Insights from home entertainment industry experts. Home Media blogs give you the inside scoop on entertainment news, DVD and Blu-ray Disc releases, and the happenings at key studios and entertainment retailers. “TK's Take” analyzes and comments on home entertainment news and trends, “Agent DVD Insider” talks fanboy entertainment, “IndieFile” delivers independent film news, “Steph Sums It Up” offers pithy opinions on the state of the industry, and “Mike’s Picks” offers bite-sized recommendations of the latest DVD and Blu-ray releases.
The Exclusive Roundtable on Growth, Value and Balance Priorities for 2002 conducted online by Video Store Magazine's Thomas K. Arnold (star of page and screen) and conceived by editor-in-chief Kurt Indvik has the industry buzzing, and no wonder. It was an admirable effort to bring together a representative cross-section of suppliers, wholesalers and retailers to dig into the top-line issues of the day.
I say all of this with complete objectivity, which is another way of saying I was not invited to participate in the roundtable, and for good reason. Nobody else would've gotten a word in edgewise. But I have my ways, and this column is one of ‘em.
So, I have edited myself into the roundtable discussion, and present some excerpts herewith …
Are we seeing a change in consumer habits when it comes to home entertainment? Are consumers more likely to buy and collect movies now that almost everything is coming out on DVD at a sellthrough price, instead of being released first to the rental channel?
Joe Malugen, CEO, Movie Gallery: It is unclear if consumer habits are changing. We still are in the early adoption stage of DVD, and it is hard to predict if these buyers' habits will be reflected by later adopters.
Steven Scavelli, president, Flash Distributors: I don't believe we are seeing a change in consumer habits. I believe we are seeing the consumer take advantage of a new and better technology, at an affordable price.
Bruce Apar, roundtable busboy: I don't own a chain of rental stores like you do, Joe, or a rental-based wholesale business like my friend and fellow Yankees fan Steve, so all I know is what I learn with my own two eyes and ears. DVD home libraries are being much more rapidly built than was the case for VHS in its first five years of existence. Better technology at an affordable price has an uncanny way of influencing consumer shopping and usage patterns (Internet, anyone?) but don't get me right; it's not for me to say whether consumer habits are changing. I'll leave that brainteaser to those who have a vested interest in not seeing them change too much.
Are DVD sales to rental dealers cannibalizing sales of rental-priced cassettes and, if so, what are studios doing to even the score?
Mick Blanken, owner, SuperHitz Video, Delaware: At the point where DVD hardware penetration reaches or exceeds 50 percent, I believe the studios will more aggressively attempt to find ways to increase their revenue on a title. Historically, that means that either prices will go up or revenue-sharing will be more of a focus -- or both.
Apar: Well, Mick, I stubbornly hold to the belief that, even on DVD, prices will go down as volume goes up, and that revenue growth will come not from per-unit price hikes, but from tonnage per title due to increased market penetration of DVD drives. The studios can't ignore rental demand, but that doesn't mean they want to help stoke it. DVD rentals will have to compete with downward pricing pressure from mass merchants selling the same DVD titles day-and-date. That was never the case with new release VHS titles. But don't get me wrong; none of this will have any effect on consumer habits changing.
Scavelli: First, there are different levels and types of consumers, and, second, the DVD buyer and the VHS renter are often from different classes of consumers.
Apar: Compelling point, Steve, that begs for supporting statistics. (Maybe at the next roundtable.) Still, as market penetration of DVD, now at 25 percent of U.S. homes, continues to grow, it's plausible to assume the difference between VHS and DVD consumers will become less distinct.
John Thrasher, VP, Tower Records + Video: I see the rental segment of our business slowly declining over the next five years. … One only has to look at the audio business to see what mass resistance to higher prices could mean: declining sales and a business in constant turmoil from both the creative and financial sides of the ledger.
