(L-R): Alliance Entertainment’s Laura Provenzano, Zia Record Exchange’s Mike Durham, ADS Group’s Connie Comeau, MVD’s Ed Seaman and Media Play News’ Thomas K. Arnold.
Thomas K. Arnold
The physical home entertainment disc was the topic of a May 17 panel discussion titled “Blu-ray Is to Film Geeks as Vinyl Is to Music Freaks” here at the Music Biz Conference 2023.
The panel was moderated by Audrey Faine, VP of marketing for the MVD Entertainment Group, one of the leading distributors of indie film and music – as well as indie labels.
Speakers drew parallels between film collectors and music collectors, and noted that just as in the music industry, there’s still a place for physical media.
Panelists included Mike Durham, buyer of the Zia Record Exchange, a chain of eight record stores in the Southwest; Connie Comeau, COO of physical media production company the ADS Group; and Laura Provenzano, SVP of purchasing and marketing at Alliance Entertainment.
Ed Seaman, CEO of the MVD Entertainment Group, introduced the panel. He noted that in his dealings with retailers he sees strong sales of collectible indie fare on Blu-ray Disc and 4K Ultra HD, with a similar demographic to vinyl collectors.
He shared an anecdote: “We were at this convention last year and had just gotten a monumental order from Barnes & Noble for a great collectible series of Blu-ray Discs. I was talking to a venerable indie retailer, and asked, ‘Do you have a Blu-ray section?’ She said no, her store only carries used DVDs. So I said, ‘You sell used vinyl — does that preclude you from selling new vinyl?’ And a lightbulb went off, about there being an opportunity for indie retailers to exploit these collectible Blu-rays and 4Ks, which are very similar to collectible vinyl in terms of appealing to passionate consumers.”
Comeau said 35% of her company’s business consists of DVD and Blu-ray Disc replication, and over the last two years produced more than 10 million DVDs exclusively for the Dollar Tree store chain. “People are wanting that content, and we are seeing an uptick in our DVD business,” she said. “I am a firm believer in physical media.”
Durham noted that all of his stores also carry DVDs and Blu-ray Discs and do healthy, steady sales, particularly with budget cult films and premium-priced collectibles. “We have been music stores for some time, but movies have always been a huge part of what we do,” he said. “And we see that there is a similar fan who comes in for the elaborate record package to the fan who comes in for the great film package. Cult films, horror films — we sell a ton of them.” He cited indie distributors such as Arrow, Blue Underground and Severin as having loyal, repeat customers.
Alliance Entertainment’s Provenzano said Barnes & Noble is a “huge, huge” customer for collectible indie fare from Arrow, Criterion and other labels. “We really are focused primarily on these tentpole promotional events that we do a couple of times a year,” she said, which focus on collectors and are driven by advertising, blogging and social media. “We see tremendous chatter online,” she said. “There’s absolutely a collector factor coming in there. We see consumers who are just waiting and anticipating these sales events, and they will come in and literally ask for catalog numbers, because they want to pick up every new release for their collection, and that’s a really cool thing.”
Provenzano noted that Barnes & Noble customers prefer premium-priced collectibles “with lots of bells and whistles,” while Durham said he’s also seeing big sales in low-priced cult fare: “We carry a lot of movies, across the board, but our No. 1 seller, for the last 10 years, has been Blood In, Blood Out, and I’m talking close to 10,000 units over the course of those years. And it’s $5.99.”
Media Play News presented data from The DVD & Blu-ray Release Report that showed 2022 was a record year for DVD, Blu-ray Disc and 4K Ultra HD.
A total of 21,931 new DVD titles were released last year, an all-time high (the previous best was 16,380). As for Blu-ray, 5,966 new titles came out in 2022, again, a record high (the previous best was 4,795). Suppliers also released a record 338 4K UHD discs (the previous best was 162).
About half those releases, however, were from questionable sources, which DVD & Blu-ray Release Report editor Ralph Tribbey attributes to the studios turning their back on the physical disc in their rush to send films and shows to streaming services.
Tribbey says demand for discs is “out of control. From a traditional studio point of view, home entertainment packaged media is dead, but the numbers say something completely different.”