The 19th Annual Video Software Dealers Association Convention and Expo, held July 8-10 at the Venetian/Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas, came at a moment of transition. In terms of the event, this could be the final time the historically summertime ritual could be held during this season; the next event will be held in early January, coinciding with the annual Consumer Electronics Show. But of more importance is the state of flux currently experienced by the industry the event celebrates--home video sales and particularly rentals.
The latter was of primary concern of VSDA president Bo Andersen's "State of the Association" address during July 8's official event-opening general session. At the centerpiece of his speech was the unveiling of the new "Don't just sit there, rent something" promotional campaign designed to drive back to video stores the consumers who have been migrating toward video alternatives such as pay-per-view and the ever-growing cable and satellite channel landscape. The ads will start running on television and radio starting in January.
A major factor in the changing face of video is DVD, which got its first full-scale embracing at this year's event. A portion of the showroom floor was dedicated to the first annual "DVD Festival," showcasing the latest technologies related to the medium. Held on day two of the convention was a "DVD Super Session" highlighted by a panel discussion about the format, moderated by Leonard Maltin and featuring directors George Romero, John Waters, John Landis, David Zucker, and Rob Minkoff. The festivities culminated on the third day with the first annual DVD Festival Awards, hosted by Pauly Shore.
The opening day was also not without its share of awards. While Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Gregory Peck was unable to attend due to illness, the other major honorees were present: Warner Home Video president Warren Lieberfarb and Columbia TriStar Home Video president Ben Feingold, the Video Persons of the Year; My Dog Skip star Frankie Muniz, Rising Star of the Year; and Harold Rosenbaum, Retailer of the Year.
The showroom floor also reflected a trend of recent years, with the presence of major studios diminishing (Warner, New Line, and Buena Vista were the only majors with booths) and more emphasis placed on the smaller independent distributors. Even so, the more popular celebrity appearances and autograph signings were courtesy the larger companies, with Warner Bros. leading the pack with the sizeable crowds attracted by stars such as Jet Li and David Arquette.
Change was also the predominant theme of the general session's keynote address, given by Amir Malin, CEO of Artisan Entertainment--though it wasn't necessarily within the context of home video. Touting its success, he proposed his own company's business operations as a model for an end to big studios' current practices of "waste and extravagance." In addition, he unveiled for the first time footage from the forthcoming Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, the sequel to last summer's surprise blockbuster The Blair Witch Project.