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Friday, April 20, 2007

Direct to DVD Releases Getting Some Respect ... Squabbles Over 3-D Release Dates

- The Wall Street Journal has a good piece about studios planning more direct-to-DVD releases, relying on solid tie-ins to other movies and clever marketing. Merissa Marr writes:

    Direct-to-DVD has shaken off much of the stigma of its early days. Once considered a dumping ground for movies that weren't good enough for theatrical release, it is becoming a place that top-flight filmmakers are considering taking their projects. With studios curtailing the number of feature films they are releasing, direct-to-DVD is a low-risk way to extend franchises and increase profit.

    "It's not the biggest part of the market, but it's the most important slice of home entertainment today due to the enormous growth potential for each studio," says Amir Malin, a managing principal at the media investment fund Qualia Capital, who oversaw such early DVD hits as "Barbie" in his previous role as a studio executive.

    Still, it's a crowded market -- the number of direct-to-DVD titles has grown from around 430 in 2004 to about 630 last year, according to Adams Media Research. One of the keys is clever marketing. With that in mind, Warner brought in marketing expert Diane Nelson to run Warner Premiere. Ms. Nelson came from global brand management, where she was responsible for the studio's big-budget "Harry Potter" franchise, among other things.

One interesting idea mentioned is Warner Bros. plan to do a direct-to-DVD release called 'Get Smarter' that will come out 10 days after 'Get Smart,' starring Steve Carell, is released to theaters.

- DreamWorks and Fox are already sparring over Memorial Day 2009: each studio wants to release a 3-D movie that weekend. Fox's is James Cameron's 'Avatar'; DreamWorks' is the animated 'Monsters vs. Aliens.' The LA Times writes:

    The nation's largest exhibitors...say they won't have room for both. As many as 5,000 screens are expected to be equipped to show 3-D movies by 2009, up from 700 today. But DreamWorks and Fox each want all of them. DreamWorks Animation Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, who has been campaigning to get theater operators to accelerate the conversion to 3-D, has told people that he needs 6,000 screens for "Monsters vs. Aliens."

    "I would not want to be put in the position of choosing one over the other," said Mike Campbell, CEO of Regal Entertainment Group, the nation's largest theater chain. "I want both — just not on the same day."

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