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Thomas K. Arnold is considered one of the leading home entertainment journalists in the country. He is publisher and editorial director of Home Media Magazine, the home entertainment industry’s weekly trade publication. He also is home entertainment editor for The Hollywood Reporter and frequently writes about home entertainment and theatrical for USA Today. He has talked about home entertainment issues on CNN’s “Showbiz Tonight,” “Entertainment Tonight,” Starz, The Hollywood Reporter and the G4 network’s “Attack of the Show,” where he has been a frequent guest. Arnold also is the executive producer of The Home Entertainment Summit, a key annual gathering of studio executives and other industry leaders, and has given speeches and presentations at a variety of other events, including Home Media Expo and the Entertainment Supply Chain Academy.

TK's Take
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8 Jun, 2009

Box Office Actuals Are In

An update to my box office report from yesterday, courtesy of our friend Brandon Gray at Box Office Mojo:

"Significantly underestimated on Sunday, The Hangover pulled ahead of Up to lead the weekend with a smashing $45 million. While Hangover was upgraded with actual grosses reporting, Land of the Lost dropped to $18.8 million."

Check out Brandon's site at www.boxofficemojo.com


7 Jun, 2009

What's 'Up' Doesn't Always Come Too Far Down

Two wide new releases aimed at young adults and families, Warner Bros.' The Hangover and Universal Studios' Land of the Lost remake, failed to bounce Disney/Pixar's Up from the top of the weekend box office charts. Up made $44.2 million, but the R-rated Hangover came in at a surprisingly strong No. 2 with $43.3 million, significantly more than expected. Only Land of the Lost disappointed, generating just $19.5 million for a weak No. 3 weekend finish. To read my full box office report in USA Today, click here.

3 Jun, 2009

Guess What's on Top of the Charts -- Again!

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment continued to dominate the DVD and Blu-ray Disc sales chart the week ending May 31 as the studio's screwball comedy Paul Blart: Mall Cop retained its top position on both the Nielsen VideoScan First Alert sales chart and Home Media Magazine's rental chart. For the complete story, click here.

3 Jun, 2009

VOD Not Necessarily the Enemy

Remember the old days when talk of shortening pay-per-view windows to within 30 days of a film's home video release sent video retailers into a fit of anger? Fearing cannibalization, they threatened boycotts and complained loudly and vociferously to anyone who would listen.

But then some retailers noticed that a TV showing could actually help their business, almost like a commercial. Even a PPV debut wasn't the rental killer they had feared; lots of consumers simply preferred the flexibility of being able to rent a movie and watch it at home at their leisure, being able to stop, pause, and rewind as often as they liked — something PPV, at the time, couldn't match.
The advent of video-on-demand has certainly raised the bar on electronic delivery, but the big news today that Comcast is extending the VOD window from one to two days for movies from Warner Bros. and Lionsgate certainly is no cause for alarm to those retailers who rely on packaged media for their livelihood. All right, maybe rental dealers have a legitimate complaint, although the case could be made that easier access to VOD is no more of a threat than Netflix and the proliferation of Redbox kiosks.
But our business these days primarily revolves around sellthrough, and I contend that extended VOD windows can only help DVD and Blu-ray Disc sales by increasing awareness and making it easier than ever for consumers to try before they buy. Consumers fall into two categories, and those who like to collect movies certainly won't be deterred by VOD. Those who prefer a transitory experience — the rental crowd, if you will — may be swayed to "rent" electronically, but from a studio standpoint, that's a far better deal than watching Redbox rent their movies for a buck a night, not give one dime back, and cannibalize sales to boot because that Redbox kiosk happens to be located right inside a Wal-Mart store.
The studios have never liked the traditional rental model, from day one. Revenue-sharing made rental tolerable, but the studios have always derived far more money from sellthrough. The advent of Netflix, with its subscription model, and Redbox, with its dollar rentals, has put a serious ding in revenue-sharing, particularly in the case of Redbox, which from what I told does not have a single revenue-sharing deal in place. So not only are studios no longer getting much of a cut of the rental action, but they also have to contend with the troubled economy, which has led to a slump in DVD sales but a surge in DVD rentals. "The fact is, the rental business is up while the sellthrough business is down, and if a consumer walks into a Wal-Mart store and sees a Redbox kiosk he just might rent a movie for a buck instead of walking all the way to the back to buy the movie for $20, unless it's something he really, really wants to own," one studio executive told me.
So is it any wonder the studios are becoming more and more accommodating with VOD providers such as Comcast? Like physical video rental, it's a transitory experience, but unlike physical rental the studios get better margins and the chance to help rather than hinder sales.
Warren Lieberfarb's vision at last is coming true: Consumers who collect movies buy DVD or Blu-ray Disc, while those who prefer to rent movies do so electronically, where studios and not retailers are in control.
Video rental dealers may not like it, but hey, that's Hollywood.


