver that.”
When it comes to marketing, DreamWorks chooses to focus on the movie, not the extras, DreamWorks head Kelly Sooter said. Packaging distinctions and availability at retail should draw the consumer to their version of choice. DreamWorks got into the rated-vs.-unrated game early with Road Trip nearly three years ago and learned what works at retail. “It's critical that your packages look very different,” Sooter said.
Dual releases can provide more merchandising opportunities, Sooter and Graffeo said. But retailers also look out for their particular consumers for a given title and tend to buy accordingly.
“A retailer like Best Buy is going to probably bring in both versions. They have that adult marketplace as one of their audiences,” Sooter said. “Whereas Wal-Mart is going to be more focused on the rated version at least at first.”
Gaining a competitive edge over price-slashing mass merchants is one reason buyer Rich Swope, with Mike's Video in State College, Pa., said he always snaps up unrated versions, sometimes to the exclusion of rated. “I know the big retailers like Wal-Mart and Sam's Club in my area won't stock them,” he said. And those unrated discs are popular with his customer base. “I couldn't keep the Old School unrated version in stock for rental or sale,” he said.
Artisan Home Entertainment's first foray into the arena, the unrated National Lampoon's Van Wilder disc, was also a hit. The unrated version is the year-to-date No. 4 DVD seller for Artisan, according to VideoScan data. The rated Van Wilder disc is No. 22.
“With the unrated version, consumers feel it's something they didn't get in theaters and they expect to get something extra,” said Steve Beeks, president of Artisan. “In many cases, it's just a marketing gimmick,” he said, with some discs sporting only a few seconds of additional footage. But in Van Wilder's case, there truly was a distinction, he said, with added footage and special menu options.
DVDTalk.com's Kleinman said there is definitely a value distinction between the versions. “I think sometimes it is a marketing gimmick and it's less about director vision and more about trying to emphasize the bawdiness of a sex comedy,” he said. Releases like The Osbournes are a different matter, he said.
“I think that the original airing of that program is so cut down, is so butchered as to be almost unwatchable because the bleeping of the dialogue is so pervasive,” he said. “There's a layer of censorship between you and the characters that prevents you from connecting. I know a lot of people on our site, after getting the first season uncensored, expressed the desire not to even watch the TV version of the second season and wait for the ‘real version' on DVD.”