Apar: I don't work for a major sellthrough chain of movies and music that over the past few years has reduced its exposure to the video rental market, but I see John's point about the rental business declining, even if it's slowly. It'd be hard at this point for anybody to argue it's going to grow in the face of a proliferation of other entertainment and information options. As for the audio analogy, I have a strong sense that statement did not get printed the way John intended it.
Do you see any significant changes to the current DVD model in the way of special features and other programming?
Blanken: But the question is, will revenues increase enough to justify the additional cost of producing these additional features? The bonus features offered to date have been relatively easy to produce (albeit at an added cost). Anyone who dedicates dollars to creating additional features and capabilities should do so only after accepting the fact that it will likely take two or three years for interest to develop.
Apar: Mick, your first question is a key one I've yet to see any studio address, at least in public. We can only assume since the extras seem to be coming hot and heavy, the labels are wary of stopping them for fear the DVD consumer will feel cheated on the price/value ratio. I'd really love to hear the studios' reaction to your assumption that bonus features are easy to produce. In some cases, maybe, where the Special Features section on the menu contains trailers for other product. That's cheesy.
Malugen: We may see a plain vanilla DVD come out with the special feature DVD coming out weeks later at a lower price. That would seem to make sense for studios.
Will 2002 be the year video-on-demand establishes itself as a viable alternative to video rental?
Apar: Like Joe, I also see plain vanilla digital video as a viable release configuration, as in VOD: vanilla on demand. When it comes to VOD, it's like Butch Cassidy screenwriter William Goldman famously wrote in a book about Hollywood: "Nobody knows anything."
By: Bruce Apar
In next week's Video Store Magazine we take a look at what the studios are going to be trying this year with regards to pricing VHS rental product in the face of DVD's continual triple-digit growth in rental revenues. Because despite DVD's climb up the sales charts (with a bullet), we are most definitely a dual-personality (platform) industry during the transition.
DVD may be the fastest-growing consumer electronics product in history, but consider that VHS players are in some 90 million homes in the U.S. and in 2001, according to Video Store Magazine market research, VHS accounted for more than 68 percent of all home video sales and rentals, and about 79 percent of all rental revenues. It's quite a tightrope the industry will be walking this year.
The balancing act in 2002 will be maintained by studios as they experiment with flat pricing on VHS rental product, distancing themselves with copy-depth programs that are noticeably being phased out. No one wants a two-format scenario to last forever and DVD pricing and content value is the clear format winner. The point is how to thrive in the interim, however long that is. Thus, the current dual platform reality is forcing the studios to move toward a lower flat-price scenario for VHS to shore up continued retailer support on the rental side. Some executives interviewed for the article this week speculate the average VHS rental price could go as low as $25 to $30 for ‘A' titles.
That's a good thing for retailers who must serve customers, who are caught up in the struggle as well. Walk into any video store and you can almost feel the growing racks of DVD glacially pushing to move VHS out of the way. But it won't be so easy. Like many customers I see in the stores, I have to wander from DVD (for my wife and I) to VHS (for the kids upstairs) dealing with the same conundrum as everyone else – at least until I get my second DVD player. I need both DVD and VHS.
What impact flat pricing VHS rental product may have on DVD will be interesting to watch. For the sake of speculation, let's say rentailers will not necessarily use the lower VHS pricing to expand copy depth, but to exact better margins on any given title. Given that possible trend, should we anticipate a slowdown on the percentage of DVD to VHS bought on a given title (that is, they will buy a few more VHS, a few less DVD than they would have before flat pricing)? I'd be curious to hear from some retailers as to how they would respond to a flat pricing scenario for VHS rental product.
How would flat-priced VHS rental product affect your buying patterns? Tell us here!
By: Kurt Indvik
A tech article in The Los Angeles Times lately lamented that if you play mainly full-screen programs on a widescreen television set, you'll end up burning the side margins of the screen, the way computer screens got permanent software images burned into them before the advent of screen savers.
Then we got a letter this week from Tom Hannah at Video Quest in Joliet, Ill., about the dilemma studios face in deciding whether to release videos in widescreen or full frame.