1 Jun, 2009

Warner's Bewkes Shows a Little Faith

Hell hasn't frozen over, at least not to my knowledge. And yet Jeff Bewkes, the outspoken CEO of Time Warner Inc., has done the unthinkable, the unspeakable, the completely unpredictable: He's actually said some kinds words about home video.
In a talk last Friday at the Sanford Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference in New York, Bewkes said DVD's decline has slowed and the market appears to be stabilizing. He noted that at Warner Home Video, disc sales improved significantly in April. (To read our coverage of the speech, click here).
If Jeff Bewkes has faith in our business, then praise the Lord — it's time for a rebound.
Bewkes, after all, is considered by some in our industry to be one of DVD's biggest detractors. He's frequently said electronic delivery is more profitable for the studios than packaged media, and a year ago he announced Warner movies would be released on video-on-demand the same day they hit DVD.
I've never considered Jeff Bewkes an enemy of DVD. Rather, I've always seen him as a straight shooter, a realist, even. He might not say what we want to hear, or would like to believe, but invariably what he says tends to make sense.
That's why I am so elated that he believes the DVD business is stabilizing. If he says it, it must be so.


29 May, 2009

Blockbuster, the Mark Twain of Video

Blockbuster continues to show signs of being, with apologies to the "3rd Rock from the Sun" finale, The Thing That Wouldn't Die.

The veteran rental chain has heard more rumors of its impending death than Mark Twain, but as with the famous American writer, rumors of its death have been greatly exaggerated.

Jim Keyes' strategy, which he first shared with me at the July 2007 VSDA convention in Las Vegas, is to turn Blockbuster into a one-stop shop for movies, where consumers can rent a film, buy a film, pick it up on DVD or Blu-ray, or even get a download.

These days, that strategy makes more sense than ever, and while skeptics continue to harp that Blockbuster is on death's door Keyes is resolutely plodding ahead with his plan, and as he told investors May 28 the chain is now launching new television and radio ads he hopes will get consumers all hot and heavy about Blockbuster's various ways to deliver movies into consumer hands (to read our complete story, click here).

Critics of Blockbuster continue to be unmoved, but you have to at least hand it to Keyes, he doesn't stop trying. I happen to believe his overall strategy is the right one; whether or not it works really depends on consumer perception of the Blockbuster brand.

If they start equating Blockbuster with "bringing movies home," expect a home run.

But if consumers continue to see Blockbuster as a place to rent, and only rent, physical movies, then Keyes will be no more successful than Bill Fields was a decade ago, when he sailed over from Wal-Mart with grand visions of turning Blockbuster into a network of "entertainment emporiums" and launched a "one word, one world" (or was it "one world, one word"?) campaign no one really understood.

It's all about perception--as are so many things related to Hollywood. Hopefully the new ad campaign will help.


