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Random Thoughts: Redbox, Rebates, Glee and Elvis

3 Jun, 2010 By: Thomas K. Arnold

I spent much of today in Century City at the ESCA Edge conference and had the honor of introducing an old friend to deliver the keynote: Mitch Lowe, currently president of Redbox and, before that, a key player in the launch of Netflix and the owner of the Video Droid chain of Bay Area (California) video rental stores.

My favorite line came when Lowe discussed the fact that his company now has deals in place with all six majors and Lionsgate, and that he's back on amicable terms with even the heads of the studios with which Redbox was embroiled in litigation. "I can even hug Craig Kornblau again," he said, referring to the Universal Studios Home Entertainment president who was the first to challenge Netflix's dollar rentals of new releases. "Just not too close," he added.

The most interesting part of Lowe's presentation, however, was the presentation of data from NPD that suggests kiosk rentals may actually help rather than hinder sales. Fears that dollar rentals at Redbox were cannibalizing DVD sales prompted the whole Redbox-vs.-Hollywood brouhaha in the first place, with first Universal Studios and then other studios refusing to sell their product to the kiosk company on street date.

As our senior editor, Chris Tribbey, notes in his story (click here to read it), Lowe said NPD research showed that 41% of Redbox customers typically rent movies before they choose to buy them, and 9% of Redbox rentals later result in a sale. Lowe also said Redbox customers tend to buy more discs than the average consumer and often use Redbox as a sampling mechanism in deciding what to buy.

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On another note, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is doing something I'd like to see a lot more of: offering a rebate if consumers buy a new and improved version of a previously issued title. The studio on Sept. 14 is releasing the complete first season of the hit TV show "Glee," and anyone who bought the earlier Glee: Vol. One: Road to Sectionals gets a $10 rebate. That's nearly a third of what the new DVD/Blu-ray Disc release is going to sell for in stores (I know, I know, the suggested retail price, or SRP, is $69, but everyone knows SRP is merely a "value mark" that is generally a lot higher than the actual sales price.) 20th Century Fox is giving consumers a great deal here, and I hope the rebate offer is fantastically successful so more studios will follow suit.

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I know I called this out a few weeks ago, but now that I actually have the product in my hand I am WOWED. I'm talking about MGM's new Elvis Presley's 75th Birthday Collection, a set of seven films (including Clambake, Kid Galahad and Love Me Tender) presented in a compact boxed set with absolutely stunning box art. This is one of those rare releases of which I want a second copy to stash away, unopened, in my closet — next to such previously issued treasures as the complete series set of "Outer Limits" and Warner's The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind 70th anniversary releases.

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