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DVD International to Promote Title With Web Streaming

13 Apr, 2001 By: Seth Goldstein

Taking a cue from the book industry, DVD International is trying to hype its upcoming interactive movie Point of View by letting consumers stream fourchapters over the Internet.

Point of View, which cost $1.2 million to make, reaches stores April 17at a suggested retail price of $29.99.

The four-chapter sample is free and can be viewed at a dedicated Web site, www.povthemovie.com. Consumers who order the film through the Web site can get a discount of as much as 20%.

The film was produced by DVD International and Digital Circus. The two companies are also shopping a project called Five Minutes With a Stranger, based on a British novel once optioned by Alfred Hitchcock. The $30 million budget likely will require studio participation, which means Goodman would befighting uphill to get DVD rights. However, he would stand to get a piece ofthe action and Hollywood recognition.

"I'm hoping they'll fit in. We can all go to the big league together," says Digital Circus co-founder David Wheeler. Digital Circus has already enjoyed some big league success. The company, according to Wheeler, has sold"more than $100 million" worth of two computer games, The Seventh Guest andThe Eleventh Hour, and a CD-ROM version of Tender Loving Care, a previous DVD International interactive disc.

Point of View is Wheeler's second project with Goodman, but the first toutilize streaming as a promotional vehicle, much as book publishers have donewith recent novels by such best-selling authors as Stephen King.

"I believe this is a world first," Wheeler says. "If someone else has done it, I'm not aware of it." A Canadian "streaming facilitator," Insinc, is launching the www.povthemovie.com Web site. Insinc gets a 5% cut ofDVD International's wholesale price of $18, according to Wheeler. He and partner Rob Landeros receive 35%.

Wheeler thinks three months of Web exposure should attract at least 250,000 of the 5 million PC households with broadband connections in the United States and Canada. They're able to watch about an hour's worth ofprogramming, including the alternate endings to each chapter, in MPEG-1. It'sthe basic compression formula, but Wheeler says the quality is high, midwaybetween VHS and DVD. MPEG-2 is used for discs.

Running time can be a problem, Wheeler says, because Web audiencesgenerally have only a five- to 10-minute attention span. He counts on interactivity holding their interest -- and, because most of these broadband early adopters also have DVD players, they're likely to buy the disc as well.

DVD International can use the help. Although sales are up a third over last year, Goodman attributes some of the gain simply to a bigger catalog.Gaining and holding shelf space "gets more difficult every day, which meanselectronic commerce is more and more important," he says.

When it comes to unconventional titles like Point of View, "consumersdon't understand what I'm putting out," he says. Nor do they know where to look for it -- with retailers, unsure of where to display an interactive title, lumping it with movies dominated by Hollywood offerings. "Once I'm on the DVD player, I'm home free," Goodman maintains. Point of View, he notes, offers a choice of three conclusions "and hundreds of different ways" to reach them.

DVD International, which expects to have the movie promoted on brick-and-mortar retailers' Web sites, has 5,000 copies ready to ship, inline with past sales of 8,000 to 15,000 units. Goodman, though, is expecting a lot more.

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