Warner eats up Raw Feed

Pacts for next three titles from growing genre label

Warner Home Video is set to announce Thursday an agreement to acquire the next three films to be released directly to DVD under the Raw Feed banner, an edgy line launched in March 2006 under the theatrical catalog group.

The line consists of adult-themed genre films, mostly horror, sci-fi and psychological thrillers, with budgets of up to $5 million.

The next three projects are tentatively titled "Otis," "Supermarket" and "Rest Stop 2," the latter a sequel to the first Raw Feed film, about a couple terrorized by a crazed killer at a back-road rest stop.

"Otis," a dark satire that centers on an abduction, begins principal photography this month, with Tony Krantz (an executive producer of Fox's "24") directing a cast led by Daniel Stern ("City Slickers"), Illeana Douglas ("GoodFellas") and Kevin Pollack ("Casino").

"Supermarket" is the line's first true sci-fi film, while "Rest Stop" is firmly in the horror/slasher film category enjoying a resurgence in theaters.

All three films will be shot in the Los Angeles area. At least two will be released to the home video market in 2008, on the same day they become available on VOD.

"Otis" marks new ground for Raw Feed in that three veteran actors have signed on. "We've added a new component to the formula by adding a legitimate, top-line cast," said Jeff Baker, senior vp and GM at Warner's theatrical catalog division. "For the most part, these have been genre- and story-driven films, not dependent on brand-name casting. But in the case of 'Otis,' based on peoples' shooting schedules, three fairly accomplished actors have gravitated toward the film, and we were able to secure them, which is very exciting."

Baker said the Raw Feed line was born as a result of a pitch to Warner from Krantz and John Shiban ("The X-Files") and Daniel Myrick (co-creator of "The Blair Witch Project").

"We felt this was a compelling array of content that was really different from what was currently on the market, and we also saw the promise of positive financial results for the company," Baker said.

That promise has been met, he added: The first "Rest Stop" alone sold more than 500,000 DVDs in less than a year, while typical direct-to-video releases normally move anywhere from 100,000-200,000 units.

The two films that have been released so far under the branded line, Shiban's "Rest Stop" (which came out in October 2006) and Krantz's "Sublime" (released in March 2007), have benefited from strategic marketing campaigns specifically geared toward horror, sci-fi and thriller audiences. Standard print and broadcast ads are complemented by robust viral Internet campaigns as well as a strong presence at film festivals and horror conventions.

Next up is "Believers," directed by Myrick and slated for an Oct. 16 release. The film recently won best feature film and best actor honors at the Solstice Film Festival.

One thing that sets Raw Feed films apart from other DVD releases is that each one includes an exclusive short that is a tangent to the original movie's story line.

"Rather than going the traditional route, showing outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage, things like that, we also create enhanced content that is kind of an offshoot of the film -- unusual little film vignettes that run anywhere from eight to 15 minutes," Baker said.

"In the first film, for example, we created a small film of a family picnic with the bizarre Winnebago family featured in the film itself, celebrating the birthday of the youngest son, who is deformed," Baker said. "And in 'Sublime,' we created an exorcism that's sort of a rip from the film, in which one of the characters was watching something on the Internet that reportedly was some sort of exorcism taking place in a far-off land."

Fan feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, Baker said. "We've received some very positive feedback from consumers who really feel it makes the whole experience more enjoyable," he said. "And I'm not aware of any other DVDs that employ this kind of tactic, which makes Raw Feed films even more compelling and interesting."