Laserdisc biz begs studios for special considerations

Strategies to keep laserdisc competitive against CD-I and CD-ROM are a topic of concern for video retailers and disc providers, who want the studios continue to support the format with special editions and director’s cut versions. Simply marketing the theatrical version on laserdisc, they say, may not be enough.

‘Supportive’

“The studios have been real supportive of the format,” said David Wallace, marketing manager for Pioneer LDCA, whose company recently renewed its exclusive five-year distribution pact with Paramount Pictures.

“But in order for the industry to grow beyond the existing customer base, (the studios) need to give us more special versions to keep the consumers from being distracted by the new technologies.”

Wallace notes that unlike laserdisc, CD-I cannot be encoded with Dolby technology, making THX and SurroundSound unavailable to the format. Both sound configurations sweeten the pot for consumers and factor heavily into the development of home theaters.

Laserdisc has also taken a hit from retailers, who have taken a wait-and-see attitude toward the new configurations.

“We were going to add more laser titles to our stores, but with the new CD formats, and not knowing which ones the customers will want, we’re holding off,” said Mark Chestin, owner of five homevideo stores in the Northeast.

“I still think laser is the better quality, but the press has (written) so much into the CD-based formats that my customers are asking for them and not laserdisc.”

Erik Kirby, sales manager for U.S. Laser, would like to see the hardware manufacturers spend more money to promote the format, giving laserdisc as high a profile as the interactive formats are getting.

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