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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.


Opinion
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22 Sep, 2002

THE MORNING BUZZ: Looking for Equilibrium

Video Store Magazine market research this week makes the call that combined home video rental spending for 2002 will fall short of the 2001 level, generating about $9.5 billion at the rental counter, or a drop of about 7 percent from 2001's $10.03 billion.

That's back to 2000 levels, when combined video rentals rang up $9.46 billion, according to VSM market research. Of course, the big difference now is that DVD's share of the rental pie for all of 2002 will certainly end up being somewhere between the 23 percent it started with at the end of January and the 40 percent it garnered for all August transactions. DVD's share of rental spending jumped from 6.5 percent of rental spending in 2000 to 15 percent of rental spending in 2001 and should be someplace north of that in 2002.

Even DVD's triple-digit growth in rental activity so far this year is not enough to halt the slide of VHS rental activity. As you can read in this week's report (see page 22), VHS rentals for August were down more than 40 percent from a year ago. When you consider that in 2001 VHS accounted for 85 percent of the total rental market, you understand the significant loss of dollars this drop reveals.

The year 2001 was a telling one, where the trajectory of VHS and DVD, sellthrough and rental, intersected. First, sellthrough pretty much matched rental in dollar volume for the first time in the industry's history at about $10 billion each, according to VSM market research. Second, DVD sellthrough dollars pretty much matched VHS sellthrough (or exceeded, depending on whose numbers you looked at) for the first time. Third, because while VHS rental activity managed to remain fairly constant, losing only 4 percent from 2000, to $8.83 billion, DVD rental surged more than 140 percent, to $1.5 billion, more than making up for the difference.

DVD has overtaken VHS in sellthrough; the disc garnered 64 percent of July units sold, according to VideoScan, compared to 37 percent of units in the same month in 2001. Take last week's Monsters, Inc. for example. Buena Vista sold 5 million units of the title and by the day after street was claiming record-breaking sales (including pre-sales). Monsters, Inc.'s first-day popularity is just one example of the overwhelming consumer response to the sellthrough nature of this business. The balance has shifted, and the scales now begin tipping ever more toward sellthrough and DVD -- perhaps in part at rental's expense.

Yes, there is an argument that the sellthrough (and rental) economics of DVD have caused the premature decline of VHS.

The questions I have are: A) where will the equilibrium between rental and sales end up being; and B) will the total home video pie grow as a result?


19 Sep, 2002

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Blanken on His Resignation

The following is an editorial letter from recently resigned VSDA board member Mick Blanken, in response to an article about the organization by Kurt Indvik.

It is with great dismay that I must respond to your editorial of September 16 -- "VSDA Won't Be Caught Between Indies & Chains". I cannot speak on behalf of any other specific retailer, independent or otherwise. However, the inference that my resignation from the VSDA Board of Directors is a result of the collective issues stated in your article is largely inaccurate. And, while I do have issues with VSDA, it is not fair to VSDA to have those issues or thoughts misstated, improperly characterized, or used simply to perpetuate a conflict between the association and its membership.

IVRs vs. Big Chains
I have never been a proponent of the idea that the VSDA should arbitrarily "...take the side of the IVR against the big chains". In fact, I have always contended, and openly stated, that VSDA should serve ALL video retailers. Furthermore, I have never stated that the major reason for the existence of VSDA should be to help the IVR compete against their major chain competition.

VSDA's Strategic Plan
You are correct that the new strategic plan calls for a great emphasis on legislative affairs and research...just as it should. Not only do I have no objection to that, but I agree with it. But, even given that great emphasis, the strategic plan still allows for programs and benefits for all retailers, including IVRs. There are legislative battles looming that might prove to be potentially more damaging to video retailers than any past challenge...including the initial battle over first sale. VSDA should continue to protect the legal rights of all retailers, and should work hard to make sure that it can continue to be in a position to do so when necessary.

VSDA'S Financial Ability To Provide Services And Benefits To IVRs
It is obvious that VSDA is in a situation that requires it to "tighten its belt". But the real issue has little to do with "what amount" VSDA spends, and more to do with how "efficiently" it spends it.

