MEDIA HOME VIDEOS: Media Roundup - Second coming: securing coverageof home releases - Gaining the interest of the media with home video isnot the easiest task, but David Ward finds an industry revived by thearrival of DVD

The home video business is estimated to be worth somewhere in the

region of $19 billion a year. With sales of everything from

movies to exercise videos, it's big business. But it has traditionally

existed in the shadows of Hollywood with both the press and public

focusing their attention on the video releases of new movies.

Thanks in large part to Hollywood's willingness to heavily promote

select video/DVD releases (Hannibal being the most recent example), some

media outlets have gotten into the habit of turning the home debut of

top films into major entertainment events.

Bender Helper Impact SVP Shawna Lynch says the audience is much wider

than those of the usual entertainment outlets such as E! and Access


"You can get on the Today show, you can get on Live with Regis & Kelly,

and you can get on The View. But you have to think out of the box, like

you're coming up with an entirely new product."

Part of the reason for this interest is that as well as being a cash cow

for the studios, the stars, directors, and producers of movies now

realize that DVD and video launches often give films a second chance to

reach consumers.

"Home releases have a longer shelf life, so sometimes you have an

opportunity to make up for a not-so-solid theatrical release in the

video market," explains Lynne Hillman, director of publicity for USA

Home Entertainment.

Hillman, whose company's last major home video release was Traffic, says

it can be harder to line up the film's stars for the video release. But

she adds that directors and producers often relish the opportunity to

talk about the film in great detail when it reaches DVD.

Sue Procko, who as president of Sue Procko Public Relations represents

Anchor Bay Entertainment, says home video reviewers can be just as

critical as the theatrical press, but they differ in many ways. "They're

all film buffs," she says. "Their judgment is based more on the quality

of the output and extras such as how much effort the studios made to

ensure the disc is the best it can possibly be."

Retelling the story in a new way

But just as every picture tells a story, every video or DVD release

inevitably needs a new angle to pitch, especially with older movies

making their home debut. While preparing for the release of the 25th

anniversary edition of 1975 cult film The Stepford Wives, Anchor Bay and

Procko discovered that leading drug company Bristol-Myers Squibb was

actually a part owner of the movie. The resulting story on how drug

companies dabbled in the film business several decades ago became a new

hook for pieces in The New York Times and on film buff websites.

Carl Samrock has done media relations for the home video divisions of

Warner, Columbia-Tristar, Universal, New Line, and other movie


He recently finished a home video campaign on behalf of The Stanley

Kubrick Collection, which included not only the director's more

high-profile films, but also the original documentary Stanley Kubrick: A

Life in Pictures.

"We screened that film just as if it was a theatrical release for the LA

film critics and video writers," he notes.

However, Samrock concedes that straight-to-video releases are sometimes

viewed as a lesser product. But he adds that new video material can

sometimes reach beyond media outlets. "If the film is good, you have an

advantage if it's a new product ... because you have an opportunity to

reach reporters that wouldn't normally cover home video," he says.

DVD has arrived

The whole home-entertainment category is in the middle of a renaissance

of sorts, thanks to the 1997 arrival of DVD, the disc-based format. In

many ways, DVD has helped move home video beat reporters out of a bit of

a rut.

"In the past, home video coverage was always relegated to a column on

what's coming out this week, along with compressed versions of the

original film review," explains Bender Helper Impact's Lynch. But thanks

to DVD, she adds, "The consumer media is actually devoting a lot more

space to home entertainment now."

Bruce Apar, editor-in-chief of leading trade magazine Video Store says

industry magazines have embraced DVD because of how it has changed the

video industry. "You do notice in the press release how much more

they're saying and how many more extras they're packing in, such as

director commentaries."

Scott Hettrick, who writes for Daily Variety and Video Business

magazine, echoes that theme, although he insists the home video beat has

always been about more than just product releases. "We've covered what

the studios are doing with Blockbuster and other retailers, as well as

what they're releasing to consumers," he says.

But it's important to note that the vast majority of home videos and

DVDs are not recent theatrical releases. In addition to

straight-to-video movies, TV shows, or music events, home video also

includes how-to, exercise, and children's products, as well as a host of

other original productions.

The Blaze Company SVP Karen Gee-McAuley says she targets fitness outlets

and parenting publications for her clients (Baby Einstein children's

videos and Denise Austin exercise tapes). In addition to product press

releases, McAuley says she also pitches the companies and personalities

behind the videos. "If you have a quick succession of video releases

that are two to three months apart, most outlets won't review every one

because there's so much product out there," she says. "So sometimes

they'll lump several together in one story, and in those cases it helps

to have a business angle to add depth."

Among the leading consumer and trade journalists covering home video are

Peter Nichols of The New York Times, Susan King of the Los Angeles

Times, Randy Salas of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune (whose column is

syndicated nationally), and Al Brumly of the Dallas Morning News.

Traditional movie reviewers who also cover home-video releases include

Leonard Maltin, Roger Ebert, and Richard Roeper.

The leading trade journalists are Bruce Apar and T.K. Arnold of Video

Store, Scott Hettrick of Video Business, Ralph Tribbey of the DVD

Release Report, and Eileen Fitzpatrick of Billboard.

PR execs pitching the home video category are advised to look out for

new stories behind their product laurels, and make the most of the DVD's

effect on the industry's revival.


Magazines: Entertainment Weekly; People; US Weekly; Fangoria (horror


Trade publications: Video Store; Video Business; Hollywood Reporter;

Variety; Billboard; DVD Weekly Report

TV & Radio: E!; Access Hollywood; ET; Today; Ebert & Roeper and the

Movies; home entertainment and technology reporters at local TV outlets


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