A plentiful roster of kid's and family fare during the year's second half is a welcome challenge for supermarket video retailers, especially when compared with last year's slim pickings.
During the fourth quarter, several megahits will dominate retail floor space, beginning with Disney's "Toy Story 2" from Buena Vista Home Video Oct. 17. Calling it a $250 million box-office juggernaut, Bill Bryant, vice president of sales, grocery and drug at Ingram Entertainment, La Vergne, Tenn., said he believes "Toy Story 2" will generate impressive sales because of "mass appeal to children of all ages, and adults."
Retailers also expect DreamWorks' "The Road to El Dorado" and "Chicken Run" will also be among the fourth-quarter's largest producers. Religious content sells well during this time period, and predictions for "Joseph: King of Dreams" (DreamWorks Universal), and "Jesus" (Trimark) are strong for the supermarket channel, reported distributors. Based on the success of "Stuart Little" during its Easter retail debut, Columbia Tristar Home Video will re-release this megahit in October.
"The title is the draw, not the season," said Bill Glaseman, video specialist at Bashas' Markets, Chandler, Ariz. "Sometimes floor-space limitations hurt fourth-quarter video sales. It's best when new releases are spaced at least one week apart since it's difficult to find merchandising locations for multiple videos," he commented.
The pace and selection of sell-through titles for the remainder of the year is superior compared with previous seasons, said retailers and studio executives interviewed by SN. "I anticipate an extremely solid fourth quarter, due to an outstanding diversity of comedies, drama, animated action, religious and adventure themes," said Bryant.
Dennis Maguire, senior vice president of sales for Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Burbank, Calif., predicts the industry's combined VHS/DVD sales for the remainder of 2000 will generate at least 60% of annual volume.
The push should begin with back-to-school. According to Suzanne Bouchard-White, executive director of marketing at Columbia Tristar Home Video, Culver City, Calif., "back-to-school is playing a more integral role in annual sales. Videos for younger children sell especially well at this time, when families traditionally stock up on school supplies."
Kelly Sooter, head of domestic home video for DreamWorks Home Entertainment, Glendale, Calif., similarly stated that this "kid-driven season is a natural time for grocery stores to capitalize upon convenient merchandising for busy consumers."
Dale Cooper, buyer for Movie Exchange, Oaks, Pa., commented that "the retail environment is conducive to new-release video sales; however, back-to-school and Halloween are generally important rental periods, while the fourth quarter is essential for sell-through."
This year, back-to-school is filled with an array of family and children's movies, beginning with Warner Bros.' mid-July release, "My Dog Skip." The end of July concludes with DTV releases, including Universal Studio's "An American Tale: The Mystery of the Night Monster," and Trimark's "Jesus."
Disney/Pixar's Aug. 8 release of the DTV thriller, "Buzz Lightyear of Star Command," provides retailers and consumers with their first opportunity to see "Toy Story's" intergalactic hero on a compelling mission since the spring. Aug. 15, Warner Home Video releases "Family Tree," where Naomi Judd's acting debut is complemented by a musical soundtrack featuring LeAnn Rimes, JoDee Messina and The Judds. August concludes with "The Tigger Movie" (Buena Vista), the first Winnie the Pooh theatrical release in 23 years.
This year's fourth quarter "will likely account for a disproportionate share of sales. Newly released theatrical hits, religious titles, animation, classic re-releases, plus a vast selection of TV-inspired franchises supply ongoing momentum and continuity," said Bryant.
A variety of original animated movies, as well as PBS-, TV- and Scholastic-book franchises are launching DTV movies in the third-quarter. Justine Brody, director of marketing at Warner Home Video, Burbank, Calif., said he believes that "Tweety's High Flying Adventures," streeting Sept. 12, and "Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders," to be released Oct. 3, will be among the third quarter's most important animated titles. Warner is also releasing a plentiful lineup of DTV videos with strong franchises, including "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker," "Teletubbies: Magic Pumpkin," "The Magic Schoolbus," "Scooby-Doo Halloween" and several Mary Kate and Ashley videos.
While retailers maintained their confidentiality regarding upcoming merchandising plans and promotions, look for clever displays throughout the third and fourth quarter, with pet products, Halloween/holiday accessories, decorative plates and cups, kid's books, and even bakery outposts that coordinate with movie characters or themes.
"The grocery channel can really leverage sales, involve employees and create an exciting shopping experience by participating in display contests," said Buena Vistas' Maguire, who was overwhelmed by the "ultra-magnificent" Tarzan displays that were created by supermarkets earlier this year.
Many retailers look forward to the September DVD debut of Disney's "Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea." Bouchard-White also noted that "Bear and the Big Blue House: Halloween and Thanksgiving," plus "Bear and the Big Blue House: Christmas" are the first holiday releases of this top-rated children's PBS TV program.
Paramount Home Entertainment is releasing three classic Peanuts videos/DVDs Sept. 12. "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown;" "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving;" "A Charlie Brown Christmas;" and a new title, "It's the Pied Piper, Charlie Brown."
Martin Blythe, a spokesman for Paramount, Hollywood, Calif., is also enthusiastic about the Sept. 26 DTV premier of "Faeries," an enchanting tiny kingdom whose vocal cast includes Kate Winslet and Jeremy Irons. The Oct. 3 release of "Blue's Clues: Blue's Big Musical Movie," (Paramount), an original, feature-length DTV movie/DVD, featuring the voices of Ray Charles and The Persuasions, introduces six new songs and Blue's new friend, Periwinkle.
Blythe maintains that "DVDs will grow in importance in the fourth quarter and next year. Preschoolers are familiar with CDs, and parents will begin to purchase DVDs for their young computer-literate children. Nonetheless, VHS is currently the unit-driven leader for home movies."
Blackboard Entertainment, Oakland, Calif., an independent video producer with sales support from national distributors, is releasing a DTV video/DVD based on Scholastic Books' eminently successful "The Jewel Kingdom's" 13-volume series, according to Regina Kelland, director of marketing. "The Jewel Kingdom: The Ruby Princess Runs Away" has a street date of Sept. 5. Warner is releasing several Powerpuff Girls videos, a popular Cartoon Network franchise, and a video based on PBS' Zoboomafoo series during the third-quarter.
Children's classics, like Disney's "Nightmare Before Christmas" and "James and the Giant Peach," both with an Oct. 3 street date, contribute steady catalog revenue and higher profits vs. hot new releases, said retailers.
Brent Bailey, video manager at Darrow's Country Market, Baraboo, Wis., said he is concerned about diminishing profits associated with hit titles. Nonetheless, he remains committed to the video department and sees new releases as a "must-have service and convenience. If my store skipped a video shipper, there would be plenty of unsatisfied customers and lots of complaints. It's not worth losing customers by cutting back on video, and besides, there's always a supply of good family product on the market."