"In my opinion the whole full screen vs. widescreen issue is now dead. Even the cheapest DVD players …now have the zoom feature," he wrote. "A couple clicks on the zoom button and that widescreen DVD is now full-screen. I seldom hear customer complaints about widescreen any more. If the machine manufacturers had put this on from the beginning this issue would have never come up."
I think among mainstream consumers, the debate is only beginning. There is a move afoot to offer more products and programs in widescreen. The transmission and hardware trends are rapidly catching up to the software offerings.
Anyone who doesn't think so need only tune in to the Super Bowl this weekend, because Fox just announced today that "Fox Sports will televise the Super Bowl…in a sweeping new 16 x 9 digital widescreen panorama called Fox Widescreen, a format that takes full advantage of the horizontal playing field to give fans an unmatched view of the game."
Last weekend I accidentally shifted the guide button on my remote control from my menu of preferred channels to the "all channels" option and noticed that my satellite provider, DirectTV, offers pay-per-view movies simultaneously in both formats on different channels, so viewers can order to suit themselves (a great way to quantify consumer preference, by the way).
UPN broadcasts the latest Star Trek spinoff, "Enterprise," in widescreen format and Best Buy ads, probably in a subtle wink to early adopters, are formatted in widescreen.
Recently hardware makers have been promoting widescreen television sets to the masses who just a few years ago could not afford widescreen even if they'd wanted it. Many home theater-in-a-box systems come equipped with wide screens. But from a hardware standpoint, I think the real breakthrough is space.
The propellerheads have a term that applies, in this context, to square TVs: "legacy technology." Essentially that means you inherited a system promulgated because it fit with everything else that was available when it was sold or installed, like square TVs. Back when television was a newfangled gadget and sets were roughly the size of present day refrigerators, TVs were square because of the components and, I suspect, because a widescreen cathode tube TV would have been about the size of a school bus. Not especially practical for living room entertainment.
As the price of liquid crystal display (LCD) screens continues to come down, wide screen becomes increasingly more practical and affordable. Consumers can mount the screens on den walls, where they might have otherwise have hung the family's velvet Elvis, without giving up the space that makes the room a "living" area.
With these and other developments, I think the debate over full-frame vs. widescreen is far from over. For a lot of consumers, the whole issue is brand-spanking-new.
By: Holly J. Wagner
As a suburban mom, I often frequent the mass merchants. We shop Wal-Mart for price and Target (which we affectionately pronounce in French) for the more upscale, well designed, well merchandised items. We visit Kmart, which recently filed for bankruptcy, less often. Why? It just seems Kmart doesn't care.
Walk into any Target and the merchandise is pleasingly arranged. Walk into any Wal-Mart, which doesn't have the best merchandising around (I've actually seen prices scrawled in marker), and you'll be greeted by an employee and get great prices to boot. Kmart can't seem to get even one of these elements right. The stores are often in disarray and the employees missing. I've actually walked into a Kmart garden area in which a majority of the plants looked half-dead. How much trouble is it to neaten up the place and toss out some dead vegetation?
I certainly don't think the situation is hopeless. In my column for this week's magazine, I even ventured to predict that Kmart would come out of bankruptcy and get its act together. Why? Because the solution seems so simple. Kmart is in one of the hottest retail segments. It's not an overpriced department store; it's a discounter. It's got the right business model -- low prices, numerous items and the cache of homemaking diva Martha Stewart -- it's the execution that needs improving.
Kmart needs to get back to basics. Know what people want, give it to them in a pleasing environment and at a good price. All this takes is a good tracking system (Kmart is upgrading its outdated software) and an energized, well-trained workforce. It also takes a coherent management plan. A recent Forbes article mentioned the chain's "goofy organizational structure," which had the different sections of the company -- distribution and individual store -- basically working against each other. Each ran as a separate profitmaking entity with distributors unloading product as quickly as possible, even before orders, and stores unwilling to plunk the excess inventory into the store and on the books. The result: merchandise was left locked in trailers in the parking lot!
