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Anchor Bay at 20: Home Entertainment Stalwart Thrives in Troubled Times

From auteur pics to fitness videos, vid distributor gives discs custom handling

After 20 years in the home-entertainment business — a particularly tumultuous two decades for homevideo — Anchor Bay continues to thrive, thanks to its ability to give relentless individual attention to its DVD/Blu-ray releases.

Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman of the Weinstein Co., points to Anchor Bay’s deft handling of “Django Unchained” (pictured) on disc as a prime example.

“When you’re dealing with a true auteur like Quentin Tarantino, you have to be sure that the film gets a new life after its theatrical release,” Weinstein says. “You’re dealing with consumers who are avid fans of the work wanting to take it home, learn about it and cherish it for years to come, not just stream it one time.”

That meticulous attention helped persuade TWC to sign on with Anchor Bay as its homevideo distributor through 2020.

With its indie structure, Anchor Bay can quickly respond to the needs of demanding filmmakers like Tarantino. That has helped keep the company stable even as the shift from physical media to streaming has taken a bite out of home-entertainment revenues and spurred shakeups in homevideo leadership at the major studios.

Under president Bill Clark, Anchor Bay has struck disc distribution deals with the Weinstein Co. and its specialty label Radius-TWC, AMC Networks, UFC and fitness guru Leslie Sansone, among others. The company says it has seen year-on-year growth in DVD/Blu-ray under Clark’s watch over the past decade.
The company prides itself on forging close relationships with its content suppliers and retailers — something that can’t always be achieved by larger companies.

“To our partners, we are a major studio, (but) without the baggage of a major studio,” says Clark. “There is no bureaucracy here. We have a nimbleness that enables us to change direction and execute efficiently.”

That has also helped Anchor Bay build strong relationships with retail outlits, Danit Marquardt,  director of corporate communications for Walmart, says “We work with Anchor Bay to offer the 140 million customers who shop our stores great content at great prices. And we do work with them on a number of different exclusives. One example is the ‘Walking Dead’ pre-sale that we kicked off at Comic-Con.”

Clark says Anchor Bay has been honing its exacting focus by becoming more selective, releasing fewer but higher-quality titles. It also supports certain acquired titles with limited theatrical releases, prior to home-entertainment distribution, to hike their overall appeal.

Anchor Bay serves as the distributor to its sister TV division Starz Media, under their Starz Inc. parent. Starz CEO Chris Albrecht is impressed by Clark and the Anchor Bay team’s work creating in-retail promotions. Such promotions, says Albrecht, both sell the DVDs/Blu-rays and drum up buzz for upcoming show seasons.

Says Albrecht: “We will have a seamless transition from the second season premiere of ‘Power’ (June 6) dovetailing with the release of its first season on DVD (May 12). We have one helping the other.”

Radius, which distributes films within uniquely configured theatrical, VOD and DVD/Blu-ray windows, depends on Anchor Bay’s eye for detail. For example, Anchor Bay needed to build a DVD/Blu-ray sales strategy for Radius’ “Snowpiercer,” following a very aggressive, early premium VOD release and theatrical launch. As it turned out, audiences ate up the movie at every stage.

“Not every company would want to take on that challenge,” says Tom Quinn, co-president of Radius. “We launched that title in a way that was a game-changer. And then to turn around and do similar if not more business on traditional (disc format) is great.”

Jason Janego, Radius co-president, adds, “(Anchor Bay execs) are willing to get on the phone and go out and meet with people, and talk about how each title is different. They aren’t a factory. They are very individualized and take a lot of time to do things the right way.”

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