At its inception, virtually 100% of the revenues generated by VSDA could be attributed to the IVR...if for no other reason than that all video retailers of the time were, in fact, independent. As time passed (and especially over the last several years) the percentage of those revenues attributable to the chains and larger retailers has grown significantly...to the point where those revenues may now be the dominant source of income for the association. In general, I have no resentment over this.

However, as revenues from chains have grown, revenues (both directly and indirectly) realized on behalf of IVRs have declined...primarily as a result of the erosion of the IVR retail and membership base. I believe that much of that base erosion might have been unnecessary.

Your article (among others of late) reminds us that a lot of money has been spent in pursuit of providing benefits primarily of use to IVRs. That is absolutely true, and many of those benefits are very viable. But, there seems to be a lot of focus on the millions of dollars VSDA spent on a couple of large tests over the last few years. In my opinion, there is no reason that VSDA should not continue to allocate funds (based on appropriate availability) for programs and projects PROVIDED that those programs and projects are PROPERLY implemented AND properly represented to the membership. In my opinion, this has not been the case.

It is disappointing to me that VSDA continues to allow the implication that its commitment to spend this money on these initiatives to help IVRs is largely to blame for its current financial situation...that it is VSDA's specific support for its IVR members that is helping to exasperate this problem.

Unfortunately, VSDA may be in a position today where it MUST place greater emphasis on larger retailers and chains, as they have become a dominant source of the association's funding. But, in my opinion, that VSDA finds itself in that position is a result (at least in part) of how it has chosen to conduct business over the last several years.

It is equally disappointing to me that VSDA continues to convey confusion as to what, exactly, IVRs think it should do for them; that VSDA continues to deny their failures, instead of learning from them; and that VSDA's reaction to those failed projects is not to make the necessary adjustments in the future, but rather to simply refrain from undertaking them at all.

As children, our parents taught us that "practice makes perfect". But that is not true..."PROPER practice makes perfect". Practicing IMPROPER implementation only makes us perfect at doing things improperly. VSDA's expectation that IVRs should respect the association just for pursuing a benefit on their behalf is unacceptible. The day that they make an honest commitment to the PROPER pursuit of IVR benefits is the day that more IVRs will offer that respect.

In the future, I would appreciate it if you would contact me prior to making any statement that infers that I have any specific position or opinion in regards to VSDA or my resignation.

Thank you.
Mick Blanken Superhitz


19 Sep, 2002

THE MORNING BUZZ: Rental Dealers Learn To Sprint On Short Legs

Like it or not, video rental dealers — successful video rental dealers — are no longer exclusively in the video rental business.

This point was driven home to me by several things, including e-mails from independent retailers who say they're getting a bigger and bigger chunk of their revenues from the sale of previously viewed movies. Indeed, with legs as short as they are — the hot new title typically turns freezing cold within about two or three weeks of release — more and more rental dealers are taking orders for used movies before they are even released.

There are other examples of this rental-sellthrough synergy that independent dealers are not so good at, at least not yet — chiefly, integrating new sellthrough into their business model.

For a quick lesson at how it's done, let's take a look at Blockbuster. Now, I know, a lot of independents hate Big Blue and everything it stands for, but let's face it — back in the late 1980s, when Blockbuster was first being villified, smart operators kept their mouths shut and their eyes open and learned from Blockbuster. It's no secret that Blockbuster gave birth to the notion of a video rental superstore, and countless indies that not only survived, but thrived, during the 1990s owe their blueprint to Blockbuster.

It's time to resume your studies, guys. Thursday afternoon I dropped by the local Blockbuster and was greeted by a huge sign over the front door that read, “Previously viewed movies and games — BUY 2 GET 1 FREE.” A second sign, hanging in the window, read, “Free rental with purchase.” And through the store, there were little blue signs that read, “Rent it! Like it! Buy it!” and green ones that promised, “All previously viewed DVDs, $9.99.”

Blockbuster, perhaps more than any retailer I've encountered, is doing it right. Sellthrough is commanding a bigger and bigger chunk of consumer dollars, primarily because of DVD. And while I don't necessarily agree with those who put forth that rental is a dying business, I do believe we are seeing a sea change in consumer behavior — a decided bent toward collecting movies, rather than just watching them.

Blockbuster is managing its assets the way all retailers should be. For starters, there is no excuse for a rental dealer to not sell movies. The movie-watching public has made it clear they're no longer willing to settle for a one-night stand; they want to buy, they want to own, and if their friendly neighborhood video store isn't going to play along, adios.

