"Platoon," the movie that none of the studios wanted, has spawned a battle among video companies fighting to claim it as their own -- a battle that may well delay the film's availability on video. The latest flag raiser, HBO Video, hopes to have "Platoon" in video stores this fall, but the tapes can't start rolling until some settlement is reached in the paper war now being waged in court between Hemdale, the production company responsible for the film, and Vestron Video, which was originally signed up to bring the movie to the video market.
The problems started around Oscar time last spring, when Vestron fired off a breach-of-contact suit against Hemdale for failure to turn over prints of "Platoon" and the Gene Hackman basketball drama "Hoosiers," whose video rights had been sold together in preproduction for a mere $4 million. Hemdale countersued, charging that Vestron had paid nothing of the money it had promised, and that Hemdale was perfectly entitled to put the two-film package back on the market. A surprise critical and commercial hit, "Platoon" looked much more valuable to video suppliers this go round -- HBO paid more than $15 million for video rights to the pair. Meanwhile Hemdale has taken another package of 12 films Vestron claims it had licensed and has sold them to yet another supplier, Embassy Home Entertainment, causing another round of lawsuits.
HBO has set an early-September release date for "Hoosiers" and plans to get "Platoon" out "as soon as possible" after that, but is waiting for the court's okay before it proceeds with plans. Embassy also plans to release the first of its Hemdale films, "Defence of the Realm," in early September, although the case is still pending; the current hit "The River's Edge" is among the movies in dispute in that case. Vestron, meanwhile, continues to do what it can to prevent "Platoon" from reaching the video market under any other label, and has made it known to distributors that any party who handles a non-Vestron "Platoon" is a likely candidate for litigation. A hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court on the "Platoon" deal is scheduled for the end of the month.
Cute Christmas Dogs or mice? Disney or Spielberg? Peggy Lee or Linda Ronstadt? These are the questions that will be on the minds of video shoppers this Christmas when last year's big animated movie hits will inevitably become this year's big animated video hits. Both Disney's classic "Lady and the Tramp," reissued last year, and Steven Spielberg's first animated effort, "An American Tail," will be available on video for $29.95, the same price that made "Sleeping Beauty" a best seller last year. "Sleeping Beauty," which was pulled from the market this spring, will be back at the $29.95 price this year, along with "Alice in Wonderland," "The Sword in the Stone" and "Dumbo," among Disney's animated classics; live-action favorites "Mary Poppins," "Old Yeller" and "Pete's Dragon"; and the more recent adventures "Flight of the Navigator," "The Journey of Natty Gann" and "Never Cry Wolf."
Disney sold more than a million copies of "Sleeping Beauty" last year, and MCA Home Video hopes to equal that with "An American Tail." Disney's sights are even higher: The studio expects "Lady and the Tramp" to double "Sleeping Beauty" at the video stores the way it did at the box office. Santas who have to choose between Lady the spaniel and Fievel the mouse may want to consider which song they would like to remember 1988 by -- Peggy Lee's "He's a Tramp" or Linda Ronstadt's "Somewhere Out There". Disney has a treat in store for Santa, too: Both "Down and Out in Beverly Hills" and "Ruthless People" will be reduced to $19.95 in October.
Long Live the King The 10th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death is just around the corner, but with every motel within thrusting distance of Graceland booked for that special day next month, the King's subjects may have to settle for building video shrines in the privacy of their own homes. Key Video has made that a little more affordable by cutting the price on 11 Presley movies to $19.98 effective today. The list of love interests featured here reads like a Who-Was-Who of '60s starlets, including Ursula Andress ("Fun in Acapulco"), Stella Stevens ("Girls! Girls! Girls!") and Juliet Prowse ("G.I. Blues"), but it was the more challenging roles that attracted the real star power, like Barbara Stanwyck as Elvis' boss in "Roustabout," Hope Lange as his psychologist in "Wild in the Country" and Angela Lansbury as his mother in "Blue Hawaii." Also included in the collection are "Love Me Tender" (his first), "King Creole" (his favorite), "Paradise, Hawaiian Style," "Tickle Me" and "Flaming Star."
Step by Step Jane Fonda's next exercise tape won't play on your VCR: "Jane Fonda's Fitness Walkout" consists of two one-hour audio cassettes that you're supposed to listen to on your fitness walk. For about $19, Jane tells you how to walk while a sound track of "motivating music" paces your steps for maximum aerobic benefit; a 16-page booklet offers tips on who should walk where, when and wearing what. And you thought it was easy.