'Titanic' to hit video stores this week Movie: Video sales of the wildly popular disaster film are expected to be as big as, well, an iceberg.

August 28, 1998|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,SUN STAFF

You thought it had all gone away: the wall-to-wall "Titanic" hype and the cult of Leonardo DiCaprio, the gooey Celine Dion theme and the endless, self-aggrandizing interviews given by director James Cameron, the new Serpenthead of the film industry.

And it did go away, for a few months. But now it's back, in only slightly weaker form, like walking pneumonia.

That's because starting Tuesday, "Titanic" lands in video stores, where it's expected to quickly become the biggest-selling video in history, surpassing "The Lion King," which sold 30 million copies.

The long-awaited double-tape set will cost $24.99 in some video stores, less in the Wal-Marts, Targets and Best Buys of the world when it's released there.

Like the film, which grossed nearly $600 million at the box office in this country and $1.8 billion worldwide after it was released last December, sales of the video will be fueled largely by teen-aged girls, such as Emily Wilson, a 13-year-old from Baldwin.

Emily plans to plunk down a chunk of her allowance at Blockbuster Video on Tuesday. She has seen "Titanic" five times, but says, "I'm not sick of it at all, and I'm not sick of him."

"Him," if anyone needs reminding, is "Leo" DiCaprio, the toothy mega-star whose aw-shucks, just-fell-off-the-turnip-truck grin can be found on posters and magazine covers lining the bedroom walls of teen-age girls everywhere. To many females of a certain age, a house without a Leo shrine just isn't a home these days.

Clearly, video distributors hope Emily Wilson's view is a prevailing one -- a lot of people in the industry stand to make a lot of money.

At Waxworks/Video Works in Owensboro, Ky., you can almost hear the popping of champagne corks and the whooping of the conga line snaking through the warehouses. Waxworks is one of only nine authorized Paramount Pictures distributors in the United States, serving 3,500 stores in 15 states.

Kirk Kirkpatrick, a pleasant-sounding man and VP of marketing, said his company's "Titanic" shipping run will be 10 times greater than any other film it's ever moved.

"We ordered all our product six weeks ago -- 250,000 copies," Kirkpatrick said over the phone, the excitement in his voice palpable. "And as the day of release gets closer, it looks like we may have to order more."

"Look, the movie will ship about 22 million copies on Day 1. We had six tractor-trailers filled with "Titanic" copies in just the last two or three days.

"I've been here 14 years and I've never seen a movie create this much excitement in sales. The next time it happens, you can reach me in Florida, cause I'll be retired."

Oceans of videos

Kirkpatrick, 47, is apparently a bona fide stat freak, one of those guys you wouldn't want to go against in rotisserie baseball. Because in the very next breath, he lays this one on you:

"If you took all the 'Titanic' video cassettes produced and stacked them on top of each other, the next time the guys flew over in the space shuttle, they could reach out and take one. The stack would be 500 miles high."

What?! Who did the math on that one?!

"Here's another one for you," he says, chuckling. "The number of tractor-trailers it took to ship out the 'Titanic' videos, if they were on the highway at the same time, would form a 40-mile-long traffic jam."

Ohhhh-kay, Kirk. Kirkpatrick also thinks "Titanic," with an estimated 22 million copies pre-sold, has an excellent shot at "The Lion King's" 30 million record.

Before you ring off, he tells you that all three TV networks sent film crews to Waxworks this week, where the shipping staff loaded all those tractor-trailers while wearing -- brace yourself -- sailor hats and life preservers.

If this sounds vaguely Up with People-ish ("now, our very own Salute to Doomed Ocean Liners!"), Kirkpatrick is quick to point out that the shipping staff "loved it."

"Everyone knew they were going to be taxed this week," he said. "But this kind of gave it a festive atmosphere."

The atmosphere is only slightly less restrained at Blockbuster Video headquarters in Dallas.

There, while corporate execs are not breaking out the togas, spokeswoman Liz Greene says the release of the "Titanic" video "has truly become an event for us."

Blockbuster, with 6,000 video stores in the U.S., plans to hold "Midnight Release" parties next week across the Washington and Baltimore areas.

In what Blockbuster flacks announce breathlessly as an "unprecedented move," stores will keep their doors open all evening Monday until 2 a.m., and will be selling "Titanic" videos at the stroke of 12: 01 a.m., the earliest moment they can legally do so.

Much of this is driven by a Blockbuster survey that found that 43 percent of its customers who rent videos are likely to purchase "Titanic," even though 61 percent of respondents had seen the film already.


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