To encourage sales, Blockbuster is offering free rentals. It's so logical, it's a wonder every retailer isn't doing it. Particularly in this era of copy-depth, when the average price of a rental title is $25 rather than $75, retailers can afford to play with rentals as a loss leader. I know of one Blockbuster that is selling copies of Monsters, Inc. for the list price, around $25, but throwing in a dozen rentals, one per month for a year. Not only is that store getting great margins on Monsters, Inc. sales, but it's also ensuring steady foot traffic for a solid year — and at what cost? A few cents each month.

Sellthrough and rental are no longer mutually exclusive. Independent retailers have figured out half the equation — there's gold in them there used movies, especially DVDs.

Hopefully they'll soon figure out part two. After all, their competition already has.


17 Sep, 2002

THE MORNING BUZZ: Collect ‘em! Trade ‘em! Share ‘em with your friends!

I don't buy much stuff branded “collectible.” Even DVDs, because often the “collectible” element is packaging. I admit, I'm oodles more interested in titles that are collectible because of content than packaging. This makes me wonder what all the efforts at collectible packaging will really amount to.

I had some time off a couple of weeks ago and spent a bit of it maintaining auctions on eBay. Some of what I am selling is old dolls and, as I searched the Web for information about some of them, I found a lot of validation for an idea I've held for quite a while: There are two kinds of collectibles.

One kind is what I call the “contrived collectible.” That's anything that's collectible because the marketing department stamped it on the package. The market is flooded with them – everything from kids meal toys to sports cards to handpainted state quarters.

There is quite a market for contrived collectibles – just ask the Ty company, which makes Beanie Babies, or companies like the Franklin Mint, which seem to make any event (or even nonevent) an excuse to issue a commemorative snow globe, coin, figurine or toilet paper roller. The labeling and promotion of these special, limited edition, genuine synthetic collectibles (just check the coupon flyer in your Sunday newspaper) is enough to send me running in the opposite direction.

Then there are the real collectibles – stuff that's collectible now either because it was a goof, like a mis-struck coin, or because it was popular some time ago, because then it really was cool – so cool that most of that item was used and then lost, discarded or damaged.

Dolls are a great illustration. As I surfed for information and price comparisons, it was quite obvious the dolls I had received as gifts (most of which were immediately snatched from my preteen hands and stashed away because they were collectible and too “nice” to let a child play with) are worth no more – and in some cases less – than the original selling price. The stuff I chose for myself and played with is what rakes in the big bucks from collectors.

I think the same will ultimately be true for DVD. Some of those “collectible” packages make a nice impression as a gift, but they mess up the symmetry of your media shelf and I don't believe they increase the value of the product.

I'll be watching sales trends for collectible-packaged DVDs. Although they may do well at retail around the holidays, I'll bet that over time that fancy package is just a distraction.

But that won't hurt the bottom line, at least for a while. Because just as with other collectibles, only time will tell.


16 Sep, 2002

THE MORNING BUZZ: VSDA Won't Be Caught Between Indies & Chains

As the heightened impatience level of certain activist independent video retailers (IVRs) might attest, it's clear the Video Software Dealers Association is not (and for the most part never was) going to take the side of the IVR “against” the big chains that, as many IVRs are wont to blame, are responsible for their somewhat precarious business fortunes.

A house divided is sure to fall and, though the IVRs collectively have a majority of the estimated 25,000 or so video specialty storefronts in the U.S., still a handful of powerful and growing chains individually represent almost as many IVRs and they, too, are a significant membership factor and influence for the VSDA, along with a host of non-specialty retail sectors, studios and distributors.

While the association has attempted to offer a spectrum of services and education for IVRs, and invested several million dollars in the past several years in certain special programs (generic advertising test, copy depth study, etc.) that, according to the VSDA, were generated with the IVRs in mind, still, the association cannot and will not, as some IVR advocates would have hoped, take up as its major reason for being the cause of helping indies compete against their major competitors, the chains.

The association's new three-year strategic plan will call for more emphasis on legal and regulatory advocacy on behalf of the industry as a whole, including the First Sale battle looming on the electronic frontier (a return to its roots, when the VSDA was in the thick of the First Sale battle in the early 80s), as well as its usual First Amendment, free speech battles and legal battles in various states pertaining to adult content retailing.

