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Viz Takes Hot Title on the Road

11 Oct, 2005 By: Chris Tribbey

Viz's mobile theater screened the third "Inuyasha" movie nationwide to more than 4,000 anime fans.

Viz Media's Anthony Jiwa may have just earned himself a raise.

The director of marketing for the San Francisco anime company came up with a one-of-a-kind idea to promote Viz's latest hit title, Inuyasha: The Movie 3 — Swords of an Honorable Ruler. “Inuyasha” is a high-profile franchise following a half-demon dog boy and friends in feudal Japan. The previous two movies climbed to the top 20 of VideoScan's anime chart. Swords of an Honorable Ruler has made it to the top 20 this week.

Jiwa's attempt to make this direct-to-DVD more visible was to take the product on the road. Literally.

Working with New York's Revolution Marketing, Viz developed a 92-seat, state-of-the-art mobile theater covered with “Inuyasha” artwork. Viz then took the van on a 15-city, 14-state tour, where the mobile theater stopped at Wal-Mart parking lots in big cities and showed the movie for free three times a day. More than 4,000 fans and anime first-timers watched the movie. If they enjoyed it, guess what? It was on sale right inside the store. Every attendee received exclusive “Inuyasha” gifts and was given “the red carpet treatment.”

“For anime, I don't think anyone has done something like this before,” Jiwa said. “We're still in follow-up and recovery mode to see how we fared.”

Viz is estimating 15 percent of those who attended the screenings went into Wal-Mart to buy the DVD.

“It validated what we were trying to do,” Jiwa said. “It was a great way to make an event out of this [DVD]. We just got a lot of great foot traffic. We had a lot of people who showed up just to check it out, because they saw it in the parking lot.”

More than 230,000 units of Swords have shipped in the first month, far surpassing the initial numbers for the first two movies, which didn't do to shabby themselves at retail, Jiwa said.

That doesn't count the exposure the van garnered being on the road between Aug. 24 and Sept. 18 from Seattle to Boston and all points in between. Strengthening Viz's relationship with a big-box retailer didn't hurt either.

“Wal-Mart is their biggest retailer, so it was a great move on their part to set this up in front of their stores,” said Andrew Klein, president of Revolution Marketing. “For them, sales spiked tremendously. It was hugely successful all around.

“We had never seen a direct-to-DVD title benefiting from a true theatrical release.”

Jiwa said Viz is looking to do similar events for future high-profile releases.

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