MGM pulls out stops for UA 90th

Will celebrate b'day with giant gift set, promos, tie-ins

MGM Home Entertainment will celebrate the 90th anniversary of the United Artists studio with an 18-month worldwide catalog promotion that kicks off next month.

MGM will release at least two collector's or special-edition DVD titles each quarter, along with anniversary-branded gift sets in commemorative packaging, through March 2009. In addition, each quarter will focus on a particular aspect of UA's filmmaking history to honor the films, directors, actors and music that represent the studio's heritage.

To launch the promotion, MGM on Dec. 11 will release the "United Artists 90th Anniversary Prestige Collection Gift Set," consisting of 90 classic UA films, including eight that won best picture Oscars: "Marty," "The Apartment," "In the Heat of the Night," "Annie Hall," "Rocky," "Rain Man," "West Side Story" and "Midnight Cowboy." The set, housed in a Plexiglas case, will sell for $869.98, making it one of the most expensive gift sets ever.

Also out Dec. 11 is a three-title "Essential Collection" gift set.

The fourth quarter also will see the release of "Rocky: The Complete Saga," with all six films in the franchise; the 21-title "James Bond Ultimate Collector's Set"; and a 30th anniversary edition of "New York, New York."

MGM also has released a three-volume "Best of United Artists" collection, with each volume containing four films as well as two movie tickets for the theatrical release of the new UA's first film, "Lions for Lambs," directed by Robert Redford and starring Redford, Meryl Streep and Tom Cruise.

"We are very respectful of the United Artists tradition and look forward to continuing the studio's rich creative legacy," UA CEO Paula Wagner said. " 'Lions for Lambs' is the first in a wide range of films that will revitalize UA and enable the next generation of filmmakers to thrive and see their visions realized."

"The rebirth of UA spurred the greater MGM family to look at the breadth of films and the tremendous legacy of the studio," MGM COO Rick Sands said. "Our home entertainment group at 20th Century Fox saw this as an opportunity to bring back to the consumer consciousness the impact that this library has had on pop culture, entertainment and the artistry of filmmaking."

MGM is spending $20 million in marketing, promotions, publicity and advertising to fuel what it is calling the largest catalog event in home entertainment history. Highlights include partnerships with Panasonic Consumer Electronics and the American Film Institute.

Panasonic will cross-promote the UA anniversary with its own in a yearlong partnership that includes a national sweepstakes and joint retail and marketing efforts focused on Panasonic Blu-ray products.

The AFM promotion includes the fourth-quarter 2007 launch of more than 50 UA films previously honored by the film advocacy group in its "AFI's 100 Years … 100 Movies" series, branded accordingly.

"The 90th anniversary campaign is designed to provide retailers around the world with all of the tools necessary to take part in this extraordinary celebration," said Eric Doctorow, worldwide general manager of MGM Home Entertainment.

Upcoming UA 90th anniversary DVD titles to be released in 2008 include anniversary editions of such classic UA titles as "In the Heat of the Night" (40th), "Last Tango in Paris" (35th), "Rain Man" (20th), "La Cage aux Folles" (30th), "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (30th) and "The Thomas Crown Affair" (40th).