Research is another area the association hopes to expand upon for the benefit of both chains and indies alike. And education services that include online, conferences and trade shows for both the industry and even consumers are being revamped and or created to be cost effective and provide a decent return for the association and its members. In fact the association has committed that it will be “net positive” in its operations by next year, by cutting costs and seeking to build new revenue streams to replace the ones that have fallen. Chapters are expected to operate similarly.

This belt tightening will mean significant projects that focused on improving IVR competitiveness in the marketplace will either have to be self-funding in some manner or they cannot be pursued. That, amongst other issues of long-standing irritation to IVRs, has caused some of the VSDA's more outspoken IVR board members such as Mick Blanken, to resign or not pursue additional terms in office, feeling that the VSDA is no longer attempting to fulfill a role they had hoped it would or could aspire to fulfill.

Certainly in its early to middle years the VSDA may have been accurately perceived to be the association for the independent video retailer. And while that is still a membership base the association clearly wants to continue representing and serving, it's also clear it intends to ensure it keeps its focus broad enough to be able to embrace a wide variety of interests in the home entertainment industry.

Video Store Magazine and Hive4media.com in the next several weeks will examine the current and future status of the VSDA as it seeks to re-focus on what it believes are its core capabilities, and grow not only its current membership constituencies but reach out to others (such as online providers) who also can benefit from its services.


12 Sep, 2002

THE MORNING BUZZ: TV Gets A New Season on DVD

There's an incredible flood of TV product coming to DVD, and you wonder if this is going to be another video craze of the kind that hits saturation and then crashes, like the erotic thriller boom of the early 1990s.

If you look back on those days, video retailers and consumers were looking for an alternative to big-budget box office hits (as they always are) and erotic thrillers, invariably made for video, fit the bill just dandy.

There was action, there was sex, there was violence, there was blood — and best of all, it could be produced on a shoestring budget. “All you need is a beautiful girl who wants to be a star and someone's nice house up in Beverly Hills,” one supplier told me at the time.

The erotic thriller boom went bust virtually overnight, a simple case of too much product flooding the market. There was so much crap that the good stuff—and there were some pretty good flicks in this genre—got lost in the shuffle, and the end result was that companies like Prism and Imperial and Academy, which had relied heavily on erotic thrillers for their income, went bust.

The furious pace at which studios are releasing TV shows on DVD — buoyed, no doubt, by the success of the populist “Friends” and cult faves The Sopranos, Sex and the City and X-Files — is unparalleled.

The TV Shows on DVD Web site (tvshowsondvd.com) lists more than 1,400 TV DVD titles, up nearly 50 percent from the summer.

Universal Studios Home Video just announced its entry into the market with “Law & Order” and “Baretta.” Columbia TriStar is TV'ing it with “The Jeffersons” and “Sanford and Son.” MGM just came out with an absolutely stunning four-disc set of the complete first season of “The Outer Limits,” 32 50-minute episodes of one of my all-time favorite TV shows. And Fox, which pretty much launched the “TV on DVD” genre with “X Files” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” compilations, is now putting out the complete first season of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

Will this trend crumble and fall the way the erotic thriller craze did? I don't think it will, for these reasons:



  • The big studios, not struggling independents, are behind this one.

  • The target audience is collectors, or buyers, rather than renters. Nostalgia has always sold, and vintage TV shows are perfectly suited for collectors — particularly when you can get an entire season into a package no bigger than a paperback book. Our publisher, Don Rosenberg, recently took home a copy of “The Outer Limits” and the next day strolled into work with a huge cardboard box filled with individual episodes on cassette. “I cleared out a whole shelf in my garage,” he said. “And this is only half of them.”

  • There's no danger of anything getting lost in the shuffle. Unlike made-for-video erotic thrillers, there's nothing unknown about this commodity. If a TV show has a big fan base, the DVD will sell. If it doesn't, it won't.


Right now the studios are trying the shotgun approach with TV shows on DVD. They won't hit the target all the time, but I predict they'll score enough times that this boom will continue until a lot more of the shows we grow up with, as well as those we love now, will be available on DVD.

