DVD to have interactive features, interviews, deleted scenes

Having finally been handed a movie that can fly in the same stratosphere as the top-selling videos of all time, Warner Home Video is conjuring all its magic marketing spells — and digging deep into the studio pocketbook.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” will launch on video May 28 with a $25 million marketing campaign — WHV’s most lavish by far.

The Warners vid arm spent the past two weeks directing retailers, distributors and media to its recently redesigned business-to-business Web site, www.whvdirect.com, for the announcement that began with a video of “Potter” producer David Heyman from the set of the second film in the series, “The Chamber of Secrets.”

“We believe we can make this the biggest video release ever,” he said of last year’s top-grossing film ($294 million in 2001 alone).

The videocassette ($24.99 SRP) will feature five minutes of extra footage, and the two-disc DVD ($26.99) will offer hours of extra material. Among the deleted scenes is one in which the young wizards and witches have trouble with a spell that causes one of their classmates’ legs to lock together.

The pricing of “Potter” is higher than most Warner titles, but not as high as that of some other studios; Disney animated films, for instance, usually run $26.99 for VHS and $29.99 for DVDs. It’s not unusual for double-disc DVD special editions to run as high as $39.99.

“Our pricing is in line with the industry norm and with what consumers and retailers expect of a title of this magnitude,” Mike Saksa, VP of U.S. marketing, said.

Warner Bros. has never had the kind of blockbuster that generates sales in the range of 15 million-20 million units like Fox’s “Phantom Menace,” Paramount’s “Titanic” or Universal’s “Jurassic Park.” And it has certainly never had the kind of family title that can exceed 20 million copies like DreamWorks’ “Shrek” or any of several Disney animated hits.

In fact, Warner has had only one title that exceeded the 10 million mark, “Batman,” more than a decade ago. Its biggest hits in recent years, such as “Pokemon: The First Movie,” “The Perfect Storm,” “Miss Congeniality” and the DVD of “The Matrix,” have each sold in the 5 million unit range.

Saksa said research shows the purchase interest by nonparents is almost equal to that of parents.

WHV says its marketing campaign will reach 95% of kids 6-11 more than 15 times each. Studio will run ads for the DVD and VHS on five of the six major broadcast networks (excluding UPN), and cable channels including Cartoon Network, MTV, Nickelodeon, USA, ABC Family and E! from May 16 to June 16.

WHV took the cloak off its video plans for “Harry Potter” in an online media announcement Tuesday morning.

After a promotional clip for “Sorcerer’s Stone,” Web users were directed to a live chat with Warner sales and marketing execs, where it was revealed that the movie will have a typical 45-day pay-per-view window, and the DVD will have no audio commentary track.

Included among the numerous extra features on the DVD will be a barrage of interactive features such as a 360-degree self-guided tour of Hogwarts (including Gryffindor common room), the Great Hall, Harry’s room and Hagrid’s hut, all of which can be controlled by the viewer’s remote. The DVD also includes never-before-seen footage; interviews with Heyman and director Chris Columbus; a montage of quidditch matches and a guide on playing the game; and an introduction to the ghosts of Hogwarts.

As part of its two-picture worldwide deal on the theatrical and video of the first two films, WHV will partner with Coca-Cola on a promotional campaign from May 1 to June 30 that is still being worked out.

(Jennifer Netherby is a reporter for Daily Variety sister publication Video Business.)

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