What exactly is the point of screeners?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Jesse Skeen, Feb 14, 2003.

  1. Jesse Skeen

    Jesse Skeen Producer

    Apr 24, 1999
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    I've been working at the main office for a retailer for a little over a year now, and we have a small library of DVDs and VHS tapes that people who work there can check out; they're all promos sent by the video companies. I'm familiar with the VHS screeners that are made for rental stores, presumably to give the owner an idea of the movie and decide from that how many copies to order- these usually have an onscreen message every few minutes reminding you that it's a promotional copy and not for sale or rental.
    Since movies on VHS are hard enough for me to watch without any additional onscreen crap, I haven't watched any of those, but I just checked out a DVD from New Line of the movie "Cheats" (you might have seen a trailer in theaters briefly in 2001 for a movie called "Cheaters" that was supposed to be released fall of that year, but never made it out- it's been retitled and coming out on video in March.)
    Anyways, about every 5 minutes a message scrolled along the bottom of the screen saying basically this was a promotional copy and to call 1-800-NO-COPYS if you had bought or rented the disc. But even weirder was that every 15 minutes or so the picture would switch to black and white, accompanied with another scrolling message saying that "for screening purposes" some scenes were being shown in black and white and not to adjust your TV or DVD player. All this made it pretty difficult to enjoy the movie, but I was watching it mainly out of curiosity since in my 10 years working at movie theaters I'd only gotten a couple trailers for movies that never ended up being released, or having their names changed in this case.
    The official release of this movie isn't coming out until March, and the promo copies are obviously marked enough as such that nobody would try selling or renting those, but I don't get what benefits New Line by making these. It must have cost them some bit of money to send free copies of this out, and while it gives the people who work in retail enough info about the movie's content I still don't see what the point of doing it is. I certainly wouldn't want to watch something like Lord of the Rings with the scrolling messages and picture turning black and white every few minutes; I'd rather wait until the regular release came out.
    A smaller company called Vanguard sends DVDs every month, which have 4 complete movies on one dual-layer side with no onscreen junk, but encoded at a very low bitrate so as to fit on one disc. I don't know how that company benefits by doing that either, but those have been fun to watch.
  2. Jay Mann

    Jay Mann Auditioning

    Feb 13, 2003
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    They benefit because even though it costs them money to produce, they write them off as a business expense during tax time. It's akin to any other presentational expense, ie. Aol disks, business flyers, promotional pens, t-shrits, blinky toys that advertise some name brand, catalogues, ect.. ect... Advertising.

    They are in the business of distributing their videos, so this is just part of their operational cost. It probably costs them a good amount to hire someone to edit their films for screening and to ship them around the country, but they must be making it back ten fold from their rental contracts and retail sales. They figure they can write it off if it gives them a chance to build good relations with the stores, for instance - product placement... Imagine it like they are lobbying for premium eye-level shelf space along with good word-of-mouth to the consumers from employees that check out the screeners.

    It all comes down to the bling-bling, and they're making it!
  3. Gary->dee

    Gary->dee Screenwriter

    Feb 14, 2003
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    Don't forget about the importance of screeners for the Academy Awards. In which case it's always good to know someone that works in the dubbing department at a film company or an agency. [​IMG]

    Seeing messages at the bottom of a screener is normal, but I've never seen a movie suddenly change to black and white. I don't think Academy screeners would include that or else the voters would get turned off quick.

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