Merchandising: Half-Off Universal Titles at Barnes & Noble

Retailers didn’t have any title-specific exclusives for the June 11 new releases, but there were a few opportunities to get half off certain discs.

Barnes & Noble was offering 50% off Universal Pictures Home Entertainment Blu-rays and DVDs. Brands under the discount included Universal, Briarcliff Entertainment, DreamWorks, Focus Features, Illumination and Pinnacle Peak.

Meanwhile, Target ran a buy-one-get-one sale on books, movies, video games, board games, puzzles and activities for shoppers using the Target circle app.

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Merchandising: Barnes & Noble Adding Disney DVD/Blu-ray Section

On the heels of the news that Disney is turning over its disc operations to Sony Pictures, the Barnes & Noble bookseller chain announced that most of its stores are now offering a Disney-branded section featuring a greater assortment of the studio’s titles.

Selections cover a wide variety of Disney’s brands on DVD and Blu-ray, including Walt Disney Animation Studios, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, Pixar Animation Studios, 20th Century Studios, National Geographic and Searchlight Pictures. The displays will be available for a limited time.

Additionally, 10 Barnes & Noble locations will feature more-extensive collections of available Disney films, including stores in New York City, Los Angeles, Honolulu, Anchorage, Orlando and San Antonio. Other locations are being reviewed for future expansion.
 
In announcing this expansion, Barnes & Noble Music & Video Category Manager Crissi Bariatti said, “Our customers have told us that they want more selection and variety in our DVD and Blu-ray assortments. We are fully committed to offering our shoppers a best-in-class assortment and we are working with Disney to expand and enhance our offerings from their catalog in all stores.”

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Merchandising: Barnes & Noble Criterion Sale Begins

With the latest Tuesday release date falling on the July 4 holiday, studios didn’t release much in the way of physical media during the week.

The most notable retail promotion during the week was the start of Barnes & Noble’s twice-a-year Criterion Collection sale, during which the titles from the premium Blu-ray and DVD line are offered at 50% off. The sale began June 30 and runs through July 28. Note that for Barnes & Noble members, the usual 10% discount will not apply to Criterion titles on sale.

Among the only other retail promotions during the week was Best Buy touted its backlog of Steelbook Blu-rays as on sale starting at $18.99.

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Digital, Brick-and-Mortar Retailers Strike Back

There have been some pretty interesting developments on the retail front lately, on both the digital and the physical side.

The Hollywood studios are finally realizing that not only is subscription streaming far from the goldmine they once thought it was, but it is also a completely unsustainable business model. As a result, they are giving the traditional window strategy a second look, including premium video-on-demand (PVOD), which they deployed during COVID-19 but then hastily discarded in their rush to give all their valuable IP to the streaming services.

We’re once again seeing bigger movies come to theaters first, followed by a transactional home release, generally digital first and then disc.

Digital retailers such as Vudu and Redbox On Demand are trumpeting the fact that these films aren’t available on the all-you-can-watch streaming services, while capitalizing on the ability to draft off theatrical marketing campaigns for the growing number of movies that are available for digital sale or rental within weeks of their theatrical openings, albeit at a higher price.

On the physical front, retailers are hoping the plethora of high-profile product will arrest the double-digit declines in DVD and Blu-ray Disc sales we’ve been seeing for the better part of a decade, ever since studios decided it was a good idea to license their films to Netflix for short-term gains, oblivious to the fact that this strategy would lead to a long-term fiscal disaster.

We’re also hearing rumblings that the physical movie disc may be in for a vinyl-like resurgence, as young people tire of the transitory nature of streaming and once again embrace something they can own, collect and show off. Back in January, I met a 23-year-old TikTok creator at CES who told me she and her friends were buying Blu-ray Disc players because they wanted to start collecting their favorite movies.

More recently, last month I was invited to speak at the annual Music Biz Conference in Nashville on a panel discussion on why record stores should start carrying movies. 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.

Ed Seaman, CEO of the MVD Entertainment Group, said 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.”

Connie Comeau, COO of physical media production company the ADS Group, said 35% of her company’s business consists of DVD and Blu-ray Disc replication, and over the past two years ADS 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.”

This column appears in the June 2023 issue of the monthly Media Play News magazine.

Criterion Titles Half Off at Barnes & Noble in July

Barnes & Noble’s latest sale offering 50% off Criterion Collection titles will run from June 30 to July 28 in brick-and-mortar stores and online nationwide.

The popular bi-annual event allows film fans to pick up boxed sets, Blu-rays and 4K titles offered by Criterion with in-depth bonus materials including audio commentary, interviews, behind-the-scenes footage and more.

Barnes & Noble recently announced that select locations throughout the country will have all titles offered through Criterion available in stores.

