Homilies to homevid at confab

Video retailers encouraged to take risks

LAS VEGAS — Days after moving his base of operations to Universal from Paramount, Mandalay Entertainment chairman Peter Guber encouraged approximately 600 video retailers and other attendees at the Video Software Dealers convention to “embrace uncertainty” and “be a challenge to your own incumbency.”

As the keynote speaker at the opening business session of the three-day convention Tuesday morning, Guber encouraged the audience to take risks.

“Land is a mystery to a fish until it’s too late. Don’t be the one that lands on the barbecue,” Guber said, in one of many pithy bon mots.

He concluded by saying, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail? My advice to you is to do it.”

In a nod to his audience, Guber recalled that he sought to embrace the homevideo revolution in the late 1970s while an executive at Columbia Pictures, at a time when it was still “anathema” to many in Hollywood.

“Video was really an element that propelled my career,” he said.

Standup sesh

The intimate setting of the 1,500-seat Samba Theater brought a spark of energy to Tuesday’s opening business session, as 600 attendees were treated to a brief but funny performance by George Carlin, winner of VSDA’s first Free Speech Award, then stood and roared for Action Star of the Millennium Sylvester Stallone.

VSDA president Bo Andersen pronounced the state of the video industry “remarkable,” and said he saw himself as the envy of other trade association executives.

“In these days of WorldCom and Enron, how many other trade association CEOs can say they represent a $19 billion industry that will certainly reach $20 billion and is still introducing new formats?” Andersen said, referring to DVD.

More DVDs were rented in the first quarter of 2002, Andersen noted, than in all of 2000.

“DVD has reached the mainstream,” he said.

One dark cloud threatening the industry, Andersen said, is the possibility of legislative changes in Washington that could undermine the operation of the First Sale Doctrine in the digital environment.

“Make no mistake, the legal rights on which our industry was founded are under attack,” Andersen said. “VSDA stands alone in protecting those rights and we do not shrink from the responsibility.”

He also warned of continuing legal challenges to the content of movies and games rented by retailers.

He assailed a ruling by a federal judge in St. Louis that upheld a law banning the rental of games depicting high levels of violence.

Andersen also made a point of thanking the studios for their support of the convention and the industry, a sometimes unpopular view among rank and file VSDA members.

“A year ago I took a roasting for using the term, ‘our studio partners,’ but I will continue to use it,” Andersen said.

Actress Selma Blair was named VSDA’s Rising Star of the Year.

Though pronouncing herself “honored” by the award, Blair chided retailers for displaying copies of one of her early films, “Brown’s Requiem,” in which her head is depicted on the box cover atop another actress’s “more voluptuous” body.

“That’s one I think could come off the shelves,” Blair said.

(Paul Sweeting is a reporter for Variety sister publication Video Business.)

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