The DVD community was abuzz today about a special offer on entertainment retail site CheckOut.com, which is selling the surprise-hit movie "The Blair Witch Project" for $6.66. The movie originally sold for $17.99, according to a CheckOut.com representative who confirmed the sale was part of a Halloween promotion.
Online retailers generally can cut costs deeper than their brick-and-mortar counterparts because of lower overhead: They don't have to pay for expensive real estate, and they often have smaller staffing needs.
In addition, the film format has yet to be widely adopted. Companies often discount products based on new technology to encourage widespread use, much like compact discs were when they were first introduced.
But as the number of DVD shoppers grow, so does the demand for less expensive discs, says Geoff Kleinman, founder of DVD Talk--one of two popular message boards where enthusiasts congregate. DVDs usually cost a few dollars more then videotapes, with an average list price that falls between $20 and $40.
The DVD players are more expensive then a VHS recorder, floating near $500.
Kleinman said that because the format costs a bit more, the DVD community is always looking for better prices. DVDs look and operate just like musical compact discs; but unlike videotapes, they are capable of instantaneous fast-forwarding and rewinding. The picture and sound quality of the format is often called superior to videotape, but the cost is much higher.
"You see the most outrageous prices on the Net," Kleinman said. "Right now the mentality [of the retailer] is to lure people to their site by offering unbelievable deals."
So as the popularity of DVD rises, online retailers working feverishly to attract customers are increasingly going to attention-grabbing price cutting rarely seen in their sister brick-and-mortar stores.
Kleinman, who launched Beaverton, Oregon-based DVD Talk in January, ticks off a list of some of the whopper deals that are now legend in the DVD community.
Massmusic.com offered a discount of 55 percent off its already on-sale items last summer. CheckOut.com also offered a 55 percent-off sale, but allowed shoppers to used the discount on merchandise that was already marked down 30 percent and 40 percent.
Another reason the online retailers may cut prices on DVDs is that they have seen how rabid the DVD fans are and how quickly they will pounce on a good deal.
"We lower DVD prices because to the DVD consumer, price is very important," said Amazon.com product manager Bill Carr. "We also think that besides DVDs, they will want to buy other things as well."
"The [DVD enthusiasts] are very enthusiastic and vocal--some of the most avid online shoppers in the world," Kleinman said. "This morning, when word got out that 'Blair Witch' was going for $7 bucks we were ready. We had thousands of people chatting online about it."