And best of all, there are no commercials.


10 Sep, 2002

THE MORNING BUZZ: Remember, But Don't Forget to Watch the Road Ahead

I'm not going to get maudlin about the anniversary today. It saddens us all for good reason. We'll each experience it differently and nothing I could say about that day would capture anyone else's feelings about it.

I thought about it a lot, though, and had trouble deciding on the appropriate way to observe. It didn't seem right to let the day pass without mention or to stir up anyone's pain.

But I do want to remind folks to look not only at the terrible events of a year ago today, but all that has happened since. We learn so slowly.

We absolutely must fight those who would threaten our country and the freedoms we enjoy. But we must make sure to balance that with making our country a worthy place to fight for without conceding the very freedoms we purport to protect.

It's shameless that executives at some of the world's biggest corporations looted some states, their companies and even their own employees for personal gain -- even more despicable when the nation is under external threat. That's another kind of terrorism.

It's also shameless that corporations -- including media conglomerates -- are seizing on antiterrorism initiatives to create opportunities to violate citizens' privacy. A number of the antiterrorism bills on Capitol Hill include provisions the entertainment giants want to use for their own ends. Sections that let companies spy on people and twist the law.

There is a legitimate need to fight piracy, whether it's digital, political or violently physical. But we also have to preserve the liberties our Constitution promises. It's what we're fighting for in the first place, isn't it?


9 Sep, 2002

THE MORNING BUZZ: Do people really want to revisit 9/11?

My grandmother never saw the movie Titanic, despite the hoopla, the Oscars and the fact that it was a historical epic, her favorite genre.

Why?

She didn't want to relive a horrific event she remembered from her youth. Although she was a child when the disaster happened, it still resonated with her such that she didn't want to be reminded of it even decades and decades later.

Until this past weekend, I felt much the same about the terrorist attacks of 9/11. I saw no point in looking back at those events, choosing instead to push it from my mind. I would turn the television channel whenever the burning towers appeared and consciously avoided news reports about the event. I had no interest in watching video screeners of the multiple documentaries produced for the anniversary.

Many in the industry interviewed for our story on 9/11 videos felt much the same way. “It's just too much, too soon,” said Flash Distributors' president Steve Scavelli, who was at the Twin Towers immediately following the attacks and joined the early rescue efforts. Mick Blanken, owner of Super Hitz Moviez and Gamez in Delaware, Ohio, said he would not carry any videos on the event. “I am just not interested in perpetuating the horror,” he told Video Store Magazine.

That's the way I felt leading up to this anniversary week. Then I found myself mesmerized by TV coverage over the weekend. It became a kind of catharsis to look back at an event that will forever mark my life. Like those who remember what they were doing the day JFK was shot, I will forever vividly recall the sights and sounds of my daughter's first day of school, which happened to be Sept. 11, 2001.

I was getting ready to take her to school when I heard the garage door raising. My husband, who had just left for work, was returning to tell me a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Then we flipped on the television. We tried to keep my 3-year-old from watching footage of the towers, but that night she revealed she had taken a peek.

“When are they going to put that fire out, Mommy?” she asked.

I knew in my heart it would take a long time.

I think I am suddenly drawn to videos and television coverage of this event because I want to stay angry, because complacency is what the terrorists have counted on all along. I wouldn't be surprised if retailers see a sudden uptick in interest in anniversary videos this week, despite the calm before. Perhaps we are now ready to face the horror. While my grandmother could escape stories of the Titanic, I need to keep 9/11 and all its anguish and heroism in mind – because we still haven't put out that fire.


6 Sep, 2002

THE MORNING BUZZ: Do Studios Plan DVD Obsolescence?

Built-in obsolescence is a hallmark of American industry. Technology exists to create lightbulbs that would last practically forever, but then the lightbulb industry wouldn't sell many lightbulbs — hence, the thin filament that burns out after a few months.

The same is true of car parts, refrigerators (the shelves on my Whirlpool have been glued and reglued myriad times, and the dang thing's only five years old), you name it.

