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Gift Sets Still Popular

6 Dec, 2014 By: Thomas K. Arnold

The market for premium-priced Blu-ray Disc and DVD gift sets, consisting mostly of elegantly packaged multidisc special editions of popular films, movie collections and complete series sets of TV shows, remains remarkably resilient in an increasingly challenging home video market, studio executives say.

And Warner Bros., the perennial leader in this niche category, this year is focusing on three new entries into the market: 75th anniversary editions of Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz, and what might be considered its marquee release of the season, the 10-disc Stanley Kubrick: The Masterpiece Collection Blu-ray.

The latter is a $199.99 boxed set consisting of eight of the legendary director’s classic films — from Lolita and Dr. Strangelove to The Shining and Full Metal Jacket — along with a bevy of extras, such as an all-new 83-minute documentary, Kubrick Remembered, and a 78-page hardcover book with rare photos, production materials and other memorabilia.

“The gift set market has been affected by the slow physical decline of the past few years, but remains a vibrant and steady opportunity particularly for studios that have the resources and expertise to develop new and exciting collections,” said Warner EVP Jeff Baker, who’s in charge of theatrical catalog for the studio. “Furthermore as EST gains traction, we are seeing a marked increase in bundling transactions for film collections, particularly on iTunes.”

Premium-priced gift sets continue to account for up to 10% of total fourth-quarter home video revenue, Baker added, and have “no price sensitivity, even in today’s competitive market.”

“Consumers are willing to pay a premium when they are offered a compelling package or digital solution,” he said. “The most sought-after feature is always an updated documentary, which both touches on new ground about the film or filmmaking, and offers a fresh, even contemporary perspective in the form of interviews with influential actors, directors and film historians.”

Even so, several studios have opted out of the gift set market, while others are focusing on repackaging, and repricing, previously issued sets. HBO, for example, is out with a new complete series Blu-ray Disc package of “The Sopranos” that lists for about $280, although it is readily available at Amazon.com and other retailers for about $170. The new box is half the size of the previous package, a DVD-only set released in 2009 — which also was about half as big as the original complete-series DVD set, which was released in 2008, weighed more than 10 pounds and cost $400.

With low expectations — studios are happy if a premium-priced gift set sells tens of thousands of copies — marketing budgets are small, so most gift sets are promoted through publicity and social media.

“Streaming film footage from an all-new piece of IP is a powerful vehicle to pique interest,” Warner’s Baker said.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment also remains a big player in the premium-priced gift set market. Among the studio’s hot new releases in that category are complete-series sets of popular TV shows “How I Met Your Mother” and “Sons of Anarchy.” The latter is available in a special-edition boxed set that comes in recreation of the iconic SAMCRO Reaper clubhouse table. Also notable: “Sons of Anarchy” hasn’t yet finished its run on FX; the boxed set includes an empty slot to add the eventual seventh season Blu-ray.

For fans of British fare, Acorn Media this fall has released several of its best-selling series in big value-priced sets, including Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Complete Cases Collection, available in a 33-disc DVD Collector’s Edition ($349.99) and a 28-disc Blu-ray Disc Collector’s Edition ($399.99). The boxed set features all 13 series (70 episodes) remastered and packed with several bonus features, including the Being Poirot documentary, the “Super Sleuth” behind-the-scenes program and more.

Also new from Acorn is Upstairs, Downstairs: The Ultimate Collection (DVD 26-disc set, $199.99); Jeeves & Wooster: The Complete Collection (DVD eight-disc set,$59.99); and Secret History of World War II, an 11-disc set containing the documentaries Narrow Escapes of World War II, Secret War and The Rise of the Nazi Party, for  $99.99.

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