Merchandising: ‘Maleficent’ Is Mistress of Exclusives

Disney’s Maleficent: Mistress of Evil arrived at retail Jan. 14 with a couple of retailer exclusives.

Target offered the fantasy sequel based on “Sleeping Beauty” as a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with a filmmaker gallery book for $34.99.

Target’s ‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’ 4K UHD Blu-ray Gallery booklet

Best Buy had a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Steelbook of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil for $34.99.

Best Buy’s ‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’ Steelbook

Best Buy also had a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Steelbook for Disney’s 2016 version of The Jungle Book, which was just released in the UHD format.

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Walmart had an exclusive tied to Paramount’s Gemini Man, offering a bonus Vudu digital movie of xXx: Return of Xander Cage with the Gemini Man Blu-ray ($22.96) or 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray ($27.96).

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New Data Highlights Big Box Winter Retail Foot Traffic

In an age of e-commerce and online retail, traditional brick-and-mortar stores have increasingly focused on specific days of the year to push consumer foot traffic in stores.

New data from Placer.ai, which has offices in Los Altos, Calif. and Tel Aviv, suggests retailers such as Walmart, Target and Best Buy target holidays to entice consumers. In a blog post, Ethan Chernofsky, VP of marketing, cited analytical data underscoring how the big box stores fared throughout 2019.

“Walmart may be the undisputed king of offline retail, and much of that centers around its ability to drive excitement and interest throughout the calendar,” Chernofsky wrote. “As opposed to many, Walmart’s peak comes in the days before Christmas with an annual peak hitting on Dec. 23.”

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He said the day before Christmas Eve saw store foot traffic rise 89.2% above the retail behemoth’s baseline for 2019.

“There are clear peaks before Easter, Mother’s and Father’s Day, as well as the obvious Black Friday bump, in addition to an ongoing push in the back-to-school season,” Chernofsky wrote. “The capacity to effectively take advantage of so many key time periods is a hallmark to Walmart’s ongoing success.”

By comparison, Black Friday remains the key day in Target’s retail calendar, driving visits 181.3% above normal. Target has also shown a proclivity to dominate both the back-to-school period and the buildup into Christmas, with both periods driving major benefits to the general merchandise leader.

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For Target, the day before Easter provides one of the few major peaks outside of the holiday and back-to-school seasons, with visits rising 81.7% above the baseline.

“If the retailer can identify another opportunity to drive visits with the same strength as the late summer or holiday period, the impact could catapult the brand to an entirely new level of success,” Chernovsky wrote.

 

 

Finally, Black Friday remains key to Best Buy. The brand sees visits rise a whopping 641.9% above the baseline on the post-Thanksgiving retail holiday.

“Smaller peaks throughout the rest of the holiday season come nowhere near the incredible standard the brand sets on Black Friday,” he wrote.

Placer.ai  said the data highlights opportunities retailers could act upon  to galvanize consumers throughout the year.

“Whether it’s Mother’s or Father’s Day, or an Amazon-esque attempt to create their own holiday [i.e. Prime Day], Best Buy has huge opportunities for growth if it can better leverage the period between January 1st and Thanksgiving,” Chernovsky wrote.

Merchandising: Retailers Deal Out ‘Joker’ Exclusives

Retailers lined up exclusive editions for the Jan. 7 home video release of Warner’s Joker.

Best Buy offered a Steelbook edition of the 4K UHD Blu-ray combo pack for $34.99.

Target’s ‘Joker’ Blu-ray

Target had the regular Blu-ray combo pack with exclusive box art for $24.99.

Walmart’s ‘Joker’ DVD

And Walmart presented a single-disc DVD version as opposed to the widely-available two-disc DVD special edition. Walmart’s version included special box art and a lone bonus feature, the three-minute “Please Welcome … Joker,” a compilation of alternate takes of Joker’s talk-show entrance.

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The special single-disc DVD was offered at $16.96 in stores, but was priced online at $23.59.

The regular two-DVD version was offered at most places, including Walmart online, for $17.99 and offered nearly a half-hour of additional extras, including a making-of documentary.

