The latest court ruling in the "Platoon" case further mires the film in legal limbo without bringing it any closer to the video store. The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has upheld the injunction barring the video's release until next Monday, and has sent the case back to district court to determine when and by whom the tape will eventually be put out.
"Basically, they punted," said a spokesman for HBO Video, which had been banking on some resolution in the dispute -- HBO attorneys told the court that the suspension was costing the company more than $300,000 a day. Claiming nonpartisan concern for their members' lost revenue, representatives from the video retailer and distributor trade associations also unsuccessfully requested permission to make the video available for rental in the interim. Some retailers, meanwhile, are reportedly still offering copies of "Hoosiers," the other film in the suit, although the injunction on that title likewise stands until Monday.
Bombs Bounce Back Movies that fail in the theaters frequently redeem themselves at least financially when they come out in video, where the revenues earned through the sale of rental copies to retailers can surpass meager box office receipts. This is especially clear for a number of current releases whose successes on tape illustrate how video dealers decide what to put on their shelves -- and how they hope consumers determine what to take home.
The Charlie Sheen comedy "Three for the Road," due on tape from Vista Home Video this week, was filmed before Sheen's "Platoon" performance made his a household face but didn't hit theaters until this spring; while Vista's efforts to cash in on Sheen's new-found fame failed in the theaters, the ploy worked with video retailers, whose outlays almost doubled Vista's box office tape on the film (according to figures published in the industry's newsletter, Video Week).
The latest Burt Reynolds clinker, "Malone," will also come close to doubling its box office receipts when it comes out on tape next month, thanks in part to the popularity of the action/adventure genre in video stores. Another action bomb, Christopher Reeve's "Street Smart," tripled its box office take, as did Ken Russell's horror/fantasy "Gothic."
The biggest winner in the transition to tape owes much of its success to the very movie that helped sink it in the theaters. "The Hanoi Hilton" had the dubious honor of being the first Vietnam film to come out after That Other Vietnam Movie, with which critics compared it less than favorably. Audiences listened, and stayed home. Then Warner Home Video rushed it to tape before "Platoon" was due to hit, advertising it as a "companion" to the latter. Retailers, aware that "Platoon" would draw more renters than there would be tapes, bought it in such numbers that the "Hanoi Hilton" tape will earn Warner 10 times what it earned in the theaters -- and that was before "Platoon" was put on hold. The news from Warner only gets better: Retailers reportedly started ordering additional copies of "Hanoi Hilton" the day the "Platoon" suspension was announced.
Mr. and Ms. Right Currently starring on screen in "The Glass Menagerie" and in Lanford Wilson's new drama, "Burn This," on Broadway, the intensely serious John Malkovich seemed a strange choice to star in the film comedy "Making Mr. Right" -- strange enough that few moviegoers turned out to see him in his dual role as an android and its creator during the film's brief theatrical release this spring. Its home video release this week offers another chance for this oddity to find an audience. The film was directed by Susan Seidelman, whose previous effort, "Desperately Seeking Susan," was a big hit, and costars performance artist Ann Magnuson, who, like Seidelman, first made a name for herself in the downtown New York scene. The tape comes from HBO Video, which is also releasing "Ann Magnuson's Vandemonium Plus," a 45-minute solo comedy performance that shows Magnuson much more in her own element, with a sampling of her idiosyncratic characterizations.
Beta Blowout The local video chain the Video Place reaffirms its commitment to its Beta customers this weekend with what it is billing as the world's largest Beta-only video sale, scheduled for Saturday and Sunday at the Tysons Westpark Hotel. More than 1,200 movies, music videos and children's programs -- 25,000 tapes in all -- will be offered, almost all of them below $17. According to chain owner Frank Barnako, the tapes are brand new, although most of the titles have been available for at least two months. "We're talking major titles -- not remainders from studios you've never heard of." Barnako's success with used-tape sales, along with the local popularity of the Beta format, helped convince studios to cut bargains with him on their Beta inventory. "There's a finite number of markets you could do this in."