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Digital Dealings: Home Entertainment Retailers Level Up With Premium Digital Movie Sales, Rentals

Collecting movies digitally may be a slow boil, but the practice is catching on as more consumers become familiar with watching movies over the internet thanks to the mass migration to streaming and the ability to watch titles digitally, sometimes at a premium price, as theaters shuttered.

Renting movies digitally, too, is on the upswing, as consumers start realizing that many of the films they either enjoyed or missed in theaters aren’t showing up on subscription streaming services such as Netflix and Disney+.

Media Play News’ sixth annual look at the top home entertainment transactional retailers is taking a new tack this year. We still have our traditional ranking (see below), but we felt it was more important to get inside the minds of some of our top retailers, particularly on the digital side, at a time when the digital retail marketplace is being energized by the advent of premium digital purchase and rental.

Studios first began to experiment widely with premium release during the COVID outbreak as movie theaters shuttered. But in 2022, as the pandemic subsided, the premium strategy became isolated to two major studios — Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures — as many of the studios focused on sending their top titles to their streaming services to boost subscribers. In 2023, the pendulum swung back to premium releases as studios embraced the age-old Hollywood strategy of extracting revenue from various windows, rather than favoring streaming. Such titles as Universal’s animated The Super Mario Bros. Movie, Warner’s Evil Dead Rise, Paramount’s Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, Sony’s The Pope’s Exorcist and Lionsgate’s Plane have been released first digitally into the premium-priced window.

We’ve asked several top executives in digital purchase and rental — Cameron Douglas, VP of home entertainment at Fandango (owner of Vudu); Pedro E. Gutierrez Jr., senior director of entertainment and advertising-gaming consumer sales organization, marketing and consumer business at Microsoft Corp.; Laura Florence, GM and SVP of digital for Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment (overseeing Redbox On Demand); and Ben Serridge, director of product management at Google — how the marketplace is developing and what the new premium-priced product has added to digital retailing.

How did you get into the digital transactional industry? What background prepared you?

Douglas: I came from the studio side of the home entertainment business, as did several other members of the team. I think it’s part of what makes Vudu and Fandango unique to this day. At Fandango, when we expanded into the transactional home entertainment space, our objective was to expand our consumer proposition and serve consumers across the entire entertainment lifecycle. The team approached the industry with a deep knowledge of how studios went to market in both the physical and digital space. So, studios didn’t have to educate us, as we knew exactly what they were looking for in a partner.

Florence: I started over 18 years ago in television production and programming (Comcast stations — E! Networks and G4) and then moved over to physical goods distribution and content aggregation (Millennium/Alchemy) for all major U.S. retailers like Costco, Best Buy, Walmart and Target. We were one of the first digital partners with Apple and the first digital retailer and kept our digital transactional windows on one master Excel spreadsheet!

Gutierrez: With a passion for consumer marketing and entertainment, I joined the Xbox team prior to the launch of the Xbox 360 in 2004. As the Xbox 360 evolved to a digital marketplace first for games and then added a video store and streaming apps like Netflix, I grew with the businesses. It was amazing to see the change throughout the years and consoles as consumers made the switch from physical to digital media and the creative programs we could run as a platform that delivered straight to the consumer.

Serridge: My introduction to the digital transactional industry came back in 2011, when as part of the Android team I helped develop support for buying and renting movies to the first Android tablet. The movie vertical of Android Market later became known as Google Play Movies & TV, and today the transactional functionality lives on as part of the Google TV experience.

Before joining Google, I worked for a company that powered the content discovery experience on mobile phones, in the days before modern smartphones. I’ve found that a lot of the lessons I learned in that era, about how consumers behave and how to help content owners reach them, still apply to this day.

How has consumer acceptance of digital collecting and digital rental changed over the years and how was it affected by the pandemic?

Douglas: Vudu is fortunate in that many collectors have chosen to house their library with us, and we continue to excel with those consumers. However, in the last few years, particularly with mass adoption of subscription streaming services and consumer confusion over windowing in general, the value proposition of transactional has become less obvious to consumers. Why pay for one piece of content for $6 to $20, when I can seemingly have an endless supply of content for 10 bucks a month? I think that perception is changing again, as consumers grow weary of having to pay for multiple recurring monthly subscriptions, and with more great movies coming straight out of theaters to transactional services like Vudu, faster than ever.

Florence: There has been a transition from 2005 to 2020 (around 15 years) between selecting DVD/SD to HD-preferred formats (Blu-ray vs. HD Disc) and then also working with retailers to migrate customers over to “digital” copies and comfort in the digital format. During my time in Bentonville, Ark., as the Walmart sales lead for all independent content, Walmart had just purchased Vudu and required Vudu digital copies or digital redemption dollars on all content. They also offered a digital “copy” to your locker to prove you had the film’s disc. This was a great way to start building your digital “library.” Apple also did a fantastic job of pushing early for digital price discounts and bundle library building. The ease of access to high-speed internet and more internet-ready TVs also helped to speed up the transition over the last five years.

