With a good number of top theatrical sell-through releases, supported by a huge number of direct-to-video movies, retailers are expecting a banner fourth quarter that will give a humdrum year a bright ending.
"This year is going to be probably one of the best that I've ever seen as long as I've been in the business," said Bob Gettner, video buyer/coordinator at B&R Stores, Lincoln, Neb. "I know there is going to be so much sell-through out there, but maybe that's what we need in this business. It's been a while since we've seen a lot of good stuff coming out. The start of this year was very weak and we really need to end it with a bang. So this year is going to be great."
Among the big theatrical titles announced so far for sell-through release are: "Liar Liar" from Universal Studios Home Video, Universal City, Calif.; "The Lost World: Jurassic Park," also from Universal; "Batman & Robin" from Warner Home Video, Burbank, Calif.; and "Jingle All the Way" from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Beverly Hills, Calif. Two animated features from the Disney vault will be re-released by Buena Vista Home Video, Burbank, Calif.: "Sleeping Beauty" and "The Jungle Book."
Meanwhile, industry sources report that some other big summer hits are in the offing for fourth-quarter sell-through, as well, including "Men in Black" from Columbia TriStar Home Video, Culver City, Calif.; "My Best Friend's Wedding," also from Columbia TriStar; "George of the Jungle" from Buena Vista; and "Free Willy 3" from Warner.
But there will be other titles competing for shelf space in the fourth quarter in addition to the big-hit theatricals and direct-to-video titles -- some released as early as August. Among them will be theatrical movies with smaller box offices, like "Cats Don't Dance" from Warner and "Warriors of Virtue" from MGM, Santa Monica, Calif.; family-oriented titles like "Annabelle's Wish" and "Mrs. Santa Claus," from Hallmark, Los Angeles; "Holiday Affair" from BWE Video, Salt Lake City; and "Prancer" from MGM; and a number of prominent re-issues, like "The Star Wars Trilogy" from Fox; "Dirty Dancing" from Live; and four from Buena Vista: "Mary Poppins," "Old Yellar," "The Shaggy Dog" and "The Shaggy D.A."
There seem to be fewer high-powered movies this year than in the past and, because of a lower box office or because they are direct-to-video, studio sales goals for many may be lower, said Bill Bryant, vice president of sales for grocery and drug at Ingram Entertainment, La Vergne, Tenn. But the quantity of titles will carry the market to ever higher sales levels, he said. "We just expect this to be another great sales quarter for home video in supermarkets," he said.
There are strong theatrical titles, but it appears that the total box office is lower, noted Tom Adams, president of Adams Media Research, Carmel Valley, Calif. "That's going to make for a good test. Is it the one, two or three huge titles that get people in the stores, or can you make up for it with tons of titles, even if none of them are quite that big? We are definitely going to find out. But for now, it is a very open question," he said.