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Non-Traditional Street Dates a Burden, iDEA Board Chairman Says

23 Dec, 2008 By: Chris Tribbey

A non-traditional street date to close the year is nothing new in home entertainment, but some retailers say this year is especially hectic, with most every studio shunning Tuesdays for a title or two, instead choosing a Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

“The studios are trying to increase sales in the fourth quarter, just like the rest of us are, but the drastic street date changes are a real burden,” said Alan Millican, chairman of the board of trustees of iDEA, a division of the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) that focuses on independent retailers. “We’re creatures of habit, and our staffs has been doing things the same way week in and week out for 10 years. The changing street dates lead to errors.”

Whether it was due to error or not, many independents were at a serious disadvantage last week when Wal-Mart and other big box retailers broke the street date for Anchor Bay Entertainment’s Traitor, offering it Tuesday, Dec. 16 — three days ahead of its scheduled Friday release. Todd Zaganiacz, president of the National Entertainment Buying Group, a coalition of 300 video rentailers, said the DVDs he ordered from Rentrak were still in transit, leaving smaller rental outlets especially high and dry. And he said retailers with discs in hand are bound to break the non-traditional street dates again before the year ends.

“These haphazard street dates are a free-for-all,” he said. “The studios are solely focused on sellthrough, and they want to get those last few dollars before the year ends. And the new street dates get worse every year.”

In a statement, Anchor Bay president Bill Clark said his retail partners were aware of the correct street date for Traitor.

“We took the precautions as we do with each of our releases and the boxes are clearly marked with the Friday, Dec. 19 street date,” he said.

Kung Fu Panda kicked off the non-Tuesday releases Sunday, Nov. 9, in one day managing to sell 90% of what Get Smart sold during the entire week. In December, with Tuesdays right before both holidays, others have followed suit: Warner Home Video (New Line’s The Women), Universal Studios Home Entertainment (Beethoven’s Big Break, Death Race and Burn After Reading), Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (The House Bunny, Resident Evil: Degeneration and Baghead), Paramount Home Entertainment (The Duchess, Ghost Town and Eagle Eye) and Anchor Bay have all tapped a Friday, Saturday or Sunday for a new release.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Melissa O’Brien said a non-Tuesday street date is likely only meant to give consumers more time to shop before Christmas.

“It doesn't happen that often, but thus far when it has for music and movies, it usually is to the customer's benefit, such as more time to purchase the item before a holiday,” she said. “It also may be in combination with an event date that makes more sense promotionally, such as a tour.”

She pointed to the CD release of the recent AC/DC album on Monday instead of the normal Tuesday, to coincide with the worldwide release.

“These occurrences aren't just related to the Christmas season,” O’Brien said

Yet iDEA’s Millican feared the Traitor lapse was a sign of things to come.

“Release date chaos cannot be a good thing for studios, distributors, retailers or our best customers, and is particularly threatening to independent video retailers, who are often the last class of retail to receive product,” he said.

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