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Warner Lashes Out at EB for Street-Date Violation

19 May, 2004 By: Erik Gruenwedel

In a surprise move, Warner Home Video (WHV) has suspended all future shipments of product to Electronics Boutique Games (EB), a West Chester, Pa.-based video game chain with more than 1,500 primarily mall-located outlets worldwide.

The action comes after EB allegedly released the highly coveted home video of New Line's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King May 15, 10 days prior to the $29.95 (SRP) title's actual street date.

Return of the King is the No. 1 U.S. theatrical release in 2003, with more than $376 million in box office revenue.

“It's a very significant title for our industry,” said Jeff Baker, SVP of domestic sales with WHV. “They have stores all over the country in malls. We are not talking about one store in one location, which is why it makes it a very serious offense and why we are going to this length to enforce this policy.”

A representative from EB was not immediately available for comment despite numerous calls.

The company is scheduled to announce first-quarter results Thursday in a call with analysts.

Baker said that despite repeated requests that EB remove the movie from its store shelves, discontinue further sales and verification that the title had not been pulled from shelves prompted WHV's decision to act.

According to Baker, several EB retailers contacted said the title was “blowing out of the stores,” but refused to remove it from store shelves, citing corporate policy.

“There is clearly some premeditation here,” said Baker, alluding to the film's appeal with EB's clientele of hard-core gamers. “Obviously [Return of the King] is right up their alley.”

Baker wouldn't comment whether WHV would seek legal recourse and denied speculation that EB was marketing Return of the King as a loss leader.

“We are not going to tolerate this type of activity from any retailer in any of our products,” he said. “And we are taking a hard line.”

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