Kmart no doubt has lost ground and may fall, but the situation isn't completely hopeless. The chain just needs to clean up its act. Perhaps a Chapter 11 breather will have this purveyor of the Blue Light Special seeing green again.
By: Stephanie Prange
In the aftermath of the Kmart bankruptcy filing, it is ironic to note that home video was one of the beleaguered retail chain's all-too-few success stories. Kmart last year saw double-digit gains in video sales, thanks in large part to DVD and, like other discounters, was hoping to grab an even bigger share of the market by setting up merchandisers of budget-priced product (both VHS and DVD) in high-traffic areas of its stores. Kmart this past holiday season also put video on the front-burner in terms of promotions, staging huge "event" campaigns around Shrek and Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
Kmart is not alone in placing a lot of faith in video. Wal-Mart and Target are also true "power sellers" when it comes to DVD and VHS product, a fact made perfectly clear in Video Store Magazine's recent mass merchant study-and underscored in private conversations with studio executives, who consistently cite those three chains as their biggest customers.
Is this a good thing for our business? Yes and no. On the "yeah" side, the mass merchants have done a lot to expand DVD's popularity with middle America -- a demographic without which the format simply could not succeed -- and they're also helping to prop up the VHS market and save it from a premature death.
And yet there are several noteworthy negatives as well. Observers say that in their never-ending push for cheaper product, the mass merchants are devaluing video. Several studios recently lowered their prices on catalog DVDs expressly for the benefit of their mass merchant customers, while cassettes are being practically given away at the store level (hundreds of titles are available at my local Wal-Mart for less than $6.50).
Rentailers, meanwhile, are foaming at the mouth over Wal-Mart's fourth-quarter campaign to push budget video. New signs began popping up on merchandisers, promising customers, "No more late charges. You own it!"
But perhaps the most onerous thing about mass merchants and video, critics say, is that the big chains are flexing their muscle with the studios. Specifically, the big discounters are strongly encouraging studios to issue more DVD movies in full-screen rather than widescreen -- against the wishes of the creative community.
You can't blame the studios for trying to satisfy their biggest customers. Hollywood has always followed the money and, just as home video executives did Blockbuster's bidding a few years ago, they are now just as ready and willing to please the mass merchants in any way they can.
But there's always a risk of landing in hot water, of having something backfire. After all, had the studios not caved in to Blockbuster's demand for more hits on the cheap back in 1997, they wouldn't be giving depositions and filing legal papers in the FAIR lawsuit today. Nor would they be pondering ways to phase out rental cassettes because so many of their other, smaller customers -- you know, the ones who used to pay full price for videocassettes -- are now out of business.
By: Thomas K. Arnold
Knowing Your Assets from Your LBOs
Sometimes market analysts say things that sound reasonable at first blush, but raise questions when considered at length -- for 30 seconds or more. At least that's how I felt when reading a remark by Nick Donatiello, president of San Francisco research shop Odyssey, in The New York Times of Jan. 24, 2002. As The Times put it, he "said that just as video rentals failed to make much of a dent in box-office sales … ."
The rest of the comment is irrelevant -- almost a non-sequitur, in fact -- but that one observation got me to thinking: how can anyone, even a market analyst, calculate something that does not happen, meaning, a la It's A Wonderful Life, what would the box office look like today if the VCR never was born?
As it is, annual b.o. dollar grosses have been relatively flat the last few years, and that includes steady increases in ticket prices. Home video has not had anything to do with that?
Donatiello apparently believes the box office today could not be any larger than it is, even if the VCR or an equivalent home playback format never materialized 26 years ago. If it were larger today sans rentals, it strongly implies rentals have dented the box office.
