Retailers can be at the forefront of emerging technologies and not among the victims, according to Byron Wagner, chairman of Genius Inc., a technology development and marketing company.

Wagner spoke at Monday’s opening session of the 12th annual Video Software Dealers Assn. confab, which runs through Wednesday.

Wagner said the marketplace will set the demand for the 500-channel superhighway, video-on-demand and interactive technologies and that the homevid retailer is in “the single best possible position to bring people into the new technologies. You are not in the video sale and rental business, you are in the delivery of home entertainment business. The marketplace will vindicate the technology. But if you sit back and do nothing, you will become a dinosaur.”

Wagner said retailers should use what they already know about customers to promote interactive. The local level, Wagner said, can make or break a particular format. He cited the demise of Beta as an example of marketing over technology.

Comedian Steve Martin, the convention celebrity chairman, opened the session and was presented an award for his contribution to the VSDA. His “Father of the Bride” was the No. 1 video rental of 1992. VSDA president Brad Burnside told the comedian his films have been repsonsible for over 220 million rental transactions.

Retired Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf rallied the troops with his trademark motivational speech on leadership, earning standing ovations at the beginning and end.

Keith Schaefer, president of Paramount Interactive, described the the new formats as “the intersection of the entertainment and interactive industries.”

He stressed the role interactive played in the development of the films “Coneheads” and “Addams Family Values.”

Both films were previsualized on an interactive format, allowing for lighting and set design changes and construction with minimum expense.

Schaefer also noted that “every major talent in Hollywood has been knocking on our door” to get into the technology on the ground level.

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