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Standard box art for ‘Joker’ DVD, Blu-ray and 4K UHD BD

Vudu Greenlights ‘Legacy’ Series Showcasing Children of Famous Athletes

Vudu, Walmart’s digital video service, Jan. 7 announced it has ordered the eight-episode docuseries “Legacy.” The new Vudu Original will star 13-time NBA All-Star Dwyane Wade, who will also serve as an executive producer on the series.

“Legacy” joins Vudu’s slate of original content including series “Mr. Mom” and feature film Adventure Force 5.

“Legacy” will chronicle the lives of gifted young athletes who all have one thing in common — they are the children of famous athletes, and they are working toward living up to the name on their back while also building their own athletic identity.

The docuseries will be available for free exclusively on Vudu in 2020.

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“Legacy is a part of Vudu’s commitment to invest in creating premium and compelling original content for families to enjoy together,” Jeremy Verba, VP and GM of Vudu, said in a statement.

The docuseries will follow Wade’s son, Zaire Wade, as he navigates his senior year of high school as a Division I basketball prospect; and Randall Cunningham’s daughter, Vashti Cunningham, who is a track and field athlete specializing in the high jump and a contender to win gold at the 2020 Olympics.

The series will also shadow Evan and Elijah Holyfield, the sons of former heavyweight world champion boxer Evander Holyfield. Evan is following in his father’s footsteps and pursuing a professional boxing career, while Elijah (who played at University of Georgia) has chosen a different path as an NFL running back. Additional names will be announced in the coming months.

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“I’m proud to executive produce ‘Legacy’ and bring my son’s athletic journey to other aspiring young athletes,” said Wade. “I hope this docuseries leaves viewers feeling inspired through showing the hard work and dedication needed to turn your dreams into reality.”

 

‘Super Saturday’ (Dec. 21) Sales Topped Black Friday

With the winter retail holidays a week shorter than last year, merchants have pulled out the stops attempting to get consumers into stores and online before Christmas.

New data from retail research firm Customer Growth Partners suggests marketing efforts coupled with last-minute shopping holiday shopping is paying off.

Consumers spent a record $34.4 billion, the biggest single day in U.S. retail history — topping perennial Black Friday retail juggernaut by 10% ($31.2 billion).

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Walmart, Costco and Target paced big box stores — while e-commerce (Amazon) has driven 58% of sales growth from the same day a year ago. Other big retail days this winter holiday season have been Dec. 14, with $28.1 billion, and Cyber Monday, with $19.1 billion.

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All four retailers account for a vast majority of packaged-media retail.

“Super Saturday was boosted by the best traffic our team has seen in years,” Craig Johnson, president Customer Growth Partners, said in a statement. “The question now is whether [the] momentum leads to sustained economic growth into 2020 and beyond.”

 

Roku, Walmart Launch Smart TVs in Mexico

Walmart and Roku Dec. 23 announced the launch of the new Atvio Roku TV lineup of smart TVs, exclusively available in Walmart stores in Mexico.

Atvio Roku TVs will offer consumers a smart TV experience that is easy to use so they can enjoy streaming entertainment at an affordable price. Atvio Roku TV models will be available in the upcoming weeks and will include a 32-inch HD screen, and a 50 and 55-inch UHD screen, starting at $179 (3,499 pesos). Executives from both companies said the partnership underscores years of attempting to meld Internet access with low-cost televisions.

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“We’re thrilled to bring Roku’s leading operating system to our Atvio smart TVs in Mexico this holiday season so our customers can enjoy the best entertainment that is easy to use and at an incredible value,” Jesús Enrique Guzman Güereca, VP of Walmart Mexico, said in a statement.

The new Atvio Roku TV lineup includes: 32-inch to 55-inch screens, HD, built-in wireless, USB, 3x HDMI, antenna input, AV input, S/PDIF. Additional features include putting all entertainment options (streaming, cable/satellite, antenna) onto one personalized home screen. Roku TV offers a streaming line-up with more than 100,000 movies & TV episodes across thousands of free and paid streaming channels, such as the Apple TV app, Cinépolis KLIC, Claro Video, HBO Go and Netflix.