The start of the pandemic accelerated this transition. Our Redbox digital forecast for the year was surpassed in only one month due to the stay-at-home orders. Our 40 million customers at the time were mainly used to DVD rentals at the kiosk, but within a month and with store traffic restricted, our broad ability to speak to our customers allowed them quickly to try using digital, many for the first time.

Gutierrez: Consumers like the convenience of being able to choose their content from their couch — not even having to get up to put in a DVD‚ and have limitless storage of their library in the cloud versus needing shelf space. The pandemic further highlighted the convenience of digital, as you could remain in the safety of your home and still have access to the latest content or your favorite movie from the past. A key change over the past year has been the earlier availability of the newest content. Consumers rarely have to wait three-plus months to view the newest theatrical content; look how Puss in Boots: The Last Wish was simultaneously at the top of theatrical and transactional entertainment charts for several weeks, giving consumers the choice of how they want to see the film.

Serridge: The biggest impact, by far, has been the broad adoption of streaming services. In the past, most of the movies available on streaming services were library titles, and if you wanted access to new-release movies, your only choice was to buy or rent.

The pandemic drove several changes: First, streaming providers were extremely aggressive on price, such that consumers could get access for a month to a large content catalog for a price less than that of a single movie rental; and second, because the theaters were closed, many major titles were released only on streaming.

Some of these trends from the pandemic appear to be receding, with streaming services raising their pricing and/or adding advertising, and studios leaning back into the theatrical and new release windows again.

What have you heard through research or feedback about digital collectors?

Douglas: We’ve learned that digital collectors are the most avid content consumers, and they do everything: transactional, multiple subscriptions, ad-supported — everything. But, the addressable market is finite and many new consumer entrants to the digital space don’t feel the need to collect. They’ve experienced good utility with their subscriptions, even as content came and went from those services. So, the need to “own” is less of a priority — especially for those who never collected physical product in the first place. I think it’s all about consumption and access. If the content community continues to see the incremental value in a transactional window, I believe the category will remain vibrant by embracing both collectors and more casual viewers.

Florence: As someone who has run both a distribution company and a digital/physical retailer, I have found digital collectors really are focused on the large studio movies and niche, restored movies typically. Digital ownership with extras, bonus footage, etc., is reserved for a certain tier of films that justify the cost.

Gutierrez: Collectors remain committed to their interests. They continue to buy titles that are important to them despite that title being readily available on a streaming service. The collector wants immediate access to their purchased content and does not like the ambiguity of when/where their preferred content may leave a service, go to another service, etc. The other interesting note is that collectors are not just franchised-based but rather collect for the love of film. We see them purchase in high quantities bundles based on genres, time periods and actors.

Serridge: We see in our user data that there’s clearly a segment of users who like to acquire large libraries of titles, and one reason we’ve found is that they value knowing that they can always access the title, unlike on a streaming service where it may become unavailable or migrate to a different service.

That said, most consumers purchase out of necessity and convenience, not to build a collection. As such, they transact relatively infrequently, so it’s really important that the product work well with as little friction as possible.

Initially studios attempted to transition consumers to digital by including a digital copy with each physical disc. Then came digital lockers, first UltraViolet, and then Movies Anywhere. Now consumers have had about a decade and a half of experience in buying and renting digitally — and yet studios are still including digital copies with discs. Is that still a major entry point for the digital business?

Douglas: Some consumers may still want to own a physical copy of a favorite film — for the artwork, easy access to additional content, or even just the tactile nature of it, but playback may still occur digitally for convenience. Thus, I think it would be odd to eliminate digital copy at this point. Vudu embraces these customers in two ways: disc-to-digital copies can always be redeemed directly with Vudu, and our disc-to-digital feature addresses legacy physical product consumers who are ready to KonMari their old DVD shelves and move their library to Vudu.

Florence: The impact of the pandemic drove customers to try digital, and with the speed of title lifecycles rushing toward an SVOD window — physical media is not as large as it once was. Collectors will still have the upside of “owning” the disc as a backup to a collection alongside the digital copy.

Gutierrez: At this point, I would not call it a digital entry point but rather a necessity to sell the physical copy. In today’s day and age, consumers who are spending on the physical good expect to have access to their content digitally. Platforms like Xbox, Windows, smart TVs, etc., are the major entryways to digital as consumers spend a significant amount of time on these devices that highlight the value of digital.

Serridge: For a time, when digital ownership and video streaming were still nascent products, digital copy and entitlement-sharing programs helped give consumers confidence that they’d be supported in the long run, whether their preference was for viewing on physical media (DVDs, Blu-ray) or digitally. These programs also helped align the industry on some common standards, such as EIDR, which are needed when sharing ownership information across retailers.

