December promises a millennium-ending bang for home video, supplying supermarkets with a cornucopia of rental and sell-through product for the active seasonal market.
The month's release slate has over 50 films, including theatrical and direct-to-video (DTV) titles as well as movies aired on cable or broadcast TV. In addition, there are new children's, music video and special interest titles, along with catalog DVD debuts.
The theatrical releases -- nearly half of the list -- generated some $700 million at the box office. Three of these reached the $100 million blockbuster plateau, while another four attained the $50 million tier.
December's top-grossing sell-through title, with over $120 million theatrically, is "The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps," coming Dec. 5 from Universal Studios Home Video, Universal City, Calif.
"'Nutty Professor II' will do very well for us," said Bill Glaseman, video specialist, Bashas', Chandler, Ariz., making a prediction echoed by most specialists SN surveyed.
Industry observers are particularly interested in the performance of this title, which kicks off Universal's new distribution lineup, as a harbinger of retailer reaction to the program.
The Eddie Murphy comedy will be the second best-selling live-action title of the quarter, outsold only by Warner's "The Perfect Storm," according to Bill Bryant, vice president of sales, grocery and drug, Ingram Entertainment, La Vergne, Tenn. "Both of them will also perform extremely well as rental titles."
Universal also has an animated sell-through DTV release for the month. "The Land Before Time VII: The Stone of Cold Fire" hits the streets Dec. 5 at a $19.98 S.R.P. on VHS and $24.98 on DVD.
"We'll be bringing in the new 'Land Before Time' for sale in both our video store and our supermarket," said Theresa Daniels, manager, McMaken Super Market's McVideo, Brookville, Ohio.
Universal plans strong support for the title, including a $4 million ad campaign. "This is our biggest family franchise, and it has been two years since the last one," said Ken Graffeo, Universal senior vice president, marketing. He also pointed out a supermarket-friendly cross promotion with Post Alpha-Bits, offering a $3 mail-in rebate with the purchases of a box of cereal and any of the first six videos in the series.
The Post tie-in capitalizes on the franchise's popularity in this market. "The 'Land Before Time' series has consistently sold well in supermarkets over the years," said Bryant.
The month's other two blockbusters arrive at rental pricing from Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Burbank, Calif. The R-rated horror spoof "Scary Movie" is December's box-office champion with over $150 million. "Gone in 60 Seconds," starring Nicholas Cage and Angelina Jolie, is an expensive remake of H.B. Halicki's 1974 action yarn about car thieves.
Buena Vista's busy month also includes five other rental titles: "The Legend," a subtitled martial arts film with Jet Li; "Human Traffic," a comedy about the rave party scene; "Love's Labour's Lost," with Kenneth Branagh in a Shakespearean plot adapted to the format of a 1930s musical; "Miracle in Lane 2," a cable movie about a wheelchair-bound 12-year-old who competes in a soap box derby; and "The Pooch and the Pauper," another classic revision with a pampered White House bulldog trading places with a look-alike street mutt.
Paramount Home Entertainment, Hollywood, has two theatrical titles for the month: "Shaft," a $70 million hit, starring Samuel L. Jackson, and "The Virgin Suicides," which generated nearly $5 million theatrically.
"While 'Shaft' and 'Virgin Suicides' appeal to younger audiences who rent VHS titles and buy DVDs," said Martin Blythe, Paramount vice president of publicity, "they also have the positive word of mouth that will broaden them to a wider audience."
"'Shaft' will perform better in urban markets," said Greg Rediske, president, Video Management Co., Tacoma, Wash.
Four Paramount classics will be released on DVD next month as well. These are "Children of a Lesser God," "The Odd Couple," "An Officer and a Gentleman" and "The Conversation."
December's top rental title from Warner Home Video, Burbank, Calif., is "The Art of War," with a $30 million box office. The Wesley Snipes thriller, which co-stars Donald Sutherland, will be supported by a national ad campaign. Also for rental from Warner is "Race Against Time," a TNT sci-fi movie with Eric Roberts. For sell-through, Warner is releasing the animated feature "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker" on Dec. 12 (postponed from October) at $19.96 on VHS and $24.98 on DVD.
Topping its December slate, New Line Home Video, Los Angeles, has the visually impressive Jennifer Lopez hit thriller "The Cell," which grossed over $60 million. The title will have a strong DVD push. Also on tap is the $12 million grossing "Saving Grace," a comedy about a pot-growing British widow. "The DVD for this will have commentaries by Brenda Blethyn, Craig Ferguson and Nigel Cole, as well as DVD-ROM content with links to the Web universe," said Beth Gunderia, vice president of marketing for New Line.
DreamWorks Home Entertainment, Glendale, Calif., has an active month in both rental and sell-through. The box-office hit "The Road to El Dorado" (at over $50 million) arrives Dec. 12 at sell-through pricing on both VHS and DVD. Its broad appeal to both children and adults makes it a likely candidate for grocery, which will also benefit from its multi-million-dollar marketing campaign.
For rental VHS DreamWorks has the Tom Green comedy hit "Road Trip" ($69 million theatrically) and the Woody Allen comedy "Small Time Crooks" ($17 million). Both have day-and-date DVD sell-through releases.
A-Pix Entertainment, New York, will release two DTV titles with rental appeal. The first, "Mambo Cafe," stars Paul Rodriguez and Danny Aiello in a mob comedy with a Latin beat. The second, "Jack Frost 2," brings back the mutant killer snowman for another slayride. Like the original, "Jack Frost 2" features eye-catching lenticular (3D) box art. "One of the things that has distinguished A-Pix," said President Jerry Smallwood, "is that we put a lot of time and attention into making sure our cover art is as effective as possible."
In a month that has seen more and more additions as studios have jockeyed for prime placement, there is much more coming than many supermarkets can reasonably accommodate.