Auds to weigh in on classic DVDs

Public to vote online for video releases

HOLLYWOOD — Consumers will soon get to decide whether Warner Home Video will next release “Night of the Iguana,” “Bad Day at Black Rock” or “Love Finds Andy Hardy” on DVD.

In a rare case of the synergy that AOL and Time Warner imagined when the two companies were merged, WHV, Turner Classic Movies and America Online are partnering on a consumer DVD promotion that should benefit all three entities and please fans of classic movies.

The DVD Decision 2003 campaign will encourage consumers to go to AOL Movies online throughout the month of June and pick their five favorite movies from a list of 20 titles in the Warner library that have yet to be released on DVD. All 20 titles, also including “The Asphalt Jungle,” “The Blackboard Jungle,” “The Days of Wine and Roses,” “Executive Suite,” “Finian’s Rainbow,” “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” “Somebody Up There Likes Me” and “The Wind and the Lion,” will each be shown on TCM weekday afternoons from June 23-27. TCM viewers will be alerted about the contest and encouraged to vote.

Cross marketing

The promotion also will be marketed in AOL Time Warner publications like People magazine and other properties owned by the media behemoth, with the winning titles announced in July. Extra DVD features will be produced relating to those five consumer-picked film titles, some of which may be TCM cable specials, and the newly mastered DVDs will be released in January following a rebroadcast on TCM of the five winning titles in October.

AOL Movies will list the eligible titles along with synopses, photos and clips from the movies.

The 15 titles not selected will eventually be released on DVD 12-18 months later, but without the special treatment, said new Warner senior VP of classic catalog George Feltenstein.

Broader market

Warner execs said one goal of the promotion is to broaden the audience for classic films and introduce them to a wider base of consumers through AOL.

“This will expose a whole new generation of consumers to classic movies,” said senior VP of U.S. marketing Mike Saksa.

With DVD players expected to be in 50 million households this year, the studio now considers DVD a “broad market business.” WHV has increased the number of catalog releases from eight in 2000 to more than 20 in 2001, 44 in 2002 and more than 100 this year. That number will grow even higher in 2004.

With the studio sitting on a library of thousands of titles, the largest of any studio, WHV expects to make DVD Decision an annual campaign, with a far greater number of eligible titles next year and a greater number of winners.

Warner claims a 27.5% market share in catalog DVD.

The other titles among the 20 eligible movies are “The Actress,” “After the Thin Man,” “Another Thin Man,” “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” “For Me and My Gal,” “The Good Earth,” “I’ll Cry Tomorrow,” “Where the Boys Are” and “Ziegfeld Girl.”

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

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