With streaming now broadly adopted by mainstream consumers, there’s no longer as much need for such mechanisms to onboard consumers to digital. Instead, the approach we’re taking on Google TV is to integrate transactional content together with streaming content in a single discovery experience. So whether you’re looking for a specific title or we have a great recommendation for you, we provide all the options for how to watch it: Stream for free on an ad-supported service, stream using one of the subscriptions you already have, sign up to a new subscription service to stream it, or buy or rent the title directly. By making the transactional experience as similar as possible to the streaming experience that consumers are already familiar with, we think we have an opportunity to “onboard” new consumers to digital by meeting them where they’re already spending their time and in a way that feels natural.

Studios dipped their toes into premium digital during the pandemic while theaters were shuttered — significantly shortening windows. How has the studios’ position toward premium digital developed since then?

Douglas: There was concern that premium would cannibalize its adjacent windows — theatrical on one end and traditional digital sellthrough on the other. However, it seems that there are more and more converts to the conclusion that premium is net incremental revenue to the title’s performance overall.

Florence: Studios have been evolving their window strategies since the start of the pandemic as they have shifted between the titles’ box office success and their SVOD launch date, and where premium and standard transaction windows can fit in between that. All have developed a unique and distinct approach that still seems to be evolving as they look at how much transactional revenue they leave on the table speeding to subscription video — and those that are not in a place to have to speed (like Sony Pictures), who have only a Netflix output deal to satisfy. In general, a film that has major talent like Tom Cruise for Top Gun: Maverick or James Cameron for Avatar: The Way of Water can pull weight to keep a film just in theaters and demand a more-traditional release strategy. Having this traditional window leads to massive numbers on premium and transactional window performance by using a legacy-style release pattern of honoring each window. In other words, theatrical, a wide premium/early digital sellthrough window and a several-month standard transactional window before it went to SVOD. Larger studios like Universal are prioritizing a premium window that is 17 to 20 days after theatrical on premium rental (PVOD) and have added a premium sale (PEST) option to their strategy to add more revenue to the pot, but are releasing to SVOD in under 60 to 90 days. Others are allowing for 30 days from theatrical to premium, some are just doing digital sellthrough-only windows for some titles, PVOD for others. It really depends on the style of release and what the forecasted lifecycle will support (and what the studio needs for their SVOD service).

Gutierrez: This has to be a moment-in-time-based question as studios continue to evolve their strategies. Universal has been doing premium digital since the release of Trolls 2 during the pandemic. Consumers and studios are seeing the benefits of premium digital, quicker access to the latest content, and that will continue to fuel the growth of the premium digital offering.

Serridge: Google TV, in its role as retailer to the studios, reflects the mix of windowing and pricing strategies adopted by each of the studios. During the pandemic, there was a combination of different strategies and also quite a bit of experimentation. Now, across the industry, there appears to be a trend toward a more-sustainable windowing strategy. From our perspective, the market as a whole would benefit from a more consistent approach that’s also easy for consumers to understand.

About how many titles are released on premium digital each month?

Douglas: We’re currently seeing an average of two to three a week! Street date selection is once again becoming much more critical to a title’s success, not unlike the height of DVD when you were competing for front-of-store retail pallet space.

Florence: It varies based on the time of year. Holidays allow for stronger theatrical slates. You will see those titles’ premium windows follow pretty quickly with the 17- to 30-day average window. So for June there are only two to five major PVOD titles. Smaller studios also are trying to slot in PVOD windows due to the high price point. With more titles coming back to theaters, we are seeing a higher volume of PVOD/PEST titles and, in some months, peaking with 10 to 12 key titles.

Gutierrez: The volume of titles is dependent on the volume of releases. We know that the industry was still close to 40% fewer releases in 2022 than it was in 2019. The uptick since March in theatrical releases has led to the recent growth in premium digital releases with hit titles like Super Mario and Dungeons & Dragons being premium releases.

Serridge: Our goal is to make available 100% of the top new-release content at the earliest availability. We’re still seeing the exact number of titles move around month to month as the industry resettles, post-pandemic.

Can you quantify how much premium digital contributes to your service?

Douglas: We planned for the premium category to be flat to down over the past couple of years, due to studio testing and the end of the pandemic. But, for example, it was over 10% of our business last month — most of which we believe is incremental — and we’re continuing to see it grow.

Gutierrez: New releases are always a key driver for any transactional business as consumers want to see the latest content. Premium digital enables the new-release titles to get to consumers more quickly, seeing more of them buy the title.

Serridge: We measure success in terms of our ability to give the consumer options for how to watch the content they’re seeking. As such, we don’t really track “premium digital” as a separate category.

Do you think premium digital (purchase and rental) is here to stay, and why or why not?

