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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Disney and Target Reach DVD Truce ... Downloadable DVD Commentary ... Ballantyne Goes Digital ... `For Your Consideration'

- Great article in the LA Times about the wrangling between Target and Disney over the question of whether Target deserves the same wholesale prices for DVDs as Disney gives to Apple for digital downloads. IE, if Disney is selling Target the DVD of 'Pirates 2,' should that price be equal to what Apple pays Disney when it sells an iTunes download of the same movie? Joseph Menn writes:

    Target made Disney testy in September, when it fired off a letter demanding the same low wholesale prices on DVDs that Apple Computer Inc. is paying Disney to offer movie downloads over iTunes. At the time, Target threatened to cut back on its efforts to sell Disney's DVDs.

    Disney countered that DVD buyers get something different from what iTunes customers get: an actual disc packed with commentary, deleted scenes, trailers and other extras. Disney charges conventional retailers about $16 for new DVD releases, between $1 and $2 more than Apple pays.

What's interesting is that even if Apple pays only $14 or $15, it often sells new releases for $12.99 during the first week they're out, losing money on every sale. (I've written about that digital loss-leader phenomenon in Variety.)

- The Wall Street Journal writes about a new wrinkle in DVD commentaries: fan-created commentary posted on the Web, designed to be listened to along with a particular movie. John Jurgensen writes:

    One new site is turning the genre into a business. Called RiffTrax, it's the creation of Michael J. Nelson, a comedy writer best-known for his role in "Mystery Science Theater 3000," a 1990s TV show that became a cult hit in its 11-year run on cable...

    The medium of the podcast has allowed Mr. Nelson to aim at a different target in his new commentaries -- recent blockbusters, such as "The Matrix," "The Grudge" and "X-Men." While the TV show tackled only movies it could afford the rights to, Mr. Nelson, who launched RiffTrax in July, avoids copyright issues by selling his audio downloads separately. Users pay $2.99 to download a commentary and play it on a computer or MP3 player while watching a movie they've rented or bought themselves.

- Interesting take on Ballantyne of Omaha, the Nebraska-based projector manufacturer that's now trying to move into digital cinema through a partnership with NEC. The big question: can a company that doesn't have its own technology expertise (Ballantyne is dependent on NEC, and NEC in turn on Texas Instruments and their DLP chip) profit from the digital cinema transition, based on strong customer relationships alone? I'm not so sure.

- GreenCine has a cool video interview with Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy, on their new movie 'For Your Consideration.' (I saw it Friday night, and really enjoyed it. It seemed on the first viewing not as funny or well-structured as 'Best in Show' or 'A Mighty Wind,' but those movies got more funny with repeated viewings -- and perhaps this one will, too. The main problem is that, while the movie is about the Oscars, we never actually get to the Oscars.)


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