'101 Dalmations' is coming to video with 11 million copies already ordered

March 25, 1992|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

You'll have to take the Walt Disney Co.'s word for it -- there are 6,469,952 spots in "101 Dalmatians," the 1961 classic that last year shattered box-office records for an animated re-release.

The April 10 video release of "101 Dalmatians" is the icing on the cake for Disney, which has had a remarkably successful year in the home-video business.

According to Variety magazine, Buena Vista Home Video -- Disney's video arm -- took in $849 million last year. Its closest competitor, Warner Home Video, made $617 million.

With that kind of unparalleled success, Disney could be excused if the company decided to rest on its laurels and let "101 Dalmatians," which grossed $60.2 million in theaters last summer, take off on its own. Such a suggestion draws a gasp of incredulity from the folks at Disney.

"If you're trying to build a business, you have to continue to promote. If you don't promote it, people don't know about it," says Steven Feldstein, spokesman for Buena Vista Home Video.

The work has paid off. Three weeks before it hits store shelves, 11 million copies of "Dalmatians" have been ordered. That's nearly 2 million more than "Fantasia," which, until March 16, held the pre-order record.

The video's $24.99 price tag means it's priced to own, not just rent. That's a tactic Disney has used with virtually every animated feature it has released since it entered the video business full swing in 1985.

Competitors have followed that technique, but Disney's momentum hasn't ceased: Last week, seven of the top 10 best-selling videos around the country were Disney titles.

"Disney is pretty much acknowledged as the marketing innovators and leaders," says Mark Berman, who covers the home video industry for Variety.

When Disney entered the home-video business seven years ago, one of its boldest moves was announcing that each animated classic it released on video would be available for a limited time: 50 days in the case of "Fantasia," for example, almost a year for "101 Dalmatians."

After sufficient time had passes, the movies will be re-released to theaters. It's just a theory, but the company will put it to the test this summer, when "Pinocchio" hits theaters.

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