27 May, 2009

Paul Blart: Top Seller

Sony Pictures’ Paul Blart: Mall Cop, a screwball comedy that grossed $146.3 million in theaters, far more than most anyone expected, shot to the top of the national sales as well as rental charts its first week in stores.
The film shot to an easy victory on the Nielsen VideoScan First Alert sales chart for the week ending May 24, besting fellow newcomers Valkyrie ($83 million box office), from MGM/Fox, and My Bloody Valentine 3D ($51.6 million), from Lionsgate.
On Home Media Magazine’s rental chart, Valkyrie also bowed at No. 2, generating 64% as much rental activity as Mall Cop. My Bloody Valentine 3-D bowed at No. 6.
For the full story, click here.

Sony Pictures’ Paul Blart: Mall Cop, a screwball comedy that grossed $146.3 million in theaters, far more than most anyone expected, shot to the top of the national sales as well as rental charts its first week in stores.

The film shot to an easy victory on the Nielsen VideoScan First Alert sales chart for the week ending May 24, besting fellow newcomers Valkyrie ($83 million box office), from MGM/Fox, and My Bloody Valentine 3D ($51.6 million), from Lionsgate.

On Home Media Magazine’s rental chart, Valkyrie also bowed at No. 2, generating 64% as much rental activity as Mall Cop. My Bloody Valentine 3D bowed at No. 6.

For the full story, click here.


27 May, 2009

Sneak Peak at Charts

Home Media Magazine's market research department pegs Paul Blart: Mall Cop as the top-renting DVD/Blu-ray Disc for the week ending May 24, handily beating MGM/Fox's Valkyrie, which came in second but generated just 64.3% as much rental action as the Sony Pictures comedy. The Lionsgate horror remake My Bloody Valentine 3D debuted at No. 6 on the rental chart. Check back later today for the full chart report.

27 May, 2009

Tuesday Musings

Sometimes it feels as though the DVD era never happened. We have rental flying high, even though everything now is issued at a sellthrough price, and Amazon, the leading Internet home video merchant, is talking about opening up brick-and-mortar stores. Of course, Amazon's model focuses on grocery pickup centers, but as we all know, one thing leads to another...

Speaking of which, I keep hearing of all these great catalog reissues, campaigns and promotions — from 20th Century Fox's 50th anniversary edition of The Diary of Anne Frank (coming June 16 to both DVD and Blu-ray Disc) to the recent flurry of boxed sets of saucy 1920s and 1930s pictures released before the studios in 1934 began enforcing their restrictive Production Code — and I just can't help wondering why on earth are catalog sales still down? Box office is way up for the year, and I would think home video would be keeping pace. But from what I keep hearing from studio executives, new theatricals are hit or miss, resulting in a wash, while the real category drag is catalog. Maybe our industry, as a whole, needs to do a better job of informing the public of what's out there and why they should own it.

It's funny — I still remember the yearly calls for an industrywide awareness campaign back in the middle 1990s, when VHS was maturing and consumer spending was flattening out. It seems to me our industry could use an awareness campaign now, more than ever — and yet no one's even brought up the concept, much less a realistic game plan. Studio executives, are you listening?

25 May, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend: Box Office Bonanza

Terminator Salvation, the belated fourth installment in the faded action franchise, generated a surprisingly robust $43 million in U.S. theaters over the Memorial Day weekend, even though it's been six years since the last one and iconic star Arnold Schwarzenegger sat this one out as he wreaks havoc on the California economy rather than his onscreen nemeses (sorry, I had to make an editorial comment!).
Still, that wasn't enough to take the top spot on the weekend box office chart. That honor went to Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, a sequel to the big Ben Stiller family comedy, which opened to $53.5 million.
Holdovers held up quite well. The Star Trek reboot earned nearly $22 million its third week on the big screen, enough to snag the No. 3 spot on the weekend box office chart. Its total gross is now at $183.6 million. And Angels & Demons dropped 53.7% from its No. 1 opening last weekend — not bad, considering most highly anticipated films slide in the 60% to 80% range — to finish in fourth place with $21.4 million.
Paramount's Dance Flick opened at No. 5 with $11.1 million.
For a good analysis of the weekend, get Brandon Gray's take at Box Office Mojo.