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Roku Search: Fast and easy search across top channels offers results ranked by price.

Over-the-air HDTV: Connect an HD antenna for easy access to live over-the-air programming. Pause, rewind, or fast forward live TV for up to 90 minutes (requires 16GB USB stick).

Roku Remote: An easy to use remote control with channel shortcut buttons.

Free Roku mobile app: Control the TV using the virtual remote and keyboard, enjoy private listening with headphones, and more.

 

Merchandising: Exclusives for ‘Once’ and ‘It’

Retailers had plenty of exclusives lined up for Sony Pictures’ Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Warner’s It: Chapter Two for their Blu-ray release Dec. 10.

For Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Target offered a $24.99 Blu-ray with a pack-on replica of a film magazine that focused on the fictional career of Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in the film.

Walmart’s ‘It’ Double Feature Blu-ray

Walmart had a $22.96 Blu-ray with pack-on postcard replicas of posters of the character’s fictional movies.

Packaging for both the Target and Walmart versions was similar in that they had a slipcover with artwork of the exclusive prominently displayed, and the Blu-ray-cased sized exclusive on the back of the case under the shrinkwrap.

Best Buy offered a Steelbook version of the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray combo pack for $32.99.

Best Buy’s ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ Steelbook

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For It: Chapter Two, Target offered $5 worth of free popcorn and candy with the purchase of the film in any format.

Walmart had an exclusive Blu-ray double feature of the two “It” films for $27.96.

Best Buy’s offered a Steelbook edition of the It: Chapter Two 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray for $34.99.

Best Buy’s ‘It: Chapter Two’ Steelbook

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Target seems to have instituted a new policy regarding DVD and Blu-ray returns. In addition to the standard of only exchanging opened titles with copies of the same title, Target’s computers might allow unopened titles to be exchanged only for a store gift card and not a refund to the original payment method. A clerk at one store didn’t know if this was a temporary change tied to Black Friday promotions or a permanent policy.

Merchandising: Mixed Reviews for Best Buy’s ‘Infinity Saga’ Set

Best Buy Nov. 15 released its exclusive The Infinity Saga collection of the first 23 Marvel Cinematic Universe films, from Iron Man to Avengers: Endgame. The pricey set included the films in both Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, plus digital codes for each, in collectible display packaging and an exclusive bonus disc with never-before-seen deleted scenes from several of the Marvel films.

Limited to about 4,000 units available at $549.99 each, the collector’s set quickly sold out, with copies showing up on secondary markets such as eBay commanding asking prices well above $1,000. Some online reviews of the set, however, indicated poor quality control both in the assembly of the set and the shipping of it, with reports of damaged boxes and missing movies. The discs themselves come in paper sleeves, with some reviewers reporting glue from the packaging seeping onto the discs.

It should also be noted that the set does not include the 3D versions of any movies that had been released on disc in 3D, and extra bonus discs from the earlier movies also were not included.

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Dec. 3 Best Buy had a piece of another massive collector’s set, that being Fox’s The Simpsons: The Complete Seasons 1-20 Limited Edition. The 79-DVD set (no Blu-ray, even though some of the seasons were released in the HD format) was reportedly limited to a run of just 1,000 units, with copies available through Best Buy, Amazon and Walmart. Each retailer’s website had the boxed set listed for a $499.99 sale price the day prior to its official street date.

The 19th season, which aired in 2007 and 2008, also arrived on DVD for the first time Dec. 3, completing the run of the first 20 seasons. The show is currently in its 31st. Fox in 2015 announced it wasn’t releasing any more “Simpsons” DVDs, at a point when it had released discs of just seasons one through 17 and season 20. Season 18 was released on DVD in 2017 following fan demand for more discs.

