BMW series, Austin Powers successes dissected

Realizing that action movies is where the car is the star, gave rise to BMW Films’ collection of much lauded A-list helmed shorts, “The Hire.”

Speaking Thursday at the Extending Your DVD Franchise sesh of the Variety Conference Series Tom Stepanchak, manager, marketing communications BMW North America, said they were born of a desire “to do something new, out of the box. We started with John Frankenheimer and it snowballed. They’re still on the Internet but on DVD it’s a fuller, richer experience.”

To fuller and richer add deeper.

That was the thinking behind “The Animatrix,” nine animated shorts. “The idea was to work with the filmmakers to promote the franchise,” said Jeff Brown, topper of Warner Home Video Intl., “to talk to the fan in a way that is compelling and interesting in a way the filmmakers wanted, working with DVD to support the film. It’s unleashed creativity in the marketplace.”

Citing “Shrek,” DreamWorks Intl. Home Video topper Matt Brown said “it helped extend the whole family movie purchase. It got the story to a bigger audience in a lasting way and with additional content, like being able to voice characters.”

“DVD was built in as part of the release strategy from the very beginning,” for “The Lord of the Rings,” said Robert Remley, senior VP, international marketing and distribution at New Line. “It’s an opportunity to expand and enhance the franchise. We felt the core ‘Lord of the Rings’ audience is the core DVD audience. The idea of a new cut of the movie and an eventizing period between the films has worked very well.”

Ground Zero Entertainment specializes in the urban and Latino niches. CEO Anthony Perez “embraced DVD from the start. Our audience has DVD players in their cars. Many have two or three screens! We put in anything related to culture in a unique way, like beats they can rhyme to while driving.”

With DVD penetration at 40% in the U.S., 30% in the UK and France and western Europe at 23% DVD also, said Peter Broderick, prexy of Paradigm, “offers significant opportunities for independents. They can reach audiences across national boundaries. Indies need new models to overcome the studios’ theatrical dominance. If you have no core audience like for ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ you have no time to build word of mouth. DVD lets you reach a core audience.”

Asked by moderator Scott Hettrick, Variety home entertainment editor, if BMW saw movies as an ancillary revenue stream, Stepanchak said “maybe down the road but our deals are not yet structured for that. We decided it was easier to provide entertaining content to give brand value. But people tell us they want more.”

But to avoid buyer’s fatigue from different versions of the same pic, Perez says companies have to create different advertising vehicles, look for cross-marketing, tie-ins, promotion by the artist, working with clothing companies.”

Remley gave “Austin Powers” as an example of how “the film was a success but it was the DVD which launched the franchise and broadened the demographic. We think very much in terms of franchise building.”

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