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DEALS REELING 'EM IN STORES LURING CUSTOMERS WITH DEEP CUTS IN PRICES FOR NEW DVD RELEASES.

Byline: Greg Hernandez Staff Writer

The newly released DVD of Nicole Kidman's ``Bewitched'' was a mere $8 for early-bird Wal-Mart shoppers last weekend, while her ex-husband Tom Cruise's ``Minority Report'' could be had for a mere $3.44.

More than ever before, major retailers are using deeply discounted DVDs as bait to lure in shoppers this year. Black Friday, the post-Thanksgiving start to the holiday shopping season, saw some unprecedented door-busting DVD prices on both new releases and library titles.

Among the deals: Circuit City had ``The Incredibles,'' ``Kingdom of Heaven'' and ``Robots'' priced at $8.99; Wherehouse stores had a $5.99 price tag on ``Shark Tale'' and ``Meet the Fockers,'' while Best Buy touted $3.99 specials for ``8 Mile,'' ``The Cat in the Hat'' and ``Along Came Polly.''

``Everybody is trying to come up with a better piece of cheese to lure the customer,'' said Eugene Muscat, dean of the University of San Francisco's School of Business. ``Of course, the bigger the retailer, the more cheese you can come up with because of your volume.''

In addition to ``Bewitched,'' early-bird shoppers at Wal-Mart could buy the Adam Sandler comedy ``The Longest Yard,'' Will Ferrell's ``Kicking and Screaming'' and ``The Interpreter,'' starring Kidman and Sean Penn, for a mere $8.

``You have to consider who is in the store on that Black Friday: bargain hunters,'' said Ralph Tribbey, editor of DVD Release Report, an industry newsletter. ``It has gotten insane. But if you get people to buy movies and it helps to get rid of inventory, that's not a bad thing.''

Or is it?

Many in the entertainment industry have mixed feelings about the trend. It may fuel sales, but savvy consumers have grown increasingly accustomed to not ever having to pay full price for a new DVD, most of which have a list price of around $30 but are likely to be sold for about $20 at many stores.

``It's both good and bad,'' Bo Andersen, president of the Video Software Dealers Association, said of the discounting. ``The best part is that DVDs are being used to drive traffic and it speaks to the power of the products. But it does tend to allow consumers to think that these movies aren't really expensive to make. It has a sense of devaluing them for some consumers.''

Beyond Black Friday's bargain basement prices, retailers continued to use DVD deals to lure consumers over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Best Buy, for example, had all-day Friday and Saturday $5.99 deals for ``Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,'' ``Friday Night Lights,'' ``Shrek 2,'' and ``Apollo 13: Anniversary Edition,'' and Target continued to discount such new releases as ``Madagascar'' and ``Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.''

``We had some really brisk sales on DVDs on Friday and Saturday,'' said Target spokeswoman Kristi Arndt. ``We went into the sale expecting that toys and electronics would be some of our hottest items, and movie DVDs touch on both of those categories.''

The bargains, while not at Black Friday's level, are continuing with this week's new releases. ``Mr. & Mrs. Smith,'' the hit movie that brought co-stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie together in real life, is being touted on the front page of newspaper circulars from Best Buy and Circuit City for the discount prices of $15.99 and $13.99, respectively.

Hidden Hills resident Stacy Shakiban, 42, stood in front of the new release racks of the Best Buy store in Woodland Hills scouting for bargains on Tuesday. With a $15.99 copy of ``Mr. & Mrs. Smith'' in her hand already, she made a call on her cell phone.

``Do you want 'Sky High' too?'' she asked a family member after seeing that the Disney release was also on sale.

Shakiban was buying some DVDs as Christmas gifts, but also some titles for herself and her family. It was no mistake that she was at a Best Buy on what has become known as ``New Release Tuesday,'' when the best bargains on the latest films are first available.

``That's why I'm here,'' she said.

Jared Mahan, a 23-year-old Woodland Hills resident, isn't partial to Best Buy even though that was where he was shopping Tuesday.

``I try to find which place has the cheapest prices,'' he said. ``This year, I've even been checking Web sites to find the best prices.''

Muscat thinks the escalation of DVD discounting may be great for customers like Shakiban and Mahan, but isn't so good for businesses in the long run.

``It's really an unhealthy trend,'' he said. ``Anything that creates business traffic without an acceptable profit margin is just going to make all boats sink.''

Greg Hernandez, (818) 713-3758

greg.hernandez(at)dailynews.com

CAPTION(S):

3 photos

Photo:

(1 -- color) A set of three movies is for sale at a Valley Best Buy.

(2) James Santos of Canoga Park considers buying a discounted copy of ``Mr. & Mrs. Smith.''

David Sprague/Staff Photographer

(3 -- color) no caption (dvds)
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 1, 2005
Words:829
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