Douglas: Premium has clearly established itself as a specific, exciting new incremental window for the industry. All the major studios are playing in it one way or another, and I think we’ll continue to see growth there. Vudu loves it because it’s the most complementary product to our core Fandango ticketing business, and we can truly serve consumers across the entire movie lifecycle.

Florence: Premium access has provided customers that cannot get to theaters a way to see the movie early if they are willing to pay that higher price point. In relation to the theatergoing experience, which for my family of five runs around $100 after tickets and food, a $20 to $30 premium offer is a real value in comparison. So yes, I think it’s staying. However, really the bigger question lies with major studios on their commitment to the transactional windows in general alongside their streaming strategies. They should lean into the theatrical and transactional windows — it builds social clout for the film, word of mouth and an air of excitement to “want to see.” Each window is still a value that a customer sees that they can still re-engage with in a streaming window for those tentpole films.

Gutierrez: Premium digital, particularly purchase, will stay and grow. Consumers’ expectations have shifted, seeking earlier access to content and being willing to pay a premium for that earlier access. Studios benefit as they can use their theatrical marketing to keep their titles fresh in consumers’ minds rather than having to start a completely new marketing cycle 90-plus days later. The premium purchase gives the consumer the opportunity to view the title repeatedly, build a library, and more easily justifies the costs versus a limited rental.

Serridge: For Google TV, our goal is to give consumers as much choice as possible, and premium digital fills an important gap, enabling access to new-release titles shortly after the theatrical debut. We’ve seen that the premium digital offers resonate with consumers, so as long as that continues to be the case, I expect it’s here to stay.

What are some of the most successful marketing initiatives your service has launched in the past year?

Douglas: My favorite was actually a Fandango Rewards movie ticket promotion, which could have easily been a home entertainment promotion. It was the exceptional execution with Applebee’s and Paramount for Top Gun: Maverick, where consumers received a free Fandango movie ticket after spending a particular amount at the restaurant. For Vudu, my favorite initiatives are when we partner closely with our Rotten Tomatoes brand to get behind seasonal and cultural affinity moments, allowing us to spotlight things like Awards Season, AAPI Heritage, or Pride, with a thoughtful and validating editorial point of view furnished by Rotten Tomatoes.

Florence: My favorite launch is the Top Gun: Maverick launch that we partnered with Paramount on — with custom assets, a social campaign, a co-op media strategy, and some great giveaways. That is a title that soared with our customers.

Gutierrez: Microsoft Movies and TV is in the rare position of being able to bundle movie content with video games. We have seen the success of the two industries (gaming and film) merging with Super Mario, “The Last of Us,” etc. and Microsoft Movies & TV has created transmedia offerings such as the Microsoft Flight Sim and Top Gun special bundle and highlighting in-game changes with film such as ’80s action heroes in Call of Duty. These programs have been a success for all, delighting gamers, driving movie purchases, and increasing gaming engagement. With this focus on gamers, Microsoft Movies and TV has also created an entire new offering of Game Pass Movie Deals. We have partnered with studios to offer exclusive discounts to our Game Pass subscribers, giving studios more exposure for their titles to the gamer audience, and for our gamers, giving them an opportunity to add to their digital library.

Serridge: We’ve been really happy with the consumer response to Google TV, a modern, content-forward TV experience available on Chromecast and on panel TVs made by Sony, TCL, Hisense and others. Google TV is a great vehicle for content, across all distribution models, including premium digital. For example, recently we experimented with a creative treatment in support of Avatar: The Way of Water, and we continue to seek out opportunities to help highlight great content. By meeting consumers where they are (in front of the TV) with the right content, at the right time, for the right price — that’s how we help our partners grow their business.

How do you think the digital transactional business will change in the next few years?

Douglas: I think there will be a blending of what historically have been discrete business models and windows. However, it’s clear that more and more content continues to be produced to serve a growing and diverse digital audience, and there’s a bright outlook for digital video overall in all its forms.

Gutierrez: With the increase in theatrical slate volume and premium digital offerings, I believe the digital transactional business will grow from the prior two-year low. Consumers will always want access to content, and studios are adjusting their windowing strategies — all of which will support the growth of transactional video.

Serridge: There is a great deal of innovation happening across the board in entertainment, with a new wave of changes on the horizon as generative AI gets integrated into content creation and distribution processes. For the digital transactional business to thrive, it will need to adapt to the changing consumer and business context, and we think Google TV can be at the forefront of enabling these opportunities. On Google TV we’re committed to building for the future, whatever it may hold, and we look forward to supporting the industry as it evolves across all business models.

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TOP RETAILERS BY CATEGORY (listed by estimated market share)

Top Brick-and-Mortar Retailers

WALMART

Bentonville, Ark.

