A slow, steady climb for Summit

10-12 DVDs per year, limited Blu-ray titles to start

A year after Summit Entertainment officially opened its doors as Hollywood's newest studio, the home entertainment division is up and running with its first release, "P2," a thriller that was in theaters in the fall.

Steve Nickerson, the former high-def guru at Warner Home Video, is president of Summit Home Entertainment. Initial plans call for the division to release 10-12 titles on DVD and, in some cases, Blu-ray Disc, per year — virtually all from the parent studio's theatrical slate, at least at the start.

"We're a studio with a business plan that calls for us to develop, produce and self-distribute films, so our first priority in the home entertainment space is to maximize the 10-12 releases from the studio," Nickerson said. "As far as supplementing that, we will look for properties that we can sell and market and distribute on DVD, but they will have to be complementary to what our first priority is."

He added: "We have to be successful with our theatrical product first, so in the first 12-18 months, our focus is really on getting positioned to do that — and anything that could possibly take away from that focus is not something we will do."

Summit released "P2" two weeks ago and found itself with a solid seller; the film debuted at No. 11 on the weekly Nielsen VideoScan First Alert chart. It was one of only two releases from a non-major studio to make it into the top 20.

Next up on Summit's DVD plate is "Penelope," a fairy tale starring Reese Witherspoon and Christina Ricci that has grossed about $10 million so far in theaters. "Penelope" bows on DVD July 15.

After that comes "Never Back Down," a drama about an underground fight club that stars Sean Faris and Amber Heard. The film was released theatrically in March as Summit Entertainment's first self-produced film and so far has grossed nearly $24 million at the boxoffice. A firm release date has not yet been set because the film is still in theaters, but Nickerson said it likely will arrive on DVD in late July or early August.

"Never Back Down" also will be Summit's first Blu-ray release. Unlike other studio presidents, Nickerson isn't promising to release all upcoming theatrical titles simultaneously on DVD and Blu-ray.

"We think 'Never Back Down' — both the film itself and who it appeals to demographically — is right in that sweet spot for Blu-ray Disc," Nickerson said. "After that, as the business develops, we will obviously release more films on both formats, but I don't think it's necessarily a given that everything theatrical will be day-and-date.

"There are still challenges for an independent studio to bring Blu-ray to market in an economical fashion, and until that market grows to the point where we have the same access to resources and pricing that the major studios have, I can't make the declaration that everything we do will come to Blu-ray," Nickerson said.

Nickerson has named to his inner circle a cadre of studio veterans. Bobby Gerber, executive vp and GM, also worked at Warner, as did T.J. Moffett, Summit's senior vp home entertainment marketing. Jennifer Dunlap, vp home entertainment marketing creative services, worked at Warner and Disney, while Sandy Friedman, executive vp operations, was head of operations at DreamWorks Home Entertainment.

Vivian Mayer, senior vp worldwide publicity for Summit Home Entertainment as well as its theatrical parent, was senior vp publicity for many years at Universal Studios Home Entertainment. Universal's home entertainment unit will handle Summit's back-room "pick, pack and ship" functions.

"It's an exciting opportunity to have a hand in building a studio during the 21st century that is geared toward where the business will be in the 21st century," Nickerson said. "We're taking advantage of all the experience all of us have had at the major studios to build something entirely new."