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VSDA Brings "Tinseltown" to Consumers

31 Oct, 2002 By: Kurt Indvik

Consumers in Norfolk, Va., San Antonio and Minneapolis will be able to stroll through “Tinseltown” next spring when the Video Software Dealers Association stages the first three of what it hopes will be a long-running series of packaged home entertainment consumer shows.

The two-day events for the first locations are March 8 and 9, March 29 and 30 and April 5 and 6, respectively.

The VSDA is embarking on these first three “pilot” events to test and fine-tune the potentially lucrative revenue generator for the association.

Mark Fisher, VP of membership at the VSDA, said the shows are going to be designed to deliver the excitement of the entertainment industry to midsized markets that don't have a high “entertainment quotient,” and provide an opportunity to buy software and hardware home entertainment products.

If all goes well for the first three shows, then the plan is to stage four more in the latter half of 2003, 12 events in 2004 and 16 in 2005, with the goal of reaching as many as 25 communities per year. Target cities would be in the 15th to 35th rank in terms of population in the United States, Fisher said.

“We recognize that the American public has an insatiable appetite for wanting to be close to Hollywood and Hollywood people,” he said. “But how many people have an opportunity to come out to Los Angeles and see the studio lots, Grauman's Chinese theater, Hollywood and Vine? We're going to be bringing the excitement to them.”

For budgeting purposes, the VSDA is figuring on 5,000 attendees for the two days. “That's the conservative estimate for the financial model. We honestly expect 15,000 to 20,000 people,” said Fisher, who added that is more in line with typical consumer events in the computer and home improvement sectors. No attendee ticket price has been set, he said.

“This is a significant undertaking, but we believe it's a financially sound model, and we believe we have the expertise to make it happen,” Fisher said. He estimated the VSDA's financial exposure to be about $70,000 should the association decide to pull the plug on the shows in the event of lack of support. “We have enough go, no go, decision points along the way that we can limit our exposure,” he said. The typical budget for an event is $140,000, with minimum revenue expected to be about $180,000, Fisher said.

The Tinseltown events will feature not only home video, but also video games, music and perhaps books and board games, Fisher said. The events will be held in convention centers with hall sizes of 25,000 square feet to 35,000 square feet. There would be exhibits from studios and independent home video suppliers of all sizes and specialties (no adult product), video game and record companies, big-brand hardware companies, as well as national chain and local retailers. Also expected are entertainment memorabilia and collector item suppliers.

Consumers entering the show would walk down a red carpet with their picture being taken by “paparazzi.” Inside, they would find a special area displaying movie props, wax museum statues and other items. Other areas ringing the exhibit floor would include a “Game Zone,” where one can play games from the various formats and compete in competitions; and a stage area called “Club Tinseltown” that will host local musical acts, celebrity look-alike contests, dress-up contests for kids, practice auditions with real casting agents and various radio station remote broadcasts. There also will be a section called “The Marketplace,” where retailers can sell used home videos, music and video game software.

The shows also will have a variety of workshops on how movies are made, operating and maintaining various home entertainment hardware, and other entertainment topics.

The main show floor will be organized by media (video, music, video games, etc.), crisscrossed with aisles named after famous Hollywood streets such as Hollywood Blvd. or Sunset Blvd. Exhibitors can take any size booth on the show floor (sales sheets price a 10-foot-by-10-foot booth at $1,300), they can pay for time in the “Demonstration Zone” to show off their wares, and they can participate as show sponsors. Blockbuster has already committed to a sponsorship, Fisher said. There is space for about 150 10-foot-by-10-foot booths on the expo floor, he said.

Exhibitors, most notably the studios, indies and music companies, will be encouraged to arrange for talent to spend a few hours meeting attendees at the show and signing autographs in their booths or at the autograph station. The VSDA also will work to have costumed character appearances geared for kids, as well as celebrity look-alikes roaming the hall.

The association will rely primarily on radio advertising and some newspaper advertising to generate traffic to the events.

“We have an advantage of being an attractive media event, so we expect to also be able to generate a lot of PR and trade-off marketing with local media,” he said.

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