Walmart executives won’t talk, but studio executives say the country’s biggest retailer last year cut its DVD and Blu-ray Disc footprint by 20% to make more room for, among other things, vinyl records. Even so, Walmart accounts for about 45% of physical disc sales, up from 40% in the disc’s heyday a decade and a half ago. Walmart stores typically display new releases on an endcap in the electronics section, next to displays for catalog titles, magazines and collectibles. However, some stores have new releases in a locked cabinet farther back away from the aisles, depending on the location. Often, Walmarts will dedicate a section of the catalog shelf to a themed display, such as a collection of exclusive slipcovers for holidays such as Valentine’s Day or Christmas. For exclusives, the chain typically offers a gift set packing the Blu-ray with a collectible. Some 4K titles might receive a slipcover with exclusive box art. Franchise titles are sometimes offered as a multi-film DVD set. Some Disney titles come with exclusive slipcovers and codes for an ebook, or an enamel pin.

 

TARGET

Minneapolis

The chain has more than 1,900 stores in the United States, but home entertainment has become less of a priority. Target now accounts for just 6% of physical disc sales. Home entertainment sections are generally configured one of two ways. Some stores utilize two display stands at the front of the electronics section — one for new releases and the other for recent releases — with catalog and deep-discount shelves behind them. The other layout involves a sleeker single but taller display stand for new and recent releases, with a shelf for catalog titles next to it. DVD endcaps near the cash registers at the front of its stores have mostly been replaced by displays for books, and the overall footprint for discs has been reduced in general, particularly for 4K discs. Some stores don’t offer any large catalog shelves beyond a couple of deep-discount endcaps, with the space now devoted to books, manga comics or vinyl music albums. New-release displays are not frequently updated, often left empty for days or weeks. Major new titles are sometimes listed as “online only” and might not be available in physical stores for several days following street date. Clerks point to staffing shortfalls following the pandemic as a primary reason for the restocking delays. Target’s Blu-ray exclusives often feature discs with pack-in collectible art cards or a booklet, with exclusive box art.

 

BEST BUY

Minneapolis

The consumer electronics chain has more than 1,000 stores in the United States and Canada and accounts for about 5% of physical disc sales. The chain is known for its exclusive Steelbook Blu-ray cases for catalog and new releases, mostly for 4K Ultra HD combo packs. Best Buy stores usually include a DVD and Blu-ray new-release kiosk near the front, with a row or two of catalog titles in the middle of the store, though some stores have their new-release booth farther back next to the catalog displays instead.

 

BARNES & NOBLE

New York

The brick-and-mortar bookseller operates approximately 600 stores across the United States and sells a large breadth of disc titles, both in store and online. The chain accounts for about 3% of physical disc sales. As far as movies go, however, Barnes & Noble is perhaps best known for its periodic sale of Criterion Collection titles, selling the collectors brand for half off retail price.

 

FYE

Albany, N.Y.

This chain of roughly 200 entertainment and pop culture merchandise retail stores was formerly owned by Trans World Entertainment. As of 2020, FYE is a unit of 2428392 Inc. The chain began in 1993 and was expanded in 2001 after buying out and rebranding mall-based Camelot, Strawberries, Record Town, Coconuts and DiscJockey stores. FYE stores primarily focus on collectibles and vinyl music, though DVD, Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD discs are prominently featured in themed displays alongside such items as Funko movie figurines, branded movie backpacks, vinyl records and squishmallows. FYE stores also feature exclusive editions, including Blu-ray Steelbooks.

 

MEIJER

Grand Rapids, Mich.

The privately owned and family operated supercenter chain, featuring groceries, electronics and other items in addition to discs, has more than 245 stores throughout the Midwest in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin. The chain sells a plethora of merchandise, with sections for clothes, groceries, a deli, a bakery, pet supplies and pharmacy items. Discs are displayed in a section alongside electronics and music.

 

REDBOX

Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.

Acquired by Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment in August 2022, Redbox rents DVDs and Blu-ray Discs starting at $2.25 a day via approximately 34,000 kiosks nationwide and has nearly 40 million loyalty members. Redbox has also expanded into digital delivery through its Redbox On Demand transactional and AVOD offerings. The kiosk chain in April announced it had signed an expanded partnership agreement with Dollar General Corp. to add 1,500 Redbox kiosks over the next two years. The deal will bring the number of Redbox kiosks at Dollar General to more than 5,000 locations by the end of 2024.

 

Top E-Commerce Retailers

Amazon.com

The e-commerce pioneer is a top seller of discs online, in addition to its streaming and digital transactional offerings. The online retailer accounts for about 15% of physical disc sales. Under the “Movies, Music & Games” department, Amazon offers “Movies & TV” and “Blu-ray” categories next to “CDs & Vinyl,” “Video Games” and “Entertainment Collectibles,” among other menu items.

