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Home Entertainment's Human Touch Alive and Well in New Orleans

14 Jul, 2011 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Thomas K. Arnold (second from left) with Entertainment One's Griffin Gmelich, Michael Rosenberg and Wally Schmidt.

NEW ORLEANS — It’s the middle of July, the daytime heat is unbearably hot, the nighttime streets are awash with neon and crawling revelers, and everywhere I look people are talking about DVD and the home entertainment industry.

No, I haven’t time-warped back to the glory days of the annual VSDA convention in Las Vegas. I’m in that other party town, New Orleans, attending the annual sales conference of Entertainment One, a potent player in home entertainment — and one whose executives still believe, very strongly, in packaged media.

Entertainment One’s primary business, after all, is in music, and the music side of the company’s business is holding up quite well. Indeed: Entertainment One Music, as it’s officially known, has since its inception as Koch Records charted more than 100 albums on Billboard’s Independent Chart, more than all other U.S. indies, and was the No. 1 indie label, according to Billboard, for four years running.

On the home entertainment side, Entertainment One deals with the same big retail accounts as the studios, from Walmart to Netflix, and in recent years has hired several ex-studio big guns — including Griffin Gmelich (ex-Warner Home Video executive) as VP of video sales and Jeff Chapman (formerly with New Line) as regional sales manager, video — to pitch its DVDs and Blu-ray Discs.

In addition to maintaining its own home video label, Entertainment One distributes product for more than 70 affiliated labels, including Cinevision, Disinformation, Palisades Tartan and S’More Entertainment, the latter run by former Rhino honcho Arnie Schorr.

The grand get-together in New Orleans — all told, there are about 200 people here, mostly Entertainment One employees but also a few retailers, such as Lisa Nishimura of Netflix and Jeff Wyrick of Hastings, as well as distributors VPD and Ingram — is meant to reflect on the past year, look forward to the future and network in the present. About 50 labels are here presenting during the course of four days; at night there are gala networking dinners and parties, including tonight’s concert, featuring various Entertainment One Music artists, at the House of Blues, followed by “Elvira’s Movie Macabre” at The Dungeon.

If the business is hurting, as the quarterly studio numbers suggest, you wouldn’t know it here. The mood is decidedly upbeat, and while most of the product being discussed here is niche — from Tribeca Film Festival favorites to eclectic documentaries, concert films and TV shows — it’s clear there’s still a market for DVDs and Blu-ray Discs beyond the big-budget fare put out by the Hollywood studios.

Touching on a recent column I wrote in which I decried the fact that our industry, by and large, has lost its “human touch” — well, I’m happy to report there’s still quite a bit of it here this week in New Orleans.

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About the Author: Thomas K. Arnold

Thomas K. Arnold

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