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Two of a Kind

29 Jul, 2005 By: Thomas K. Arnold

When Warner Home Video releases its newly restored The Wizard of Oz on DVD Oct. 25, consumers will have their choice of a two-disc special edition ($26.99) or a three-disc collector's edition ($39.92).

Similarly, when Constantine arrived on DVD July 19, consumers had their choice of a regular edition for $28.98 or a “deluxe” two-disc edition that comes packaged with a comic book for two dollars more.

“By offering two SKUs of the same title, you get to appeal to both the casual fan as well as the devoted fan who wants all the value-added material we can offer — and who is willing to pay a little more,” said Ron Sanders, EVP of North America for Warner Home Video.

He added that Warner also is looking for incremental sales from having two distinct items in stores instead of just one.

“It also pleases the filmmaker,” Sanders added. “Many times, filmmakers have some great ideas and additional materials they shot specifically for the DVD, and gift sets allow you to include all the extras that might not be cost-effective in a regular release.”

While it has become increasingly common for studios to release a lavish multidisc special edition of a hit movie months, or even weeks, after the title first comes out on DVD — a practice known as “double dipping” — the next trend could well be dual day-and-date releases of two versions.

It's not just about giving consumers more choice, either. Speaking privately, studio executives said one of the key motivating factors is retailer complaints that margins are so low on new releases.

“Everyone's blowing them out for less than $15, and that's below cost,” said one high-ranking studio executive who asked not to be identified by name. “Higher-priced gift sets are not as competitively priced. They don't have to lowball them.”

Analyst Jan Saxton isn't surprised that studios are going to the till a second time with a higher-priced DVD package. “Anything that supports pricing on new-release titles benefits studios and retailers alike,” she said. “I also think consumers will appreciate being able to choose between the stripped-down version and one with a lot of extras instead of buying one copy now and finding out two months later there's a better version.”

In the same-day dual-releasing game, Warner is certainly in the lead. The studio July 12 released Million Dollar Baby in both a two-disc version ($29.95) and a three-disc “deluxe” edition ($39.98) that came with a CD soundtrack. Previously, the studio released two versions of Ocean's Twelve and Phantom of the Opera, also on the same day.

Warner will release two versions of Polar Express on the same day, Nov. 22, although details have not yet been finalized. “It's definitely something you're going to see more of, at least from us,” Sanders said.

Other studios also are experimenting with same-day releases.Paramount Home Entertainment recently released a regular DVD of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events at $29.99 and a “two-disc special collector's edition” at $38.99, both on the same day.

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment last year released two versions of Master and Commander, one a regular DVD for $19.98 and the other a two-disc “collector's edition,” with a 70-minute behind-the-scenes documentary and many other extras, for $39.98. Sept. 13 Fox will release two versions of Fever Pitch, both at $29.98. One will feature an extended ending of the 2004 World Series win and different packaging. “In the case of Master and Commander, there was such a fan base from the books that we wanted to give those fans something,” said Peter Staddon, Fox's EVP of marketing.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released rated and unrated versions of White Chicks and Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle and scored well. “We like to provide more options for the consumer with dual releases, when it makes sense,” said Lexine Wong, the division's EVP of worldwide marketing.

Brian Lucas, spokesman for Best Buy, likes the practice. “We support choice and giving consumers options that will meet their needs,” he said. “Our core market of movie lovers is very interested in special editions with multiple extra features. But at the same time, we know there are consumers who may like a movie but don't want to invest in the multidisc set.”

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