Based on the producers’ statements in 2015, and rumors swirling that Disney may end the series (which it purchased as part of its acquisition of the 20th Century Fox studio and catalog) after 32 or 33 seasons, the next DVD or Blu-ray release of the series could possibly be a complete-series set a few years from now, if such a disc release is even contemplated at all. The first 30 seasons of the series are available for streaming on the new Disney+ service.

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The biggest disc release of Dec. 3, however, was HBO’s “Game of Thrones” eighth-season and complete-series releases.

For exclusives on the eighth season set, however, HBO committed one of the biggest pet peeves among collectors — splitting exclusive featurettes among different retailers — as opposed to offering a variety of packaging options or pack-on collectibles, with any bonus content consolidated with one retailer so fans who just care about having all the available content aren’t tempted to buy the same release twice just for a few extra minutes of bonus material that isn’t offered anywhere else.

Best Buy “Game of Thrones” season eight exclusive sigil box art

For Game of Thrones: The Complete Eighth Season, Target offered the Blu-ray at $39.99 with an add-on “How the Storm Was Born” featurette, taking a look at the making of the penultimate episode and the razing of King’s Landing.

The featurette was included on a separate disc packed onto the standard season eight case.

Walmart’s exclusive bonus disc with the Blu-ray offered the featurette “From Renderings to Reality: The Visual Effects of Season 8.” The chain had it at $37.96 with the same packaging as Target, a separate thin Blu-ray case packed with the regular season eight Blu-ray, but availability was spotty from store-to-store, with some locations not even bothering to put any of the week’s new titles on shelves even into the evening of Dec. 3.

Interestingly, the VFX featurettes for the first seven seasons are included on the bonus disc with the Game of Thrones: The Complete Series Blu-ray. So fans who buy the complete series and want that final VFX featurette will have to buy a second copy of season eight separately.

Best Buy offered the season-eight Blu-ray with exclusive three-eyed-raven sigil box art for $44.99.

 

Black Friday Musings

I ventured out on Black Friday not so much in search of bargains (all right, maybe a new laptop at Best Buy) but to see if there were any significant differences at retail from prior years.

The biggest change, on the home entertainment front, is that the buying process has become a lot more complicated than simply squeezing in past other shoppers to snatch that prize TV, Blu-ray Disc or video game.

I went to Best Buy with my 21-year-old middle son to pick up some of the advertised video game specials as gifts for my youngest. By 3 p.m., the time we arrived, both of the games we were looking for had sold out.

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I turned my attention to the laptops — and when I finally rousted up a clerk, he told me yes, the item was in stock, and to wait right there until he could find it.

I waited 10 minutes, which to me is a lifetime, and then walked out. While walking, I found the exact same laptop, at the exact same price, on Amazon and clicked the “Buy Now” button.

Our next stop was Walmart — a place I avoid due to new security measures I consider intrusive. Let me explain: in the hopes of begin more environmentally sensitive, California no longer lets retailers bag items in free, single-use plastic bags. Instead, consumers have the option of buying much heavier plastic bags for a dime apiece (I know — I don’t see the logic here, either). As a result, some customers, me included, skip the bag and just hold our purchased items in our hands.

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At the same time, Walmart began introducing automated checkout stands, with the customer rather than a clerk scanning the items and processing payment.

That lethal combination prompted the retailer to install security personnel at exits to check receipts — which often results in a long line.

No thank you.

Anyway, back to Black Friday. The traditional DVD “dump bins” were as crowded as always, while the good stuff — new releases as well as video games — are now in locked glass cases. We found the video games we were looking for — but finding a clerk to unlock the case proved futile.

Again, Amazon to the rescue.

Once again, we walked out empty-handed.

Vudu Cutting 4K Movie Pricing 50% Through Black Friday

Walmart-owned movie streaming service Vudu is offering 4K UHD movies 50% off normal pricing for 48 hours through Black Friday.

Movies in 4K UHD typically cost between $14.99 and $19.99 per title.

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The special promotion, which requires access to a 4K-compatible television, includes 222 titles, including Shazam!, John Wick 3, Bumblebee, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Venom, Long Shot and Godzilla: King of the Monsters, among others.