Conversely, were it not for the VCR and its pervasive democratization of movie watching at home, might not today's box office be even smaller than it is currently? An argument can be made that, just as the box office has long coattails for video releases, the halo effect of home videos has helped get people out to the box office more than they would have without VHS and DVD.
In either case, we'll never know. Not even Donatiello.
Dreaming In Hi-Def + Green Light
A couple weeks ago, Sony Electronics and ad agency Young & Rubicam hosted a screening in New York City's coolly elegant Museum of Modern Art. The octet of under-five-minute works by leading TV commercial filmmakers was inspired by the assigned theme "Dreams." They were a mixed bag, funny to achingly poignant, but each was brightly original and diverting. Oh, and the eight movies happened to be shot using Sony's CineAlta 24P(rogressive) high-definition video camera.
Sony's point, as confirmed later by executive Larry Thorpe, was that the equipment and technology are not the point. What you can do with it is, and it's fair to say few, if any, of the several hundred at the screening seemed to be unnerved by watching a non-film image. No doubt a film-hugging director of photography would tell you he could discern the difference, but most anybody else? Not likely.
That's one way movies will be made differently. Another welcome change is obtained in the heavily mediated Project Greenlight, star of film (Miramax), TV (HBO) and Internet (Live Planet's projectgreenlight.com).
Its obvious attributes notwithstanding, this experiment to democratize the closed-door moviemaking process also is a tad contradictory. Its clever conceit of cracking Hollywood's secret code of getting a movie greenlighted was conceived and enabled by two deservedly hot young Hollywood stars, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Without their sponsorship -- and the corporate largesse of industry standard bearers Avid and Deluxe -- winning entry Stolen Summer auteur Pete Jones would still be keeping up with all the other obscure Joneses.
Still, the message of Project Greenlight is worthwhile -- Hollywood is a culture-locked point of origin that can do more to nurture a more diverse spectrum of thought and talent wherever it resides.
While the Sundance Film Festival proper often seems simply a snow-capped suburb of 90210, the Sundance Online Film Festival (SundanceOnlineFilmFestival.org) is closer to the spirit of Project Greenlight.
Post Magazine, along with sister publication Video Store at Advanstar Communications -- and trade group Video Software Dealers Association through its Advanstar joint venture, Home Entertainment Events -- are doing our part with home entertainment initiative Filmmakers of Tomorrow, which doubles as the name of a new department debuting in the February issue of Post with the Project Greenlight story. For more information on the call for entries for the Filmmakers of Tomorrow program at the July 16-18, 2002 VSDA Convention, visit vsda.org or call VSDA at (818) 385-1500.
By: Bruce Apar
There has been some discussion running through the industry of late regarding the future of the special features and extras that now are part and parcel of most DVD releases. One scenario I have heard more than once is that we might start to see feature-laden versions street at sellthrough pricing and a "vanilla" editions following later at, perhaps, a lower price. Some suppliers may just eschew putting much, if any, significant effort into added features at all in the DVDs and increase their margins a bit. These scenarios are based on some questioning as to whether or not the development (at some cost) of these DVD features is a make-or-break factor in a customer's decision to purchase a DVD, or whether the purchase is driven mainly by the DVD's comparatively low price and higher quality picture and sound versus the VHS cassette.
Another concern is the assumption that as talent sees the booming success of DVD continue, their contracts will begin to reflect additional compensation for their appearance and participation in interviews, commentary and other extras that enhance the value of the DVD beyond the movie. This will, of course, add even more cost to the DVD.
So far, of course, there is no evidence of any of the above occurring, and I hope that does not change. Because, in effect, DVD is not just another platform, it is another art form and another form of entertainment that the packaged entertainment industry has the great opportunity to explore and develop. It's a way to build greater audience loyalty now as insurance against the day -- long though it may be from now -- when you can get everything you want from the comfort of your home and your fat media pipe.
