Thomas K. Arnold is considered one of the leading home entertainment journalists in the country. He is publisher and editorial director of Home Media Magazine, the home entertainment industry’s weekly trade publication. He also is home entertainment editor for The Hollywood Reporter and frequently writes about home entertainment and theatrical for USA Today. He has talked about home entertainment issues on CNN’s “Showbiz Tonight,” “Entertainment Tonight,” Starz, The Hollywood Reporter and the G4 network’s “Attack of the Show,” where he has been a frequent guest. Arnold also is the executive producer of The Home Entertainment Summit, a key annual gathering of studio executives and other industry leaders, and has given speeches and presentations at a variety of other events, including Home Media Expo and the Entertainment Supply Chain Academy.
Our weekly chart story will be filed later this afternoon, but I wanted to give you a preview of what's happening out there. Two big new releases, the James Bond flick Quantum of Solace and the Disney hit Bolt, are the hot newcomers, but expect a serious challenge for supremacy on the Nielsen VideoScan First Alert sales chart by Summit Entertainment's Twilight, which was released on Saturday, March 21, and promptly snagged the top spot on the subsequent week's sales chart based solely on its first-day sales tally of 3 million units. Stay tuned....
USA Today is running my story tomorrow about the growing practice among studios to bundle different formats of discs together--DVDs with Blu-ray Disc to ease the transition to the new high-definition format; digital copies with special-edition DVDs and Blu-ray Discs to beat downloading at its own game. See the complete story here.
Just got off the phone with Steve Nickerson, president of Summit Home Entertainment, who told me that as of this morning Twilight had sold through to consumers 5.6 million units. That's after a whopping 3 million sold its first day of release, Saturday, March 21. The new total makes Twilight the year's top-selling DVD, displacing Paramount'DreamWorks' Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, which since its February 6 release has sold an estimated 5.3 million units, according to Home Media Magazine's market research department. Watch our Web site for the full story.
Studio executives, some publicly but most privately, are expressing concern over dollar DVD rentals at Redbox and other kiosks, saying the practice devalues the product. Craig Kornblau, president of Universal Studios Home Entertainment, has launched the most visible protest, refusing to sell Redbox his product until 45 days after release. One could argue, however, that dollar rentals are no worse than those omnipresent $5 dump bins at Wal-Mart, which increasingly are filled with fairly current hit product, sometimes less than a year old, rather than the public domain stuff one used to find there. Personally, I think we're facing a much bigger perception problem with the public, brought on by the advent of digital downloading, which inevitably leads to file-swapping. People no longer place much value on any form of home entertainment--not when they can swap songs in a matter of seconds or get an evening's worth of free entertainment on YouTube, watching vintage music videos or what-have-you. This revelation certainly isn't news to the music industry, which for years has seen its profits wither as a $15 CD business quickly evolved into one driven by 99-cent downloads. This perception problem also has a lot to do with the fact that digital entertainment really is vaporware--there's nothing to hold in your hands, look at and file away in a collection. To paraphrase Gertrude Stein, there's no there there.
That's why the key to packaged media's survival is to play up the value proposition by focusing on its two key strengths: 1) It won't die when your computer crashes--if properly handled it will last as long as you do, if not longer; and 2) It's physical, something you can own and treasure, like a favorite book. To shore up the latter, we need to see studio marketers do more to enhance the value of packaged media and offer consumers more than just the movie. They can spruce up the packaging, like Warner does with its Blu-ray "books" or Universal Studios does with its Legacy Series (personal note: I collect all these, even if I don't particularly case for the movie!), and they can also add physical value, as Warner does with its Ultimate Collectors Editions (as I write, I am already salivating for Woodstock). I'm not one of those who believes packaged media is doomed. We just have to differentiate it more.
I hope you saw my story in this morning's USA Today on new DVD collections of "pre-code" movies (click here to see it). Back in 1934, Hollywood passed a restrictive "Production Code" that banned such cinematic naughtiness as "lustful kissing" and other salacious behavior that's now the norm in Hollywood movies. The code fell apart with the introduction of the ratings system in the late 1960s, but for more than 30 years Hollywood's attempts to legislate morality, at least as portrayed on screen, were most successful, with Code provisions faithfully adhered to by filmmakers fearful of boycotts, legal action or blacklisting. Savvy marketers at Warner and Universal have assembled collections of films produced on the eve of the Code's introduction, an interesting concept that goes beyond the traditional star- or director-powered collections. This is the kind of stuff we need to see more of; catalog sales are down significantly and we need to rekindle public interest in old movies. Packaging them in attractive boxed sets with intriguing themes is certainly an answer.
Smart move by Blockbuster, this teaming with TiVo to deliver movies online (see the Home Media Magazine story here). The chain's top man, Jim Keyes, has long said his ultimate goal is to turn Blockbuster from a rental giant into a one-stop source for anyone who wants to bring entertainment into the home, in whatever fashion: renting a DVD, buying a DVD, renting a Blu-ray Disc, buying a Blu-ray Disc, and even getting a movie digitally delivered. Now he's given this "fifth promise" a tremendous boost, by partnering with TiVo to allow it to deliver Blockbuster's 10,000-title digital movie library online to TiVo digital video recorders that are attached to TVs. "Ultimately, our vision is to work with TiVo so that their subscribers can access movies not only through our OnDemand service but also from our stores and through our by-mail services as well," Keyes said in a statement. As our senior editor, Erik Gruenwedel, correctly asserts in his story, "The shift by [Blockbuster] to integrate Blockbuster OnDemand (formerly Movielink) into TiVo DVRs would appear to be an attempt to usurp the digital rental market currently controlled by Netflix." But it's more than that--it's a fulfillment of Keyes' big picture vision for the chain, and one that, if successful, could extend the trouble rental chain's lease on life.
I'm working on my weekly chart story as we speak, but I wanted to give readers of my blog a sneak peak of sales and rental activity for the week that ended Sunday. It took Summit Home Entertainment's Twilight just one day to sell enough copies to debut at No. 1 on the Nielsen VideoScan First Alert sales chart. According to the studio, that's 3 million units, snapped up by voracious consumers on Saturday alone. Twilight also was the week's top Blu-ray Disc seller, but the film didn't quite make it to the top on Home Media Magazine's video rental chart for the week. That honor went to Role Model. Check our Web site for the full story, which I expect will be posted by tonight.
I just wanted to issue a friendly reminder that Home Media Magazine is presenting the Fifth Annual Latino DVD Awards on Tuesday, April 28, at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, Calif.
This annual event began as a conference, but with the economy the way it is, we decided to trim back, significantly cut registration costs and focus on one of the highlights of each year's confab: the awards. I think everyone who reads this is aware of how powerful the Latino consumer is, and that Hollywood marketers — and marketers everywhere, for that matter — for years have been eager to tap into this fast-growing demographic. For suppliers, participating in this event is a great way to publicize your key titles, given the huge amount of press the awards typically generate, particularly in the Latino press. And for retailers, it's a great way to meet and network with the suppliers of Latino product. Click here for more information.
If you haven't yet entered the contest, the deadline is March 27, so get on it! And if you haven't registered, you have until April 20 to get the discounted rate, which this year is just $150 for a fabulous dinner and ticket to the awards. I suggest you register early, though, because despite the down economy we are predicting a sellout!