 

Walmart.com

Under the “Departments” section and the “Movies, Music & Books” tab, the chain offers new releases, “4K Ultra HD Movies,” “Blu-ray Movies,” “DVD Movies,” “TV Shows on 4K Ultra HD,” “TV Shows on Blu-ray” and “TV Shows on DVD.”

 

Bestbuy.com

The consumer electronics chain sells discs online in the “Movies & TV Shows” tab, offering categories such as “New Releases,” “Pre-Orders,” “4K UHD Movies & TV Shows,” “Steelbooks,” “Movies,” “TV Shows” and “On Sale.”

 

Target.com

The Target site offers discs for sale under the “Movies, Music & Books” tab. The chain offers new releases, pre-orders, “Movies Only at Target,” “4K UHD movies,” “Blu-ray Movies,” “DVD movies,” and “Movies & Books Box Sets.”

 

Deepdiscount.com

The online retailer offers heavily discounted prices on DVDs, Blu-rays, CDs, vinyl and other items and offers free shipping on qualifying orders of $25 or more.

 

Top Broadband Digital Retailers

AMAZON

Seattle

The online retailer not only offers the Prime Video streaming service and e-commerce disc sales, but also allows consumers to rent or buy titles digitally.

 

APPLE TV

Cupertino, Calif.

The app, offering digital purchases and rentals of movies, is available on Apple devices, smart-TVs, gaming consoles and more.

 

VUDU

Beverly Hills, Calif.

Fandango’s Vudu transactional digital service boasts more than 200,000 titles to rent and buy digitally. Vudu offers premium experiences, including 4K Ultra High-Definition, Dolby Vision, HDR, and Dolby Atmos Cinema Sound. The movie-ticketing service Fandango is owned by Comcast and also owns movie-rating goliath Rotten Tomatoes, offering numerous cross-promotional opportunities.

 

GOOGLE/YOUTUBE

Mountain View, Calif.

The online behemoth offers digital rentals and purchases of TV shows and movies.

 

REDBOX ON DEMAND

Oakbrook Terrace, IL

The on-demand app from the kiosk company, owned by Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, offers titles for digital rental and sale.

 

MICROSOFT MOVIES & TV

Redmond, Wash.

The service offers digital rentals and purchases of TV shows and movies on the app, on the Xbox console, a Windows device or on the Web.

 

Top MVPD Retailers

XFINITY

Philadelphia (parent Comcast)

The Xfinity service, owned by Comcast Corp., offers digital content to buy or rent. Access is promoted through Comcast’s cloud-based X1 set-top box. The service is also available via the Xfinity Flex streaming device and Xfinity Stream app.

 

DIRECTV STREAM

El Segundo, Calif.

Formerly divisions of giant telecom AT&T, the service offers digital sales and rentals of up to 65,000 movies and TV shows to subscribers.

 

DISH NETWORK

Englewood, Colo.

The satellite service offers its subscribers 60,000-plus titles on
demand. It also owns the streaming service Sling TV.

 

SPECTRUM

Stamford, Conn.

The brand of services from cable operator Charter Communications offers more than 85,000 on-demand titles.

 

VERIZON FIOS

Keller, Texas

Parent Verizon Communications uses the brand to market internet, telephone and TV service. The television service offers purchases and rentals of titles.

 

ALTICE

New York

The U.S. broadband communications and video service provider serves approximately 4.9 million residential and business customers across 21 states, offering on-demand titles via its Optimum TV.

 

COX COMMUNICATIONS

Atlanta

The U.S. digital cable television provider offers on-demand movies and TV shows.

Barnes & Noble Expands Criterion Selection

Barnes & Noble June 21 announced that a handful of its retail locations will expand its Criterion Collection inventory to include every title available on Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD.

The bookseller chain plans to offer the full assortment at 12 locations, including stores in New York; Los Angeles; Honolulu; Anchorage; Orlando; San Antonio; Troy, Mich.; Bloomington, Minn.; Louisville Ky.; Spokane, Wash.; and Peoria Ill. Additional locations will be announced in the future.
 
“We have had a long history of featuring Criterion titles in our stores and online at bn.com,” Barnes & Noble music and video category manager Crissi Bariatti said in a statement. “This expansion will allow the Barnes & Noble customer in select markets to browse and shop the entire collection available on Blu-ray and 4K UHD. Additionally, shoppers in all markets can order for home delivery or store pickup.”
 
Established in 1984, the Criterion Collection releases collector’s editions of significant classic and contemporary films from around the world. Criterion currently offers more than 800 films on Blu-ray, with a growing assortment on 4K disc, with titles such as Disney’s Wall-E, Oscar winner Parasite, recent award winners such as Drive My Car, and classics such as Seven Samurai, Jeanne Dielman, Romeo & Juliet, Blue Velvet and Do the Right Thing.