At least publicly, a number of leading home video suppliers are saying they are mindful of the need to keep the value of DVD (perceived or otherwise) as high or higher than it is, and that means continuing with the value-added features and extras consumers have come to expect on their DVDs. As Robert Chapek, president of Buena Vista Home Entertainment, notes in a special roundtable in next week's Video Store Magazine, the industry must guard against the risk that consumers may come to see DVD as a commodity, instead of a high-value premium product.
That perception comes about by studios looking for ways to cut costs and add to their margins. In this same roundtable, John Thrasher, VP of video purchasing at Tower Records and Video, is concerned that the further consolidation on the entertainment supply side may cause a "sameness and blandness" of DVD production that will reduce the substance and value of the product. In short, the executives in this panel agreed that the industry must continue to push the envelope on developing even better DVD enhancements and content to build on the customer excitement and perceived value momentum the industry now has.
I for one am excited by the creative prospects of the DVD platform and hope it develops into its own art form and not slide into a commodity business.
By: Kurt Indvik
A couple of weeks ago I suffered a few slings and arrows from critics who said my last column on video-on-demand (VOD) competition was off base. Whether or not one believes VOD will be one of those options that may challenge packaged home entertainment is, of course, still a big question. But the few responses baffled me because I was agreeing with the critics.
My point was that video must coexist in homes with piped-in options, for the simple reason that nobody goes to the video store for news, any more than they go to an all-movie channel for news. (Like a sound mathematical equation, the proof is that it works in reverse. It worked in rentailers' favor in the weeks after Sept. 11, as newsweary consumers sought respite from video stores.)
Video stores can't give customers CNN, nor should they try to. But because of that, they will never entirely kick cable and satellite to the curb. Anybody who wants CNN, or for that matter any local broadcast programming, has little choice but to have cable or satellite. Video will never muscle out cable and satellite unless someone invents a video format that serves as a broadcast antenna when the movie isn't playing.
But now Pace Micro Technology is putting its money where my mouth was, or at least pretty close. The company is gearing up to offer its Pace Adapter, which lets any analog TV get digital TV reception, in the UK market by the end of March. The price tag is expected to be around 100 pounds sterling per unit.
Apparently Pace strategists agree with my humble assessment, because Pace's new set-top box is enabled for pay TV services but functions without them unless the user decides to subscribe. This would remove the all-or-nothing advantage cable and satellite systems have, in which subscribers must buy a minimum programming package to get local transmissions. This box will get up to 15 broadcast channels without that pesky subscription fee. The BBC and ITV have been in talks with pace, hoping such a box will accelerate the uptake of digital TV.
Some might argue the Pace Adapter will level the field by giving potential viewers an out from cable and satellite. It counters the very argument I made, that viewers must have one or the other to see broadcast television.
But while that's one possible outcome, I think it will run up against my friend and colleague T.K. Arnold's pet peeve: more boxes than set-top real estate. The Pace box and its ilk (Steve Perlman's Moxi, Microsoft's rumored Homestation) are a smart move for the pipers – those who pipe programming into homes – because they can get that figurative foot in the door. For some consumers, the deciding factor could be as simple as a choice of how many boxes will clutter up the household media center. (If you think this is not an issue, ask your friends and colleagues how many of them are rushing out to buy CD players. Why, when you can spend the same amount on a DVD player that also plays your CDs?)
More likely, this is the launching pad for a la carte pay-per-view services. What better platform than a box that gives users free broadcast transmissions and makes the next step -- "I'll just order one movie to see if I like it…" – so much easier. So much shorter. It's the gateway box.
The trick for the video industry is to convince the hardware makers to pair the adapter technology with some kind of video player. That, I should note, is the idea behind Moxi and Homestation. The all-in-one video player could lob the bouncing ball back to packaged video's side of the net by giving viewers what the pipers have failed to offer: free access to broadcast programming and a la carte video from one box.
By: Holly J. Wagner
As news of Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) Convention reengineering and moving to the Rio Hotel circulated last week, along with questions about how to bring back the gathering's lost allure, I read a column in The Los Angeles Times that seemed strangely on point.