In the pre-digital era, home entertainment had the perfect excuse for built-in obsolescence — moving parts and wear and tear. The mechanisms on audiocassettes and videocassettes have so many tiny parts, it's inevitable that something will go wrong — and even if it doesn't, the wear and tear to the tape eventually damages the magnetic field, meaning the sound or image start to disintegrate, say, after 10 or 15 years. The vinyl LP was even worse. There were no moving parts, but the sharp diamond needle tore the bejesus out of those poor vinyl grooves, and with each play it got worse. Diehard rock fans like myself frequently “wore out” albums that had to be replaced; I remember buying two copies, at the onset, of Bruce Springsteen's Darkness on the Edge of Town back in the late 1970s because I knew what would happen.

DVDs and audio CDs don't wear out. It's been said they last about 300 years, although no one's been around long enough to find out. Now, I don't have exact replacement figures, but I believe a fair amount of income, in years past, came from people replacing worn-out software. With those five-inch optical discs, with no moving parts and nothing touching the surface except a beam of light, the record companies and studios stand to lose a small but nevertheless lucrative stream of incremental income.

If you look at what's happening in our industry, certain things start to make sense. Why are studios so against coating their DVDs with something to minimize damage from scratches? The technology exists — I remember the VSDA as far back as the middle 1990s lobbying for this, on behalf of rental dealers who were already dealing with scratched and otherwise field-damaged game discs, and who were fearful of the same thing happening once DVD really got going.

Well, DVD really has gotten going, and the rental dealers I've spoken with tend to dismiss field-damaged discs as a fact of life. Could it be that the studios simply don't want to coat their discs? You can't really blame their reasoning — they'd be spending more money and taking in less, since there would be fewer replacement sales.

I also find it interesting that the studios most concerned about driving down the price of DVDs use flimsy cardboard boxes rather than those nice, handsome, sturdy all-plastic “keepcases”. All right, so it's not the software, but collectors want things in mint condition, so if the box goes, they're likely going to buy a new one, especially if buying another copy will only set them back $10 or $12.

I'm not saying the studios are deliberately trying to thwart DVD's archival nature, or are consciously trying to make a product that somewhere down the road will break down, like a car, and need to be replaced.

It's just that built-in obsolescence is so ingrained in our culture that doing so would be second nature. They probably haven't given it much thought; it's just the way things are done.


5 Sep, 2002

THE MORNING BUZZ: Collect ‘em! Trade ‘em! Share ‘em with your friends!

I don't buy much stuff branded “collectible.” Even DVDs, because often the “collectible” element is packaging. I admit, I'm oodles more interested in titles that are collectible because of content than packaging. This makes me wonder what all the efforts at collectible packaging will really amount to.

I had some time off last week and spent a bit of it maintaining auctions on eBay. Some of what I am selling is old dolls and, as I searched the Web for information about some of them, I found a lot of validation for an idea I've held for quite a while: There are two kinds of collectibles.

One kind is what I call the “contrived collectible.” That's anything that's collectible because the marketing department stamped it on the package. The market is flooded with them – everything from kids meal toys to sports cards to handpainted state quarters.

There is quite a market for contrived collectibles – just ask the Ty company, which makes Beanie Babies, or companies like the Franklin Mint, which seem to make any event (or even nonevent) as an excuse to issue a commemorative snow globe, coin, figurine or toilet paper roller. The labeling and promotion of these special, limited edition, genuine synthetic collectibles (just check the coupon flyer in your Sunday newspaper) is enough to send me running in the opposite direction.

Then there are the real collectibles – stuff that's collectible now either because it was a goof, like a mis-struck coin, or because it was popular some time ago, because then it really was cool – so cool that most of that item was used and then lost, discarded or damaged.

Dolls are a great illustration. As I surfed for information and price comparisons, it was quite obvious the dolls I had received as gifts (most of which were immediately snatched from my preteen hands and stashed away because they were collectible and too “nice” to let a child play with) are worth no more – and in some cases less – than the orignal selling price. The stuff I chose for myself and played with is what rakes in the big bucks from collectors.

I think the same will ultimately be true for DVD. Some of those “collectible” packages make a nice impression as a gift, but they mess up the symmetry of your media shelf and I don't believe they increase the value of the product.

I'll be watching sales trends for collectible-packaged DVDs. Although they may do well at retail around the holidays, I'll bet that over time that fancy package is just a distraction.

But that won't hurt the bottom line, at least for quite a while. Because just as with other collectibles, only time will tell.