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Corner Office from Marketplace

Blu-Ray gives re-release opportunities for vintage titles

Marketplace Staff Jul 21, 2010
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Steve Chiotakis: We got a report this week about spending on home entertainment. The LA Times says an industry trade group’s numbers show sales of DVDs down. But the newer format Blu-Ray is making some inroads. The release of the blockbuster hit Avatar certainly didn’t hurt the cause. James Cameron’s epic was the biggest Blu-Ray launch ever. Avatar may be the new thing in movies, but as reporter Sarah McBride explains,
when it comes to Blu-Ray, what’s old is new again.


[Background sound from movie “King Kong”]

Sarah McBride: That’s the sound of King Kong fighting off a monster lizard and then chasing Faye Raye in the 1933 classic. It’s also the sound of Warner Bros. getting another crack at its vintage titles. The studio remastered Kong, threw in some titles and is rereleasing it in September on Blu-Ray.

Ben Herndon’s a producer at the cable channel Reelz. He’s also a movie buff and snaps up titles like this.

Ben Herndon: The thing about a restored DVD is it’s the best it’s ever going to look.

On a restored version of “The Wizard of Oz”.

Herndon: It’s so good and it’s so sharp you could count the freckles on Judy Garland’s nose.

Herndon owns over 1,000 movies on DVD and Blu-Ray. He and guys like him are doing what naysayers scoffed at a few years ago-upgrading favorites from DVD to higher-quality Blu-Ray discs.

At last count, over 10 percent of households own Blu-Ray players. That’s expected to jump to half of households in three years. The change is creating a big opportunity for studios to re-release their classics.

Tom Adams: This little flurry you’re noticing is going to become a flood pretty quickly.

That’s Tom Adams, an analyst at Adams Media Research. He says classic movies hit the sweet spot of the biggest Blu-Ray buyers. Men with good incomes and fancy TVs. And the profits are irresistible.

Adams: These are films that came out decades ago, were into profits probably also decades ago, so the only costs now are the remastering and the manufacturing at a couple of bucks a disc at this point.

Warner is releasing the “The Exorcist” in time for Halloween. And Disney classics like “Fantasia” will be out by the end of the year. This won’t be the last time the studios will need to get creative with their catalogs. When Blu-ray gets bumped by video-on-demand and the interent, they’ll need to start recycling all over again.

I’m Sarah McBride for Marketplace.

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