Welcome to the first edition of our new semi-regular feature, “”Ask The DVD Executive.”” Our goal for this monthly feature is to take you behind the scenes of Studio Home Video departments. If you ever wanted to know how a studio selects pricing for DVDs, decide which DVDs will be released and when, like to find out the status on your favorite film property this feature is for you. The first guinea pig in this little experiment will be our friends at Paramount Home Entertainment.
EMI like to start all my interviews off with my basic overly broad question. Tell us who you are and why we’re speaking with you today? ParamountMartin Blythe, Vice President, Publicity for Paramount Home Entertainment. EMWhat exactly is your role in the home video group? ParamountMy primary role is liaison with the press (magazines, newspapers, TV, radio, the Web) although to be honest, much of that is filtered through PR agencies. I also work on corporate and trade PR, grassroots marketing efforts, stunts and events — retail and industry events included. These frequently involve working with actors, directors, producers and other interested parties. It’s a lot less glamorous than that of course; it’s mostly dealing with an endless stream of e-mails, phone calls and press releases. EMHow closely do you guys work with the studio proper on DVD releases? ParamountWe begin working on DVD releases before films have been released theatrically. The key reason for this is that it can take 6 months or more to get a DVD ready (allowing for shooting interviews, editing the bonus features and securing approvals, and then the technical areas of authoring, compression and replication). In short, DVD is a lot more complicated and expensive than VHS. EMHow do you decide DVD Pricing – especially on your boxed sets? For instance your Star Trek DVD Sets retail for more than $100, while a set like Buffy will cost $60. ParamountAlthough studios set wholesale prices, retailers decide what prices work for them. That is why we frequently don’t have SRPs (suggested retail prices). If you ask, well why are the wholesale prices high, the only answer I can give you is that it all depends on what the market will bear. Most high priced DVDs drop in price over time; the fans have to decide how urgently they need something. EMWell it’s been officially announced that the Indiana Jones Series is finally coming to DVD. What are your plans for it’s release, besides giving us a bunch of copies to give away (wink, wink, nudge, nudge…)? ParamountWe are still holding a few things up our sleeve on this one. Let’s just say that it will be our largest DVD marketing campaign ever. What I can tell you is that the three films have been through the most intensive technical clean-up process that I have ever seen. That doesn’t mean we have altered the films; only that extra care has been taken with these films to get them to the point where they look and sound incredible. EMWhy did it take so long for this series to finally see the light of day? ParamountWe weren’t in any hurry to release them to DVD and nor was Lucasfilm. In previous years we have released most of the crown jewels of the Paramount collection: The Godfather films, Forrest Gump, Braveheart, and so on. This year it is the turn of the Indiana Jones films and we’re gratified that DVD penetration rates are now reaching 50 million homes. It is the right time. EMDid you shoot all new material just for the DVD? What archival stuff will be on it? ParamountThe 4th disc contains new interviews with almost everyone involved in the three films and substantial archival material from Lucasfilm. There is some amazing material there but I can’t spill the beans just yet. It’s only June after all. EMHow difficult is it to go back and find all the original archival footage for a property like Indiana Jones? ParamountIt wasn’t that difficult since Lucasfilm have plenty of material. The dilemma was what to put on the 4th disc. But it’s also important for readers to know that by and large older films do not have a lot of archival material associated with them. It is not like we have a lot of material just sitting there in the vaults. This is an unusual case. EMHow closely was George Lucas and Steven Spielberg involved in the creation of this DVD Set? ParamountThey have been closely involved at every step of the way. That is how we do things. EMWill Paramount do a Theatrical re-release to coincide with the DVD release? ParamountNo EMOne of the complaints that I hear from people is that Paramount has always been lacking in the special edition department. How do you decide which DVDs get the Special Edition Treatment and which one doesn’t? Why doesn’t Paramount have a special DVD Brand for their “”super special DVDs,”” I.E. New Line’s “”Infiniti Series,”” or Columbia’s “”Superbit”” series? ParamountMany of our new theatrical releases are “”special editions”” – e.g. The Hours came out this week as a special edition. This complaint you are referring to is usually directed to our catalog releases and it’s true that we don’t often make special editions out of our catalog releases, but it’s a bottom line issue. Many fans have no idea of how the economics work and want their favorite obscure title to be a special edition when we won’t sell enough to recoup costs. I would also counter that we don’t often “”double-dip”” by re-releasing titles as special editions – I have heard just as much praise of Paramount for this policy. EMWhat are some of your other big tentpole releases for the rest of the year? What features can we look forward to? ParamountSome highlights, if not necessarily the largest titles, between now and the end of the year would be: CSI: Season 2, Shogun (the mini-series), a SpongeBob Squarepants box set, the original The Honeymooners TV series, some Hammer horror films, and Star Trek 5: Special Collector’s Edition. But that’s as much as I’m prepared to spill… Obviously there’s a lot more. EMNow that you can scratch Indiana Jones off your to-do list, what are the top 3 or 4 requests that have yet to hit the DVD Shelves? What is the status and the hold up?Paramount Frankly there’s not much left of the A titles. Once Upon a Time in the West and Reds are two that spring to mind (the former will beat the latter to market). Many fans are now requesting TV series or that we revisit some DVDs with Special Editions e.g. Titanic and Top Gun. Maybe those will come sooner rather than later. Or maybe not. One thing to bear in mind in this business is that things change! EMOut of all the movies, and film studios, which two films would YOU most like to see released on DVD? ParamountWell, they belong to another studio so I’m not going to name them! Feature byMichelle AlexandriaOriginal date – July 1, 2003