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"Futurama," "Doomsday" Blaze New Markets for Old Series

The success of Futurama and Superman: Doomsday show the profits film companies can reap by reviving cancelled television franchises in the DVD-only market, a news analysis by trade newspaper Variety concludes.

Futurama, which was cancelled several years ago, has not returned to the airwaves, but producers David X. Cohen and Matt Groening are producing new straight-to-DVD movies, the first of which, Bender’s Big Score, sold almost 100,000 copies in its first week on sale.

Warner Home Video, the article notes, has gone even further by commissioning Superman: Doomsday, Justice League: The New Frontier, and a series of Batman shorts for DVD release. Unlike the Futurama titles, these DVDs are not directly linked by continuity to such past series as Batman: The Animated Series or Justice League. The break in continuity has not hurt sales, apparently: Doomsday has sold 600,000 units since it was released, which is 30% ahead of Warners’ own internal predictions. New Frontier is also tracking ahead of expected preorders.

Studios and producers alike note that the new strategy gives more freedom to the creative artists working on these projects. The four new Futurama movies, in terms of running time, constitute a fifth season of the show, and one that has been produced with no involvement by the Fox network. Jeff Brown, a senior vice president at Warner, says that his company’s DVD releases can be “more faithful to the stories” by avoiding the traditional “marketing to children” approach of TV broadcasting.

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