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An Answer to Shrinking Shelf Space

28 Sep, 2012 By: Stephanie Prange

George Feltenstein, the veteran video executive and knowledgeable TV and film buff who spearheads the Warner Archive Collection, the studio’s manufacture-on-demand (MOD) arm, calls it a “boutique” operation. But he has some big ideas about how it can help studios adapt to the ever-changing disc business.

Shelf space has been shrinking with the demise of Borders and Circuit City and with the dropping store count at Best Buy, among other brick-and-mortar retail woes. Enter MOD.

The process allows consumers to order the titles they want — many of them, but not all, appealing to a very limited audience — and have them manufactured and delivered a la carte. The process eliminates many of the problems catalog titles face, notably the difficulty of getting noticed or even placed on the shelf among all the blockbusters at big-box retailers and the stigma of unwanted returns to the studio. As Feltenstein puts it, it’s simply a more efficient distribution plan for many catalog titles.

While there are headwinds to overcome, including the cost of music rights for television series, Feltenstein sees a bright future for MOD. It’s a win-win for fans and the studio. “I am an advocate for the fan, but with responsibility to the studio’s bottom line,” he said, noting he connects with fans via social media such as Facebook polls to gauge title demand.

It’s a win in another way as well, as MOD helps preserve studio history that might have been lost. TV veterans, including Patrick Duffy (“The Man From Atlantis”), Ron Ely (“Tarzan”) and Clint Walker (“Cheyenne”), recently appeared at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills, Calif., to tout the series coming out on Warner MOD. Duffy talked about holding his breath without blowing bubbles, Ely about wrestling tigers and lions (really!), and Walker about sinking in freezing faux quicksand to get a shot. These actors reflect a history of Hollywood, and their efforts should be preserved.

Feltenstein recalls a studio memo about a collection of catalog titles years ago: “These films are worthless. We don’t care if they get destroyed.” MOD is testament to the fact that value is in the eye of the beholder.

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About the Author: Stephanie Prange

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