Warner preps DVD gift sets

'Batman Begins,' 'Casablanca' among upcoming releases

Elaborate DVD and Blu-ray Disc editions of "Batman Begins," "Casablanca" and the venerated animated TV series "The Flintstones" top this year's slate of pricey gift sets from Warner Home Video, a category that experienced a whopping 26% growth in the past year, according to the studio.

A total of 25 gift sets, priced from $40-$200, will be released in the final four months of this year, leading up to the holiday shopping season and targeting gift buyers.

Warner began releasing DVD gift sets -- stuffed with cards, booklets and other memorabilia, and often housed in unusual packaging -- in the fourth quarter of 2005, with the original "King Kong" movie packaged in a collectible tin. Last year, the studio held a gala presentation party of its 2007 gift sets at Home Media Expo in Las Vegas, an encore of which was held last week.

"We're looking to bring our collections to a new level in the fourth quarter of 2008," said Jeff Baker, Warner's executive vp and GM theatrical catalog. "We've been very encouraged by the tremendous success of last year's 'Blade Runner Ultimate Collector's Edition,' which came in a briefcase, and the 'Harry Potter' collection, with (the first) five movies in a collectible trunk. It's quite apparent that our consumers appreciate these premium-priced gift sets, especially the rich content and memorabilia."

Warner has done so well with its gift sets that it occasionally ventures out of the fourth quarter with a special collection or two. Such was the case with the "Dirty Harry Ultimate Collector's Edition," which featured all five "Dirty Harry" movies along with never-before-seen production correspondance and a replica of fictional detective Harry Callahan's wallet and badge. In less than 30 days, Warner shipped more than 100,000 copies of the set, which was available in both standard DVD and Blu-ray.

Jeff Brown, Warner's executive vp and GM nontheatrical franchise, said revenues for gift sets over the past three years have been consistently growing "in double digits, and we expect that to continue through the fourth quarter."

The "Batman Begins Limited Edition Gift Set," available in both DVD and Blu-ray Disc, comes with a motion art lenticular, a 32-page booklet that includes an all-new DC Comics adaptation of the "Dark Knight" prologue, exclusive photos, script pages and storyboards, five collectible postcards with never-before-printed key art from the theatrical release, and a six-minute preview of "The Dark Knight" -- along with $7.50 in "movie cash" to see the new movie. It also gets a jump start on the holidays, hitting shelves on TuesdayJuly 8.

The "Casablanca Ultimate Collector's Edition," "I Am Legend Ultimate Collector's Edition" and "JFK Ultimate Collector's Edition" will likewise include an assortment of memorabilia, including picture books, while "A Christmas Story Ultimate Collector's Edition" will come with a "holiday starter kit," including cookie cutters, a holiday cookbook and a chef's apron.

All three will be out in the fourth quarter; "A Christmas Story" is out Nov. 4, while dates for the two other releases have not yet been set.

Also slated for the fourth quarter are complete-series gift sets of "Peanuts" holiday specials, "The Flintstones" (with six seasons' worth of Fred and Wilma available in one package, along with more than four hours of special features and a lenticular), "Batman: The Animated Series," "Get Smart" and "The Man from U.N.C.L.E."