Video retailers wax optimistic over fall

August 09, 1991|By Dennis Hunt | Dennis Hunt,Los Angeles Times

These days video retailers are grumbling about business sagging in the first half of the year. For most the best hope for a profitable '91 hinges on a bang-up fall quarter.

That means the release -- from late August on -- of the kind of movies that will lure legions of customers. "Ghost" was the only big draw in the first half of the year. Without it, business for most retailers would have been woeful.

The retailers are in luck. The fall lineup looks strong now and may get stronger.

The titles include "Home Alone," "Terminator 2," "The Godfather Part III," "Fantasia," "The Silence of the Lambs" and "Dances With Wolves." Heading the list of possibles: "Robin Hood," "City Slickers" and "What About Bob?"

Kicking off the fall season will be "Home Alone," the sleeper that turned into one of the all-time box-office hits, grossing more than $280 million. Priced at $24.98, it is due out Aug. 22. Though it will be a popular rental, most of its business will not be done in video stores. Discount stores, which will probably slash the price to $15-$16, will be "Home Alone" headquarters.

The dominant early fall rental is likely to be Orion's "Dances With Wolves," an Aug. 28 release, just in time for Labor Day weekend, one of the year's most lucrative rental periods. This Oscar-winning movie, which has grossed more than $179 million, could rule the rental charts through early fall.

Paul Wagner, Orion's vice president of public affairs, predicted that the company would ship more than 600,000 rental units of "Wolves" and that it might ultimately top "Ghost's" record of 648,000. He added there is no word yet on the release date of the collector's edition, which will include extra footage. But, most likely, it would be marketed during the Christmas shopping season.

Oct. 10 Paramount will release "Godfather III," which could be the No. 1 rental through October. Though it grossed a respectable $65 million, it did not live up to expectations, largely due to poor reviews and bad word-of-mouth. But it was so heavily hyped that many fans who did not bother to see it will be curious enough to rent it.

There is an extra attraction. Hollace Brown, Paramount Home Video's senior vice president of advertising and promotion, reports that "Godfather III" contains nine extra minutes, including seven new scenes. For "Godfather" groupies, there is a $175 boxed set, including all three chapters plus a 73-minute, behind-the-scenes documentary, "The Godfather Families: A Look Inside."

Oct. 24, just in time for Halloween, comes Orion's grisly "The Silence of the Lambs," which earned nearly $127 million in theaters. "Lambs" and "Godfather III" will probably top the rental market through November.

No decision has been made yet on "Robin Hood," but it's also a candidate for fall release -- possibly in the $20-$25 range for the sales market. Two other hits, "City Slickers" and "What About Bob?," could also make the fall release schedule, with "Slickers" likely for December. But if the market looks too crowded, those may be held until winter.

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