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Expo: Different Shades of Blu

26 Jun, 2008 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Against a backdrop that underscored Blu-ray Disc as the future of packaged media, the Entertainment Merchants Association's Home Media Expo 2008 showcased both the challenges and the opportunities of the industry today.

Flat and declining DVD revenue this year apparently resulted in a downsized show where attendees appeared more focused on business, networking and breakout sessions than general assemblies.

The opening session and awards presentation saw declining attendance despite the presence of a keynote panel representing content, hardware and retail senior executives that Bo Andersen, CEO of the EMA, called one of the best show openers ever.

Panel moderator Thomas K. Arnold, publisher and editorial director of Home Media Magazine, said consumer adoption of Blu-ray exceeded that of standard DVD during its early days 11 years ago and that it was “only a matter of time” before a complete transition occurs.

“I think it is going to be huge,” said panelist Mike Dunn, president of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. “The momentum is there; you see it in the first couple quarters of the year. Every title is selling double what the last [Blu-ray] title did.”

Unfortunately, more attendees couldn't share in that enthusiasm; a situation Andersen blamed on scheduling.

“Too many people scheduled dinners and events that conflicted,” he said of the half-full Pearl Theatre. “Scheduling will be an important factor going forward.”

Andersen praised the Palms Hotel and Casino for creating an intimate show setting that he said resulted in a cohesive atmosphere with studio and distributor suites that were “new” and “intriguing.”

“Felt like we owned the place,” he said.

Special presentations from Allumination FilmWorks, Summit Entertainment, 20th Century Fox and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on digital distribution and BD Live, among other topics, coupled with one-on-one talent talks, distributor panels, and iDEA's Town Hall Meeting, drew packed sessions.

“I thought the program was terrific,” Andersen said.

First time attendee and visitor to Las Vegas Michael Ream, with VideoXpress in Hampshire, Ill., said he and his wife “learned a lot” from the iDEA activities, including the ability to network with other small retailers from his state.

“It's really different,” Ream said of the show's digital focus. “We don't have as much interest in that yet.”

Pat Mootz, owner of Video Stop in Silver City, N.M., said his 20th visit to the show was a “little disappointing,” considering the event's smaller scale.

Mootz, who said his business is struggling for the first time due to the economy, kiosks, downloading and increased competition for his customers' discretionary spending, said the show continued to be worthwhile because of the networking and parties.

“It's been fantastic,” said veteran showgoer Tony Vandeveerdonk, VP, sales and operations, at Well Go USA.

“We've had steady meetings,” added Chrissy Walker, Well Go's marketing director, who is at the show for the first time.

Well Go met with such top buyers at Netflix, Kmart and Sears.

But they, along with Danny Grant, VP and GM, VAS Entertainment, were less happy with the venue. Grant said it took him 12 minutes on the elevator to get to a meeting with Sony.

Many attendees did not hold back criticizing the logistical problems that arose staying at the Rio across the street, dealing with a hard-to-find shuttle and elevator lines.

“What an ordeal,” said Kirk Kirkpatrick, VP of marketing for the Owensboro, Ky.-based distributor WaxWorks, who was late to a meeting.

At 6'7”, Gord Lacey with TV Shows on DVD.com usually doesn't have trouble finding his way around. Finding the shuttle, however, proved elusive.

“What a pain,” he said.

Ralph Tribbey, veteran publisher of The DVD Release Report, an industry tip sheet, predicted the EMA had held its last show in Sin City.

He said the EMA should “retool” the show, including elimination of the awards show.

“They're not giving attendees much a reason to come here,” Tribbey said.

He suggested the show relocate to San Diego, which just happens to be near his home.

Andersen wouldn't comment, but he did concede changes were likely. “It reflected the industry getting mature and not yet bursting out again,” he said. “We trust it will.”

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