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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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30 Mar, 2009

Bundling Discs

USA Today is running my story tomorrow about the growing practice among studios to bundle different formats of discs together--DVDs with Blu-ray Disc to ease the transition to the new high-definition format; digital copies with special-edition DVDs and Blu-ray Discs to beat downloading at its own game. See the complete story here.

 


30 Mar, 2009

Twilight Delight

Just got off the phone with Steve Nickerson, president of Summit Home Entertainment, who told me that as of this morning Twilight had sold through to consumers 5.6 million units. That's after a whopping 3 million sold its first day of release, Saturday, March 21. The new total makes Twilight the year's top-selling DVD, displacing Paramount'DreamWorks' Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, which since its February 6 release has sold an estimated 5.3 million units, according to Home Media Magazine's market research department. Watch our Web site for the full story.


30 Mar, 2009

Boffo Box Office

I covered box office for USA Today again, and once again, as I was collecting estimates from the various theatrical presidents of distribution, it soon became apparent that box office revenues would be up significantly from the previous week--a whopping 42.9%, according to our friends at Box Office Mojo. The big release of the weekend was DreamWorks Animation's Monsters Vs. Aliens, distributed by Paramount Pictures, and more than half the film's $58.2 million estimated weekend gross (56%, to be exact) came from 3D showings in the 1,700 screens with RealD's 3D-enabled screens ($25 million) and 143 IMAX theaters ($5.2 million). For the story I wrote for USA Today (sorry, no link; I did the print version only), The Hollywood Reporter's esteemed film editor, Gregg Kilday, said it was "the largest 3D deployment ever." The good news for us here in home entertainment land is that while 3D is only now taking theaters by storm, down the pike it's headed for the home, with many experts believing it will be the killer app that takes Blu-ray from Hollywood to Main Street. Panasonic is already aggressively touting home applications, and 3D will be a focal point of our upcoming Home Entertainment Summit at the end of June. Stay tuned...

 


27 Mar, 2009

Devaluation Blues

Studio executives, some publicly but most privately, are expressing concern over dollar DVD rentals at Redbox and other kiosks, saying the practice devalues the product. Craig Kornblau, president of Universal Studios Home Entertainment, has launched the most visible protest, refusing to sell Redbox his product until 45 days after release. One could argue, however, that dollar rentals are no worse than those omnipresent $5 dump bins at Wal-Mart, which increasingly are filled with fairly current hit product, sometimes less than a year old, rather than the public domain stuff one used to find there. Personally, I think we're facing a much bigger perception problem with the public, brought on by the advent of digital downloading, which inevitably leads to file-swapping. People no longer place much value on any form of home entertainment--not when they can swap songs in a matter of seconds or get an evening's worth of free entertainment on YouTube, watching vintage music videos or what-have-you. This revelation certainly isn't news to the music industry, which for years has seen its profits wither as a $15 CD business quickly evolved into one driven by 99-cent downloads. This perception problem also has a lot to do with the fact that digital entertainment really is vaporware--there's nothing to hold in your hands, look at and file away in a collection. To paraphrase Gertrude Stein, there's no there there.

That's why the key to packaged media's survival is to play up the value proposition by focusing on its two key strengths: 1) It won't die when your computer crashes--if properly handled it will last as long as you do, if not longer; and 2) It's physical, something you can own and treasure, like a favorite book. To shore up the latter, we need to see studio marketers do more to enhance the value of packaged media and offer consumers more than just the movie. They can spruce up the packaging, like Warner does with its Blu-ray "books" or Universal Studios does with its Legacy Series (personal note: I collect all these, even if I don't particularly case for the movie!), and they can also add physical value, as Warner does with its Ultimate Collectors Editions (as I write, I am already salivating for Woodstock). I'm not one of those who believes packaged media is doomed. We just have to differentiate it more.

 

 


26 Mar, 2009

Catalog Capers

I hope you saw my story in this morning's USA Today on new DVD collections of "pre-code" movies (click here to see it). Back in 1934, Hollywood passed a restrictive "Production Code" that banned such cinematic naughtiness as "lustful kissing" and other salacious behavior that's now the norm in Hollywood movies. The code fell apart with the introduction of the ratings system in the late 1960s, but for more than 30 years Hollywood's attempts to legislate morality, at least as portrayed on screen, were most successful, with Code provisions faithfully adhered to by filmmakers fearful of boycotts, legal action or blacklisting. Savvy marketers at Warner and Universal have assembled collections of films produced on the eve of the Code's introduction, an interesting concept that goes beyond the traditional star- or director-powered collections. This is the kind of stuff we need to see more of; catalog sales are down significantly and we need to rekindle public interest in old movies. Packaging them in attractive boxed sets with intriguing themes is certainly an answer.


