The top-grossing movie of last year, "Beverly Hills Cop II," will come out on tape in March priced at $89.95 -- $60 more than the original "Cop" cost during its initial video release.

Both come from Paramount, whose 1985 decision to price "Beverly Hills Cop" below $30 was the industry's first major effort to persuade consumers to buy movies instead of renting them. Paramount was widely expected to put a similar low price on the sequel, but studio executives decided that the latter movie lacked one essential element of its predecessor's appeal: repeatability.

" 'Beverly Hills Cop II' is a movie that everybody wanted to see," says Paramount Home Video President Robert Klingensmith, "but it wasn't one that people went back to five or six times."

Klingensmith has also suggested that a handful of the studio's other likely candidates for low prices, including "Eddie Murphy Raw," "The Untouchables" and "Fatal Attraction," will also be priced in the $90 range when they eventually come to video. Beta owners, however, can take heart: All Paramount movies, including "Cop II," will be priced at $29.95 in the Beta format.

C Is for Confusing

Raising children and renting movies are both about to get a little more complicated. The Independent Video Producers Association (IVPA) in conjunction with the Film Advisory Board (FAB) has developed a new rating system for previously unrated videocassettes. This system could ultimately provide concerned parents with much more information about the video titles they rent than is offered by the industry-standard Motion Picture Association of America system -- if they're willing to decipher the hieroglyphics.

While the MPAA imparts its wisdom through five symbols (G, PG, PG-13, R and X), the IVPA-FAB plan calls for six basic ratings -- C (for children's programs), F (family), M (mature), MM (very mature), MMM (you guessed it) and X -- which are supplemented by as many as nine more symbols indicating the presence and degree of specific on-screen elements, ranging from simple violence to substance abuse. The result of this precision may well be obscurity: The IVPA-FAB rating for a film like "Fatal Attraction," dismissed with a pithy R by the MPAA, might read something like MMM -- L/N/EV/EPS, thanks to the film's language, nudity, extreme violence and explicit sex.

As complicated as that sounds, the alternatives could be even worse, says IVPA Chairman Danny Kopels: A growing number of state and city governments are considering legislation that would require ratings on all home video products, he says, which could result in a hodgepodge of "inconsistent and confusing systems" developed on the community level. Such laws could also keep unrated tapes off the shelves, which is one reason the IVPA, whose members deal primarily in unrated made-for-video programming, has jumped into the fray. While they are free to submit their programs for MPAA ratings, that can be an expensive process, more than double what the IVPA is charging.

The MPAA, which has long been under pressure to revise its rating system along the lines of the FAB's, doesn't welcome the company -- President Jack Valenti warns that "All rating systems will suffer" from the confusion that will inevitably ensue. The IVPA-FAB, meanwhile, has awarded its first ratings, including an MM -- N for the new "Cooking With Beefcake Too," wherein hostess Jaye P. Morgan indulges in some very mature recipe trading with her G-stringed, muscle-bound kitchen help.

Machines of Tomorrow

The world's manufacturers of video and audio equipment gathered in Las Vegas last week for the Winter Consumer Electronics Show to preview the machines and gadgets they hope will turn electronics consumers' heads in the coming months. Aside from a $2,400 3-D camcorder system (complete with special glasses) from Toshiba, there were few technical innovations in video hardware -- VCR manufacturers are primarily interested in raising their prices to compensate for the falling dollar. Beta was all but invisible, as Sony, the sole manufacturer of Beta machines, elected not to exhibit. The company waited until after the show to announce its entry into the VHS-machine market, a sure sign that its war against the VHS format has been lost.

Last year's innovation, the enhanced-picture-quality Super-VHS format, was mentioned as a viable high-end item, but growth will be limited mostly to camcorders, since neither the movie studios nor video dealers are eager to deal with movies on S-VHS tape. And CD Video, the marriage of compact disc and laser disc technology that was supposed to have taken the market by storm this past Christmas, has yet to make any significant strides, although a number of manufacturers exhibited CD players that also play 5- and 12-inch video discs. The first three CDV singles (which feature a five-minute music video, followed by 20 minutes of music) are scheduled to reach the market next month.