TV columnist Brian Lowry lamented the loss of "fun" at the NATPE convention, the annual VSDA-like gathering for television programming folk taking place this week. "There was a day…when the TV industry was not the exclusive playground of multinational conglomerates, when mom-and-pop operations existed, entrepreneurs cashed in fabulously on pluck, luck and initiative and people actually had fun," Lowry wrote.
Like our own beleaguered mom-and-pop stores and indie suppliers, the small guys in the TV business are a dwindling group, a dying source of gossip and stunts that boosted the "carnival-like" atmosphere of TV conventions past, Lowry noted.
While we had our yearly protest by Video Oyster's Norman Scherer and Playboy Wet ‘N' Wild parties, the NATPE convention sported such events as armadillo races and staged wrestling matches, according to the Lowry piece.
But no more.
This year the NATPE convention is a "scaled-down affair," said Lowry, with a fair number of companies eschewing the expo floor to do business in hotel suites and others scaling back on their typically "luxurious booths." That's not a far cry from the new expanded-meeting-room plan for the VSDA convention, designed to enhance the "real working environment," as convention planning committee member Fred Handsman described it to Video Store Magazine last week.
While it's futile to try to bring back the past, all work and no play makes you know what. Let's hope the convention doesn't get so serious that we lose sight of the exciting business we're in. At any rate, it's somewhat comforting to know we're not alone.
By: Stephanie Prange
Happy Monday, and welcome to one of my periodic "odds and ends" columns -- a testament or an indictment of three-dot journalism, take your pick…
DVD's Right on Target
A lot of people must have gotten cheap DVD players for Christmas. The local Target has yanked cassettes out of its budget video rack at the head of one of the checkout lanes (a primo spot occupied, at the head of other checkout lanes, by candy, magazines and snack cakes) and replaced them with DVDs. Stigmata and other titles are priced at $9.44, a couple of bucks more than the VHS cassettes before the holidays. The ploy works: While I was standing in line with an armload of plastic organizers, the people ahead of me grabbed two titles to join a pair of full-price units, American Beauty and X-Men, already in their cart, and the two women behind me (whose cart, by the way, was filled with nothing but five jumbo packs of Charmin toilet tissue) began browsing for something to feed their new DVD player (don't you love overheard conversations?)….
The Golden Globe Awards were still going on last night as I was writing this column. I wonder, how many retailers are going to be shrewd enough to have special "Golden Globe" sections when their stores open for business today? Keep in mind that while award shows are proliferating like rabbits (my colleague, Bruce Apar, a far better wordsmith than me, expressed these same sentiments much more eloquently in a recent "Working Weekend" here on the Hive), the Globes are considered a harbinger for the Oscars and typically get a lot of attention from the media. My unsolicited advice, by the way, is directed at all retailers -- you'd be surprised how slow even some of the biggest chains are to pick up on obvious promotional ideas such as this one. Incidentally, Jennifer Connolly, who won best supporting actress for A Beautiful Mind, delivers a deliciously tragic performance in Requiem for a Dream. Expect a significant bump in demand for the latter film, available from Artisan…
Speaking of promotional opportunities, keep in mind that today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day and next month is Black History Month. There's a plethora of appropriate product to spotlight, including a great new DVD of the minseries "Roots" that's back on TV for its 25th anniversary…
Meanwhile, at the Box Office
…Lord of the Rings was dislodged from the No. 1 spot it's held for four consecutive weeks by Black Hawk Down, Ridley Scott's take on a failed 1993 U.S. mission in Somalia. But the fact that Rings held onto the top spot for so long might indicate that lots of people saw it twice, a trait that often leads to long legs at the rental counter. Contrast Rings to Harry Potter, which fell off sharply after an initial burst of interest -- but still managed to sell enough tickets this past weekend to become the ninth highest-grossing film of all time, passing Independence Day (Harry's now at $308.7 million in domestic gross revenues).
By: Thomas K. Arnold