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Fireworks, Barbecues and Movie Rentals

30 Jun, 2011 By: Chris Tribbey, Erik Gruenwedel

Fourth of July weekend touts home entertainment deals designed to compete with ‘Transformers’ box office crush

With scuttlebutt predicting a $200 million opening July 4th weekend box office for Paramount Pictures’ Transformers: Dark of the Moon, video chains, and cable and satellite TV operators are pulling out the stops to capture incremental home entertainment revenue.

Blockbuster LLC through Monday is offering new releases for $2.99 the first night with a free $1.99 non-new release title. Any $1.99 “free” rental can be returned for free unlimited rentals, allowing one movie out at a time. Additional rental days on any movie are 99 cents per day plus tax.

Blockbuster Express, which is owned and operated under license agreement by NCR Corp., is offering a free movie with any other two rentals (promo code: bbxsummer) through midnight July 4.

Russ Crupnick, entertainment industry analyst for The NPD Group, said he doubted Blockbuster’s deal would drive more customers into stores. Crupnick said consumers have become entrenched in their home entertainment habits, which increasingly is limited to frequenting Redbox or another kiosk.

“People who hadn't planned on coming [to Blockbuster] or were going to Redbox instead aren't going to change their minds,” the analyst said. “It may not drive [store] traffic, though people who already planned on renting might pick up three titles instead of two.”

Indeed, a Family Video store in Bloomington, Ind., is offering Universal Studios Home Entertainment’s The Dilemma with Vince Vaughn, Kevin James and Jennifer Connelly for $1.50 for the first night, down from the standard $2.59.

The store also is offering a rent one get another free promotion on select titles, though an employee noted, “We have specials all the time, and that’s not just for this weekend.”

Redbox is in the middle of its “Summer Fun & Games” promotion, which includes a sweepstakes for two chances to win $10,000 and $.50 off select family titles every Wednesday through July 27.

Also, in anticipation of the “Transformers” theatrical release, Redbox stocked its kiosks with the just released game on Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii, as well as the original Transformers and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen titles.

Dish Network, which owns Blockbuster LLC, through July 7 is offering five major theatrical releases, including Oscar-nominated True Grit (Paramount Home Entertainment), for 99 cents on transactional video-on-demand.

Other titles include Sucker Punch and the Farrelly Brothers’ Hall Pass (both Warner Home Video), and Battle: Los Angeles and Adam Sandler’s comedy Just Go With It (both Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), co-starring Jennifer Aniston and Brooklyn Decker.

“We are pleased to continue raising the bar by offering titles — several weeks before they are available on Netflix and Redbox,” said Dave Shull, SVP of programming for Dish Network.

The satellite TV operator also has aggressively combed social media platforms such as Twitter with VOD posts, including the June 21 tweet: “Watch Salt, Social Network, Grown Ups, Easy A, The Other Guys and Karate Kid instantly on www.dishonline.com. You can’t do that on Netflix!”

And DirecTV, which has rolled out premium VOD movies weeks after their theatrical releases, has sent subscribers blue “Netlfix-like” mailers offering a free $4.99 transactional VOD rental on the aforementioned titles, in addition to Unknown, Season of the Witch, The Adjustment Bureau, The Eagle and Cedar Rapids, among others.

Edward Woo, retail analyst with Wedbush Morgan Securities in Los Angeles, said summer tends to be a low point for movie watching at home as the weather, family vacations, camp for the kids and outdoor activities compete with in-home activities.

“It’s the usual business rule: Run a sale or discount to get people to do things when they normally wouldn't,” Woo said. “There are a lot of specials for movie rentals for the Fourth of July and I think the retailers are just trying to generate incremental revenue.”

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