Slumping sales met with confab promotions

Sales of DVDs may have peaked for Hollywood, but studios are still looking for ways to wring out a little more money from the format.

Over the years, pop-culture confab Comic-Con has successfully helped studios and TV networks tubthump their upcoming tentpoles and high-profile series.

So the homevideo divisions at the majors made the trek down to San Diego last week, thinking the convention that attracts more than 120,000 fans might be able to stir up interest in DVDs.

The goal was to generate pre-release buzz and awareness around the titles, through panel discussions, photo ops, autograph signings with celebs, sweepstakes, screenings and giveaways.

The recession has forced studios to scale back some of those events, which in the past included MGM Home Entertainment’s premiere of “Stargate: Continuum” on an aircraft carrier and Warner Bros.’ screening of “300” at Petco Park stadium.

But the increased presence by studio homevid arms at Comic-Con is an effort to slow down a 13.5% slump in DVD sales during the first six months of the year, and a 9% overall drop last year.

Paramount Home Video headed to the gathering for the first time this year to promote a features-filled DVD release of the rebooted “Star Trek” franchise and DreamWorks Animation’s “Monsters vs. Aliens,” as well as its library titles.

The blitz at the July 22-26 meet is the company’s “biggest foray in promoting our titles,” says Bob Buchi, senior VP of brand marketing for Par Home Entertainment.

“We really believe that Comic-Con is one of the key pop culture events of the year and a chance to interact directly with fans. These are very passionate people with strong opinions and the ability to share them with other fans around the country and globe. If they create buzz for us, it’s worth our time and effort to give them a unique experience.”

Those experiences included letting attendees take photos with Bob, the gelatinous hero from “Monsters vs. Aliens,” or let Trekkies stand at the helm of the U.S.S. Enterprise.

Warner Bros. Home Video is no stranger to the show, and used to courting that crowd, having spent a considerable amount of promotional coin over the years to push theatrical, as well as direct-to-DVD releases.

This year was no different, with “The Green Lantern: First Flight” getting the biggest push. The animated DVD feature, which hits retailers next week, was inescapable, with thousands of bags, carried by attendees, featuring the character plastered on their sides.

In addition to hosting screenings for “Trick ‘r Treat,” the studio screened a nearly four-hour directors’ cut of “Watchmen” on Blu-ray and had helmer Zack Snyder host a live commentary during the presentation, where he answered fans’ questions collected during the confab. The event was simultaneously screened for viewers using Blu-ray’s BD-Live service watching the movie worldwide.

While the event was obviously a promo, it had an additional purpose: Studios are trying to educate consumers on the interactive capabilities that Blu-ray offers, especially when it comes to BD Live.

Similarly, Universal Studios Home Entertainment sent out a street team to roam Comic Con’s show floor to promote “augmented reality technology,” which enables viewers to take a 3-D tour of a film’s sets or scenes via a Web-cam, as part of its promo for the “Coraline” DVD release.

The show has become “an important place to make people aware of new technologies,” says Warner Bros.’ Kristina Fugate, VP marketing, theatrical for Warner Home Video. “Especially as the show is attracting a broader demographic of fans, thanks to last year’s ‘Twilight.’

“It’s definitely become its own monster.”

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