The video business will take a sharp turn toward Never-Never-Never-Never Land this fall, when video stores play host to twin screen versions of "Peter Pan" on low-priced tapes. Disney Home Video's recent announcement that its 1953 animated classic will make a transition to tape this September earned Disney an early lead in the annual Christmas season low-priced video sweepstakes, which seems to begin earlier each year. Now goodTimes home video has revealed its own Peter plans, the video release of Mary Martin's small-screen star turn as Peter Pan in the memorable musical adaptation filmed for television in 1960.
Both tapes will be priced at $24.95. But the goodTimes program is widely expected to have at least some effect on Disney's heavily promoted "Pan" release -- especially since goodTimes's tape will arrive in stores in August, almost a month before Disney's.
Although the confusion that will inevitably result from dueling "Pans" may work against both tapes, the Disney version may be at a disadvantage among the parent-age consumers, millions of whom grew up with memories of Mary Martin flying around. The goodTimes tape's release will coincide with the 30th anniversary of the original broadcast of the television special, based on the 1954-55 Broadway musical directed by Jerome Robbins.
"Peter Pan" will be the first release under the new Platinum Home Video label goodTimes has established to differentiate the tape from the very inexpensive tapes for which it is best known. Many budget tape suppliers have come under fire for offering tapes recorded in long-play mode, in which picture quality is often sacrificed to save the manufacturer's duplication cost; "Peter Pan" in any future platinum releases will be duplicated in the standard mode typical of more expensive tapes.
The prospect of competing for the world's Peter Pan dollars can't be good news for the folks at Disney, whose vigilance in protecting the copyrights on their animated characters is well known. The company recently announced out-of-court settlements that prompted the immediate removal from the market of tapes featuring Disney characters offered by several smaller video distributors -- including goodTimes. One can only assume that goodTimes executives will believe quite enthusiastically in fairies if their marketing turnabout flies this fall.
Always and More Consumers who buy or rent Steven Spielberg's "Always," due in video stores next week priced at $89.95, may get more than they're expecting. For starters, the film is being offered on tape exclusively in the "letter box" format, which depicts the original screen image in its entirety by framing the television film with bars that replicate the shape of the original rectangular movie frame. Before the movie gets started, however, viewers are treated to an on-screen written message from Spielberg, who has made his preference for letter box video cassettes well known. "Home viewers should be able to see films as filmmakers intended them to be seen," states the message. "Letter boxing gives the viewer at home the opportunity to see a film with its full image intact. There are now parts of the film that have to be cut off to accommodate the dimension of the television screen. The viewer can see more and experience more." Spielberg has publicly stated his hopes that letter boxing will become the industry standard for videocassette releases; several of his movies have been letter-boxed on video disc, including "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" and "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." "Always" is his first to be offered on tape exclusively in the letter box format. MCA/Universal estimates that "Always's" video frame-within-a-frame will take up 10 to 15 percent of the television screen.
Comedy Tonight They may not be for everyone, but MGM/UA Home Video is banking on a big enough audience for the films in this month's Cult Comedies promotion to justify what will be the home video debuts of most of the films involved. Five of the films are new to video: "The Americanization of Emily," featuring Julie Andrews and James Garner and a Paddy Chayefsky script; "Cold Turkey," Norman Lear's look at a town that stops smoking; Ken Russell's "The Boy Friend," starring Twiggy and featuring Tommy Tune; Michael Ritchie's beauty pageant satire "Smile," whose pageant beauties include a young Melanie Griffith; and Robert Morse in "The Loved One," billed as "the motion picture with something to offend everybody." Also slated for release in the promotion are the subtitled French-language versions of two films previously available on cassette only with soundtracks dubbed in English: "King of Hearts" and "La Cage aux Folles." The tapes are priced at $19.95 each.