Studios think inside the fancy box

Elaborate packaging ups cost, sales figures

With dozens of multidisc special edition and TV collector DVD releases competing for consumer attention this holiday season, homevid suppliers are increasingly using custom packages to get an edge at retail.

In fact, studios will be spending up to 10 times as much on packing these titles than they do on their standard releases, according to Sandy Weisenauer, senior VP of marketing for Anchor Bay Entertainment. “You have to appeal to the customer and make it stand out on the shelf.”

A company on the leading edge of the elaborate special-edition DVD packaging trend, Anchor Bay will release the first season of the Michael Mann-produced TV police drama “Crime Story” in a box that’s designed to look like a crime-case folder.

“The right packaging really becomes a merchandising aid at the store level,” adds Jeff Fink, president of sales and marketing for Artisan Home Entertainment, another proponent of the fancy DVD box scene. “But what it also allows you to take something that’s $9.98 on vanilla DVD and make it become a $28 special edition. It communicates to the consumer that this a worthwhile investment at a higher price.”

Go into any Wal-Mart or Best Buy during this fourth quarter, and you can’t miss the elaborate DVD boxes. Universal Studios Home Entertainment, for example, is putting out all 24 episodes of the 1970s ABC space-war series “Battlestar Galactica” in an encyclopedia-size silver-foil box, the face of which resembles the masks of the series’ villains, the robotic Cylons.

DreamWorks Home Entertainment is releasing the Steven Spielberg-produced mini “Taken” in a

laser-illustrated box that delivers an eerie, twilight effect.

HBO’s fourth-season DVD release of “The Sopranos,” meanwhile, will feature a silver-foil box with one of the now-famous Annie Liebowitz-created posters of the show’s casts providing the cover art.

Paramount Home Entertainment, meanwhile, will release the long-awaited “The Adventures of Indiana Jones: Complete DVD Movie Collection” in a box that includes exclusive illustrations from movie poster artist Drew Struzan.

Perhaps most elaborate of all, however, is New Line Home Entertainment’s “Lord of the Rings: The Twin Towers Limited Edition,” which comes in a large transparent box that reveals a hand-crafted figurine of the film’s Gollum character. The discs are packaged in a separate box inside that’s designed to look like an old book.

“It looks like something that comes from another world,” says Par Larsson, senior art director for 30sixty Design, the company that designed the elaborate “Two Towers” packaging as well as that of the “Indiana Jones Collection.”

In addition to being expensive, designing and manufacturing elaborate packages requires a significant amount of time — 11 months lead time for “Two Towers,” according to Larsson. There are also logistical challenges. For example, the figurines in the “Two Towers” box have to be imported from China.

“Any time you purchase from Asia, it’s a disaster waiting to happen,” adds Anchor Bay’s Weisenauer. “We’ve had to delay street dates because we’ve had ships held up in customs. Any time you get into custom boxes, you’re at the mercy of things you can’t control.”

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