The new millennium was unmistakably upon us as the East Coast Video Show wound down on October 11th with a whimper. Outside of $125 hotel rooms in Atlantic City, and casinos squeezing every last penny out of gamblers with $20 buffets and table game minimums of $10, everyone was grumbling about the declining video business, and the onslaught of Video On Demand (VOD). Like MIPCOM, the major companies had a small presence with MGM’s booth almost invisible if you didn’t look for Leo.

Joining the majors with non-appearances were numerous smaller video labels. The biggest exhibitors by far were the anime labels—Central Park Media, ADV and Media Blasters all seeming to be doing decent business. On the indie end stalwarts like Vanguard and MTI worked hard to convince mom & pops to consider their non-Hollywood fare. Vanguard was pushing the Penelope Cruz vehicle “Love Can Seriously Damage Your Health,” and the Alejandro Amenabar (“The Others”) 1996 gem “Thesis,” which Miramax is trying to buy from them for a possible theatrical release. Amenabar is currently on a roll with his “Open Your Eyes” remade as “Vanilla Sky” by Cameron Crowe starring Tom Cruise and the film’s original female lead, Penelope Cruz. MTI’s hot title, if they would be smart and include the raves from the press on the poster, is “Lake Boat”, the David Mamet play directed by Joe Mantegna that was successfully released theatrically by Panorama Entertainment.

One can only wonder where the video business is going when booths at trade shows are manned by regional field sales people who don’t know the switchboard number for headquarters and can’t come up with the names of key staffers that should be on top of their tongues. To make matters worse, the major labels are intent on putting the final nail in the coffin of VHS by promoting a pricing structure where VHS tapes are sold at rental price while DVD are priced at sell-through. The video store buyers I spoke to all complained about the lack of screeners and the high prices for “B” and “C” product. They can’t turn a profit with “A” titles, which they’re forced to buy in depth to compete with Blockbuster, and lose money on “B” titles, which once kept them in profit. Many are now considering quitting after years of dedication to the movie-loving public looking for affordable entertainment.

Shocking to many, but also a sign of the times with respect to consolidation in the video industry, was the smaller than normal adult component which used to be much larger with many small companies competing for the lucrative porn dollar. This year all to be seen were horny males ogling the entertainers and angling for photographs while telling the women they couldn’t afford the $16 or so to buy a video. This part of the business has migrated heavily to e-commerce over the web where one can browse through all the adult videos you want in the comfort of your home.

Special indie recognition goes to Daniel Minahan who gallantly signed screeners of his film “Series 7: The Contenders” at the USA Video “One Night At McCool’s” party thrown for video storeowners who had no idea who he was. The owners were overheard to say things like, “I never heard of the film, but maybe his autograph will be worth something someday.” Minahan is presently working on a thriller script that USA will be financing.