This might very well be the first year that home video wholesalers and distributors have realized that kidvid has such awesome potential, with one studio after another exploiting character franchises and willing to try new types of content, new platforms and new marketing strategies.
All this became clear when the National Association of Video Distributors got together last month for its 14th annual conference, held in Indian Wells, California. Children’s product has become a highlight of the fall presentations of many studios.
In addition to the popularity of established characters, one reason that distributors eagerly await news about upcoming kidvid releases is that in most store environments these days, there are two shots at offering a title: in the children’s section and in the family section, says Andrew Kairey, executive vice president of Universal Studios Home Video.
One title that Universal went out of its way to tell NAVD attendees about is Jim Carrey’s Liar, Liar, which will be released on video in the fourth quarter. ‘It skews to families,’ says Kairey. ‘Jim Carrey is really popular with kids. He was [named] the top children’s entertainer on Nickelodeon last month.’
Also in its lineup is Hercules & Xena: The Animated Movie, which will be direct to video this fall. It will be the first time characters from the two syndicated television shows have been united in an animated release. The feature-length title incorporates the characters’ likenesses and voices from the programs. ‘[The Hercules and Xena shows] have pushed all the buttons. [They're] a hot property,’ he says. ‘The popularity is huge, the loyalty is huge, and the demographics skew six to 60.’
At the conference, distributors were assured of a continuing flow of top product. ‘We’re committed to developing more and more direct-to-video properties, full-feature titles like American Tales and The Land Before Time.’
There can’t be enough children’s product, says Kirk Kirkpatrick of WaxWorks/VideoWorks, speaking from a distributor’s point of view, as long as a good amount launch directly on home video. ‘This is something we are really exploiting. Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves was a great title for us. It was not in the theater. As distributors and as retailers, we can all sit around and moan about a 30-day or 60-day or [longer] window, but what we should do is exploit what we already have: a valuable franchise.’
Another direct-to-video title is Beauty and the Beast: The Christmas Story from Walt Disney Home Video. ‘We already have a buzz on this as a title coming fourth quarter. It’s direct to video, and that is something the retailers need to realize. Sure, we’re angry about 30-day windows, but the idea is to do something. As a distributor, we’re expanding on our campaign to compete with direct broadcast. We just can’t sit there. If a title has a 60-day window, then show your enthusiasm,’ says Kirkpatrick.