Direct-to-video features and some top children's and family videos will be in supermarkets during this summer's back-to-school period. The influx of premium-quality direct-to-video movies is especially noteworthy in what has become an important selling season for video in supermarkets.
"Direct-to-video is rapidly gaining respect in the video trade," said an industry source who asked not to be identified.
But other children's and family movies that did enjoy a theatrical life also will be released in time for back-to- school, most notably two from PolyGram Video, New York: "The Borrowers" and "Barney's Great Adventure: The Movie."
"Quest for Camelot," from Warner Home Video, Burbank, Calif., is targeted for back-to-school, but the studio has not yet decided on a release date, according to distribution sources.
Two animated re-releases from Universal Studios Home Video, Universal City, Calif., Aug. 11 will precede the debut of a new direct-to-video title later this year. Brought back from moratorium will be "An American Tail" and "An American Tail: Fievel Goes West," which will carry a suggested retail price of $19.98 each or $29.98 for a two-pack; order cut-off is June 29. The new DTV title will be called "An American Tail III: The Treasure of Manhattan Island"; details about it have not yet been announced.
But the DTV segment will be shining throughout 1998's back-to-school selling season. Warner Home Video has set "Dennis the Menace Strikes Again" for a July 14 release. The live-action movie will have a $19.94 suggested retail price and a June 23 order date. An animated Warner DTV title is set for Aug. 18: "The Batman/Superman Movie," with a $14.95 SRP and a July 21 order date.
On Aug. 4, two key DTV titles arrive: "Pocahontas: Journey to a New World," from Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Burbank, Calif., and "The Swan Princess III and the Mystery of the Enchanted Treasure," the first venture of Columbia TriStar Home Video, Culver City, Calif., into animated DTV.
"Pocahontas" is priced at $26.99 with a June 23 order date and will be backed by a "multimillion-dollar" television advertising campaign, a cross promotion with a quick-service restaurant, a $7 rebate from Mattel, and a $2 instantly redeemable coupon good on other Disney videos. Buena Vista has three other key releases in this time period: "The Black Cauldron," also releasing Aug. 4; "The Little Twins," streeting Aug. 11; and "Kiki's Delivery Service," due out Sept. 1.
"Swan Princess III," with a $14.95 minimum advertised price (no SRP) and a July 2 order date, is a milestone title for Columbia as it moves into the feature-length, animated DTV market, said Suzanne Bouchard, director of marketing.
"Swan Princess III" will be supported with a cross promotion with Kids Cuisine frozen meals that will include a $5 rebate. "They are going to feature 'Swan Princess' on 6 million packages," said Bouchard.
The "American Tail" re-releases will be backed by $15 million in consumer marketing, said Bruce Pfander, executive vice president, domestic, at Universal Studios Home Video. The marketing campaign reflects a directive for Universal's operating divisions to work more closely together, he said.
For example, purchasers of the two-pack will be offered a special vacation package that will allow a family of four to save up to $600 on a vacation to Universal Studios Florida. The two-pack also will include free of charge "An American Tail" CD-ROM, valued at $29.99, and a $3 mail-in rebate will be offered when consumers purchase one of the two titles, plus one of the Universal Studios Family Features titles, which include "Casper: The Movie," "Balto," "The Little Rascals" and "We're Back."
Sept. 1, PolyGram Video plans to release "Barney's Great Adventure: The Movie" with no less than nine cross-promotional partners, several of which are prominent in supermarkets. The list includes Kellogg's, Smucker's, Tyson chicken, Luv's Diapers and TDK blank videocassettes. Others are Hasbro, Microsoft, Advo/Mailboxes Plus and Polaroid.
The Barney movie will retail for $22.95, with an Aug. 7 order date. It will be available day and date on VHS and DVD. "Barney is as hot a property as it has ever been," said Tim Pearson, vice president of business development at PolyGram Video.
PolyGram is working closely with Kellogg to develop account-specific promotions, notably a very big one with Wal-Mart Stores, where, Sept. 12, every Wal-Mart unit will host a Barney-themed singing competition.
"The Borrowers" marketing program has two components and two packages, one for sell-through and the other for rental, said Pearson. Streeting Aug. 18 following a July 20 order date, the family title will carry a $22.95 SRP. Marketing support will include a $5 rebate from ConAgra Foods and promotion on 12 million packages of Banquet, Patio, La Choy and Chun King brand foods.