While retailers are gearing up for the big summer splash of video titles from last fall's theatrical hits, many say the biggest news in the video department is not a tape at all, but the DVD format.
"I hate to get rid of VHS to move DVD in, but that's probably what we'll have to do pretty soon," said Jason Hoyle, video manager, Hilander Foods, Rockford, Ill.
Hoyle said DVD is almost neck-and-neck with VHS in his store, as evidenced by the number of units he purchased for "What Women Want." He's currently stocking 14 VHS copies and eight DVDs, all of which have been rented.
He plans to stock similarly this summer. He said he looks forward to titles like "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," arriving June 5 on both VHS (priced for rental) and DVD ($27.96) from Columbia TriStar Home Video, Los Angeles, and "Cast Away," arriving June 12 on both VHS (priced for rental) and DVD ($29.98) from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Century City, Calif.
"I can't see DVD ever taking over VHS," he said. "Not until they make a DVD player that can record and re-record. Until then, people will have both, like they do with their stereo systems, where they have both a CD and cassette player."
As DVD becomes more popular, however, he said he might have to start paring down video space to make room for the new format. He's currently stocking about 800 DVDs.
While Hoyle is brimming with enthusiasm about the success of DVD in his store, other grocers admittedly have been slow to accept the format. Marilyn Aldrich, video buyer for Dahl's Supermarkets, Des Moines, Iowa, said only one of her 12 stores stocks DVD. "We're working to get a system in place to bring them in," she said, "but we just don't have it yet."
Linda Mata-Verona, video manager, Country Mark, Hollister, Mo., said her store has been slow to adopt DVD as well. "Customers have been asking about DVD, but we don't rent or sell them yet," she said.
Both buyers have yet to place orders for summer titles.
Supermarkets that have been slow to accept the DVD format will finally need to make the transition, studios said.
"As DVD begins to broaden and become mainstream, we're seeing double-digit growth, and grocers will need to make the adjustment," said Ken Graffeo, senior vice president of Universal Studios Home Video, Universal City, Calif. "The biggest issue this summer, from a supermarket standpoint, will be how grocers merchandise and display DVD. While it's a great time to focus on this new format, it's also the biggest challenge supermarkets will have to face this season."
Although many video specialists polled by SN said they hadn't yet made their summer video purchases, a few offered their opinions on some of the upcoming releases.
Adam Chick, assistant video manager, B&R Stores, Lincoln, Neb., said he thinks both "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "Cast Away" will be popular titles.
"We'll get eight copies of ["Crouching Tiger"] as we feel it will make all of its money back," he said. "Foreign titles actually do well for us because we don't get that many of them, so when customers see them on our shelves, they get noticed and rented."
He also said he plans to get 10 to 12 copies of "Cast Away," which he predicted would be buoyed by star Tom Hanks' widespread appeal. "His films always do well, and this one has got some good press," Chick said.
"Crouching Tiger," however, might not have such mass appeal. At Angeli's, Iron River, Mich., for example, video clerk Jessica Behnke said she didn't expect much from the Mandarin-language import, despite its winning several Oscars.
"'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' will not make it big here because of the subtitles," she said. "Foreign titles don't rent well at our stores, even when they've received a lot of Academy Awards."