“We are thrilled with Barnes & Noble’s decision to expand their selection of Criterion titles, allowing customers the opportunity to build their own collections,” Angie Bucknell, director of sales at Criterion, said in a statement.

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Currently, Barnes & Noble carries a curated assortment of Criterion titles available on Blu-ray in most of its 600 locations, including new releases and monthly themed catalog assortments offered at a substantial discount.

Criterion recently announced its September 2023 slate will include 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays of The Princess Bride (Sept. 5), Walkabout (Sept. 12), Orson Welle’s The Trial (Sept. 19), and the David Bowie documentary Moonage Daydream (Sept. 26), plus a Blu-ray of the Ritchie Valens biopic La Bamba (Sept. 26) starring Lou Diamond Phillips.

Barnes & Noble Completes Sale to Private Fund Manager

Barnes & Noble, America’s largest brick-and-mortar bookseller, Aug. 7 announced the successful closing of its $683 million acquisition by Elliott Advisors Limited, a private fund manager located in the United Kingdom.

Elliott’s purchase follows its 2018 acquisition of Waterstones, the largest retail bookseller in the U.K.

Barnes & Noble operates 627 retail stores across all 50 states, where it remains the #1 retail bookseller in the U.S. The retailer also operates BN.com website as well as Nook tablet business, which includes the sale of digital movies and TV shows.

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Elliott seeks to deploy the same strategy it claims turned around Waterstones in an age of ecommerce and Amazon. Elliott will own both Barnes & Noble and Waterstones and, while each bookseller will operate independently, James Daunt, CEO of Waterstones, will serve as CEO of both companies and relocate from London to New York.

“This is a very good day for bookselling,” Daunt said in a statement.

“Barnes & Noble is the greatest of all bookstore names and will now benefit from the support of an owner committed to physical bookselling. With investment and concentration on the core principles of good bookselling, the prospects for this extraordinary company are bright.”

Paul Best, portfolio manager and head of European private equity at Elliott, said the $38.2 billion fund remains committed to bookselling and “real” bookstores.

“Barnes & Noble has an extraordinary heritage, one that we want to protect and grow,” Best said.

As a result of the merger, Barnes & Noble becomes a privately held subsidiary of Elliott and will cease trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Daunt’s honeymoon could be short-lived.

Barnes & Noble generated a $18.3 million net loss in its most-recent fiscal period, with same-store sales down 2.3%. Quarter sales topped $755 million and $3.6 billion for the fiscal year, down 3.9% and 3% from the prior year periods, respectively.

Barnes & Noble Narrows Q4 Loss, Posts Fiscal-Year Profit

Barnes & Noble, which has accepted a $683 million offer from a private equity fund manager, June 19 said it generated a fourth-quarter (ended April 27) loss of $18.3 million, down from a net loss of $21.1 million during the previous-year period.

The nation’s largest brick-and-mortar bookstore, which operates 627 stores in 50 states, said same-store sales dipped 2.3% in the quarter and 1.9% for the fiscal year.

Total quarterly sales were $755 million and $3.6 billion for the fiscal year, decreasing 3.9% and 3% from the prior year periods, respectively.

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quarterly sales, which include digital sales of movies and TV shows, narrowed 17.4% to $20.7 million from $25 million last year.

Fiscal 2019 net earnings were $3.8 million compared to a net loss of $125.5 million in the prior year.

Excluding non-recurring or unusual charges, pre-tax earnings topped $4.6 million in the quarter, as compared to $6.7 million a year ago, and $147.2 million for fiscal 2019, as compared to $145.4 million a year ago.

Barnes & Noble said it reduced expenses by $50.4 million during fiscal 2019, excluding non-recurring or unusual charges.

The retailer on June 7 entered into an agreement to be acquired by funds advised by Elliott Advisors (U.K.) Limited. If the deal is consummated, B&N is expected to be privately held.

 

 

Barnes & Noble Investor Wants More Money for Bookseller

An investor holding a 3.4% stake in Barnes & Noble is urging the bookseller’s board to consider more lucrative offers for the country’s largest brick-and-mortar bookstore.

The fiscally-challenged chain, which sells DVD/Blu-ray Disc movies, in addition to digital content through its Nook subsidiary, earlier this month accepted a $478.8 million offer ($683 million including debt) from private fund manager Elliott Management.

Book distributor Readerlink LLC then disclosed it was working on a superior bid.

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Richard Schottenfeld, who reportedly ranks among the chain’s top 10 investors, in a June 13 filing said he believes Barnes & Noble is worth “considerably more” than the agreed-upon sale price, and believe that the special committee, including its chairman, Mark Carlton, “has failed in its duty to maximize value for shareholders.”

Schottenfeld’s action could be too late.

Should B&N renege on the acquisition, it would owe Elliott a $4 million break-up fee. That amounts balloons to $17.5 million after June 13.