25 Mar, 2009

Smart Move for Blockbuster

Smart move by Blockbuster, this teaming with TiVo to deliver movies online (see the Home Media Magazine story here). The chain's top man, Jim Keyes, has long said his ultimate goal is to turn Blockbuster from a rental giant into a one-stop source for anyone who wants to bring entertainment into the home, in whatever fashion: renting a DVD, buying a DVD, renting a Blu-ray Disc, buying a Blu-ray Disc, and even getting a movie digitally delivered. Now he's given this "fifth promise" a tremendous boost, by partnering with TiVo to allow it to deliver Blockbuster's 10,000-title digital movie library online to TiVo digital video recorders that are attached to TVs. "Ultimately, our vision is to work with TiVo so that their subscribers can access movies not only through our OnDemand service but also from our stores and through our by-mail services as well," Keyes said in a statement. As our senior editor, Erik Gruenwedel, correctly asserts in his story, "The shift by [Blockbuster] to integrate Blockbuster OnDemand (formerly Movielink) into TiVo DVRs would appear to be an attempt to usurp the digital rental market currently controlled by Netflix." But it's more than that--it's a fulfillment of Keyes' big picture vision for the chain, and one that, if successful, could extend the trouble rental chain's lease on life.


25 Mar, 2009

Sneak Peak at This Week's DVD Chart

I'm working on my weekly chart story as we speak, but I wanted to give readers of my blog a sneak peak of sales and rental activity for the week that ended Sunday. It took Summit Home Entertainment's Twilight just one day to sell enough copies to debut at No. 1 on the Nielsen VideoScan First Alert sales chart. According to the studio, that's 3 million units, snapped up by voracious consumers on Saturday alone. Twilight also was the week's top Blu-ray Disc seller, but the film didn't quite make it to the top on Home Media Magazine's video rental chart for the week. That honor went to Role Model. Check our Web site for the full story, which I expect will be posted by tonight.


24 Mar, 2009

Latino Home Entertainment Awards

I just wanted to issue a friendly reminder that Home Media Magazine is presenting the Fifth Annual Latino DVD Awards on Tuesday, April 28, at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, Calif.

This annual event began as a conference, but with the economy the way it is, we decided to trim back, significantly cut registration costs and focus on one of the highlights of each year's confab: the awards. I think everyone who reads this is aware of how powerful the Latino consumer is, and that Hollywood marketers — and marketers everywhere, for that matter — for years have been eager to tap into this fast-growing demographic. For suppliers, participating in this event is a great way to publicize your key titles, given the huge amount of press the awards typically generate, particularly in the Latino press. And for retailers, it's a great way to meet and network with the suppliers of Latino product. Click here for more information.

If you haven't yet entered the contest, the deadline is March 27, so get on it! And if you haven't registered, you have until April 20 to get the discounted rate, which this year is just $150 for a fabulous dinner and ticket to the awards. I suggest you register early, though, because despite the down economy we are predicting a sellout!


22 Mar, 2009

Before You Start Your Week...

Greetings — I hope you all had an enjoyable weekend and I truly feel honored that you are starting your work week right here, with my blog! Some big news came in, over the weekend: Summit Entertainment's Twilight sold a whopping 3 million DVDs its first day in stores this past Saturday. Home Media Magazine reporters were on the scene; click here to read their report. Also, Warner Home Video announced big plans to manufacture, on demand, titles from its 6,800-film vault that aren't currently available on DVD. Only about 1,200 titles from the Warner library are out on DVD at this point, and while the studio will continue to debut new catalog titles on DVD — based largely on how well these same films fared on VHS, which over the course of 20-plus years saw the release of about 4,100 films — many more titles will become available in this fashion, beginning with an initial wave of 150 titles that will grow to 350 titles by Christmas. Check out the Home Media Magazine Web site for the full story; for the consumer version, please see my story in today's USA Today by clicking here. Lastly, a cherished friend, Bruce Apar, former editor in chief of Video Business, wrote a particularly poignant tribute to his late son, Harrison, in the community paper he now runs in Connecticut. To all of you who knew Bruce back in the proverbial day: please read this (click here). It's one of the most touching essays I've ever read, and one of the finest pieces of writing, as well. I still remember Harrison and Bruce on the bus to the Super Bowl in 1999, I think it was — Bruce was telling his son to sit by him, while Harrison plopped himself down right next to me and said, "I'm going to sit with T.K." A truly spectacular kid, this Harrison Apar.


20 Mar, 2009

The Highs and the Lows

I just finished writing an article for Home Media Magazine and The Hollywood Reporter about Sony Pictures Home Entertainment's elegant new Norman Lear Collection, a big TV DVD salute honoring the groundbreaking TV producer that's coming to stores June 9, just in time for Father's Day. The 19-disc set contains complete first-season sets of seven groundbreaking TV shows Lear created, including All in the Family, Sanford and Son and The Jeffersons, plus two discs containing more than six hours of bonus materials, including all-new interviews, documentaries and featurettes. It strikes me as ironic that these high-end gift sets appear to be weathering the recession quite well. While new release DVD spending is down about 13% and total disc spending is down 8%, according to Home Media Magazine market research, studios continue to get inventive and rely on fan power to sell special collections like this one and, of course, Warner's wonderful new Woodstock Ultimate Collectors Edition. Check out my story.