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Studio Heralds <I>Lion King</I> DVD Debut

29 Sep, 2003 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Buena Vista Home Entertainment's special edition DVD release of The Lion King, scheduled to street Oct. 7, has some big paws to fill at retail.

The 1994 animated Walt Disney juggernaut -- which won six Tony Awards (as a Broadway musical), three Golden Globes, two Academy Awards, and one Grammy -- took in $312.9 million at the box office and an additional $15.7 million in revenue from a theatrical re-release Christmas Day 2002.

The 1995 VHS edition of The Lion King sold more than 25 million units, making it the top-selling video of all time. It generated an impressive 78.5 percent return-on-investment for retailers and averaged 10.1 turns as a rental after 117 days of release, according to Video Store Magazine market research.

How does Buena Vista plan to market the $29.99 double-disc release (VHS $24.99) to rekindle excitement for the DVD debut?

With a 16-page press release, for starters. And a $150 million marketing strategy that incorporates the usual suspects, including a national media campaign, brand promotions with Kellogg's, Keebler, Dodge, Hasbro and Pioneer, among others, and synergistic Disney tie-ins with its amusement parks, resorts, TV, cable, radio and music properties.

A red carpet screening is scheduled for Oct. 3 at the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles.

“We try to top [previous Lion King product] by releasing it as the most amazing DVD that we have ever produced,” said Lori MacPherson, Buena Vista's VP of brand marketing.

In addition to the original theatrical version, the DVD offers a digitally remastered second edition with reanimated sequences and a new song, “Morning Report,” by Elton John and Tim Rice. The disc is also available for the first time in a proprietary 5.1 surround sound mix that MacPherson said complements the confines of a typical family living room.

The DVD also features deleted scenes, 3-D animation with menu options, games, music videos, behind-the-scenes footage, interviews and international editions.

“There are so many households with DVD players, and none of them have The Lion King on DVD,” she said.

That's true for grocery shoppers, too.

Beginning last week and continuing through Oct. 18, national grocery chain Kroger is offering consumers in Ohio and Michigan the opportunity to accumulate points on purchases of select products for up to $19.99 off the purchase of The Lion King DVD.

“We're getting huge support from all our retailers,” MacPherson said.

Can it beat Spider-Man, the top-selling DVD release with 12 million units?

“We have to let consumers decide, but that would be great,” MacPherson said. “We certainly hope it will be the biggest-selling DVD of all time.”

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