HOLLYWOOD -- Big sales of major theatrical hits like "Forrest Gump" are showing supermarket retailers that there is more to video sell-through than children's and family titles, said Jack Kanne, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Paramount Home Video. "Forrest Gump" has now tallied 12 million units in sales out of the 16 million units shipped, and supermarkets have done very well with the title. Chilton Research Services, New York, has reported that the percentage of "Forrest Gump" purchases made in supermarkets was 17.6%, compared with 10.7% of "The Lion King" purchases. " 'Forrest Gump' did better than we expected everywhere, including supermarkets, and we are very excited by the results so far," said Kanne. "I'd like to encourage the grocers to take a look beyond the family and children's fare out there in video and support a broader array of product. The customer is certainly there."
The success of "Gump," as well as other theatrical titles that went direct to sell-through in the last year, like "Mrs. Doubtfire," "Speed" and "The Mask," have taught supermarkets and their shoppers more about the video business. Last year, Paramount and Blockbuster Entertainment, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., were brought together under the corporate umbrella of Viacom, New York. The relationship between Paramount and Blockbuster has not changed, said Kanne. Paramount still has to fight for shelf space in Blockbuster stores, while Blockbuster competes for marketing dollars from Paramount. "What it has done is give us a different perspective on retailing in general. We have had the opportunity to sit down with Blockbuster in a slightly different context -- as part of the same parent company -- and listen more to some of their challenges and problems," said Kanne.
"This has made us more aware of retailer issues, retailer problems, as well as retailer opportunities. That has probably made us a better company," he said.
One of the greatest untapped opportunities for supermarkets in sell-through is catalog products, Kanne said. "For the rest of 1995, and going into 1996, we have very aggressive plans to continue to support our broad base of catalog at sell-through. We are more and more convinced that it is a day-in and day-out, year-round business. We think the mass merchants and grocers also believe that," he said.
Paramount has been stepping up its efforts to sell catalog in the last few years. "We've tried to get more involved with sell-through products, which plays right into the hands of what the grocery retailers are doing. We have been very aggressive in repricing our product and supporting on the sell-through side," said Kanne. A recent agreement to distribute products from ABC Video, Stamford, Conn., adds to the company's offerings, he said.
It's up to suppliers to keep the programs coming that will keep momentum going in supermarkets. "We think that retailers need an ongoing flow of new and exciting product, merchandised and marketed differently every month. Along with their support and their commitment to shelf space, that is the key to the success of any good sell-through program at retail," he said.
"But overall, the grocery trade has done a very good job in supporting sell-through," he said. Video sell-through works best in supermarkets when it is displayed prominently in the main part of the store, Kanne noted.
The programs Paramount has coming up in the year ahead include a July promotion timed to coincide with the large number of romantic comedies in the theaters this summer. "I.Q." will be released to the rental market on July 11, followed by a repricing of four titles on July 18 as part of the studio's "Great Movie, Great Price" program. "Intersection" will be repriced to $19.95 suggested retail, while "Indecent Proposal," "Funny Face" and "Pretty in Pink" are repriced to $14.95.
On Aug. 15, several popular family titles that were previously only available to the rental market will be repriced to $14.95, Kanne said. Among these titles are "Andre" and "Lassie," and direct-to-video releases from the Moonbeam catalog, including "Dragonworld" and "Prehysteria 2."
In the fall, the studio will reprice three more big rental hits to $14.95 -- "Clear and Present Danger," "Beverly Hills Cop 3" and "Naked Gun 33 1/3" -- along with other movies in their respective series. These will be the first and second "Naked Gun" and "Beverly Hills Cop" movies, and two other films made from Tom Clancy novels, "The Hunt for Red October" and "Patriot Games."
Also later in the year, Paramount will bring to market a lifestyle and fitness video from Florence Griffith Joyner, "The Flo-Jo Workout: Mind, Body and Spirit." Release date and pricing have not yet been determined. "This program is not just exercise, it's mindset, it's nutrition, it's a lot of different things. We feel it is a compelling message," Kanne said.
Another untapped resource for the sell-through market is television programming, noted Kanne. This kind of product lends itself to effective supermarket continuity promotions. "Where those programs have been supported, they have been very successful," he said.
For example, the "Star Trek" series from Paramount, and the "I Love Lucy" and "Honeymooners" collections from CBS/Fox Video, New York, have been done very well, Kanne said. "You have to have the right combination of classic TV that appeals to a broad audience as well as the right aggressive pricing," he said. Paramount will release four episodes of "The Brady Bunch" to tie-in with its video rental release of "The Brady Bunch Movie," which streets on July 25.
"When you are down in aggressive prices under $14.95, you have got to have the volume, which means you have to have the store placement, and you have to have a lot of public relations value, as many tie-ins as you possibly can," said Kanne.
While many supermarket video executives have reported disappointing results from the sale of television products, Kanne said it is still too early to pass judgment on the segment. "There have been some ex-periments with television product and some have been more successful than others. I just don't know that we've gotten to the right product mix with the right price point yet for retailers like grocers," he said.