UK megastore chain Tesco (basically the British Wal-Mart) has made a leap so obvious that it’s amazing no one got there sooner. They’ve decided that they’d like to get into the movie business, so they’re going to produce their own film, available “exclusively” (exciting!) at the chain.
To do this, they’ve hooked up with Amber Entertainment, a company formed by executives from the now-defunct New Line Cinema, who evidently kept their rolodexes intact. The plan is to produce movies from mega-selling authors whose books can be sold alongside the DVD. First up: a Jackie Collins movie (“Paris Connections”), starring Alain Delon’s son Anthony. In the future, the presumably bitter New Line execs will give “The Golden Compass” (the movie that basically sunk their company) a second try, as well as Judy Blume.
With the DVD market at least temporarily collapsing, you might wonder at the wisdom of this plan. But it does makes sense — Tesco can attempt to lure customers in for a book/DVD combo sale, plus they’re taking the once-semi-lucrative-niche that TV movies of this sort (where Collins belongs) used to occupy. Here in New York, the inescapable Duane Reade pharmacy chain has apparently partnered with Sony and WB to sell DVDs near the register for $10 a pop, jumbles of titles that suggest surreally juxtaposed double-features: “Center Stage” and “2046,” anyone? Tesco’s just taking the logic to the next level, producing in-house fodder at a no doubt deeply discounted prices.
It’s worth noting that Tesco’s been fooling around with exclusive DVDs for a while — in the UK, they’re the only place to buy “Me And Orson Welles,” which is all kinds of grimly revealing about what it takes to sell a Richard Linklater movie these days. It’s likely these movies will be terrible but economical, priced for those who just have to see their favorite authors on-screen. (Though I suppose the revamped “The Golden Compass” will be its own kind of weird spectacle, with the New Line execs giving themselves another shot to give it right.)
You have to wonder why an American chain like Wal-Mart — which already sells a lot of well-known garbage — isn’t setting up to do the same. Tesco’s perception in the UK is more on the side of benevolent exasperation than the charges of sheer evil Wal-Mart tends to raise here, which is probably part of it. The many people who shop at Wal-Mart are eager to see whatever their movies would look like. And I suppose Wal-Mart’s notorious pragmatics would keep it from entering the DVD market at such a weird time. But still — I miss the days when Sunday night promised three separate lousy TV movies all hyped by their networks, and this is where they’ve gone to die.
At the very least, I expect “Paris Connections” will be be slightly better than the trailer for “The Stud,” Collins’ first on-screen effort. She had four movies made from her work in 1978-79, unbelievably. Then it was straight to TV:
[Photos: Tesco via Wikipedia; “The Golden Compass,” New Line Cinema, 2007]