Widespread expectations of impending $100 price tags on the biggest video rental blockbusters are causing many video retailers to consider price hikes on their rental rates, but some of the biggest corporate names in Hollywood are focusing their attention on the low-priced tapes on the other end of the spectrum. The budget cassette business, which has recently attracted such major players as Paramount and MGM/UA Home Video, will soon get a very high-profile new addition: the Walt Disney Co., which will launch a line of $9.99 tapes this month.
Budget cassettes -- tapes priced at $15 and below -- have traditionally been provided by companies outside the movie industry that bypass video specialty stores in favor of mass merchandisers and discount chains. Many companies in the highly competitive low-end market fell victim to charges that their low prices reflected low manufacturing quality standards, lending the discount sector of the business an aura that the major studios were happy to avoid for years. These days, however, the studios are eager to capture a larger share of the enormous video sales of the nation's discount stores. Disney's move will mark the first time a major studio has offered a line of tapes below $10, a bargain-basement price that was virtually unheard of among the video studios just a few years back.
Disney enters the $10 market in true Disney fashion; rather than risk compromising the invaluable franchise implicit in the Disney name, the company will release the budget tapes under the Buena Vista Home Video imprint. And none of the tapes features the familiar characters on which the Disney empire is built: All, in fact, offer material that has been acquired from other production houses. A total of 31 tapes will be included in the $9.99 line. Most of tapes are animated features or short compilations, depicting such characters as SuperTed, Asterix and Paddington Bear; six live-action Hopalong Cassidy Western tapes are also included.
Meanwhile, Walt Disney Home Video is getting a budget line of its own -- a collection of 56 old, new and rereleased tapes priced at $12.99. Included are such best-selling Disney video series as "Ducktales," "The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh," "Chip 'N Dale Rescue Rangers" and "Cartoon Classics." Of particular note are two of next month's additions to the "Sing Along Songs" series of Disney song compilations with on-screen lyrics for new readers. Both new tapes represent firsts of varying importance: "Disneyland Fun," in which Disney characters lead a group of on-screen children through the songs that can be learned on Disneyland rides and attractions, is the first live-action "Sing Along Songs" tape; and "Under the Sea," a collection of Disney's nautical tunes including the popular animated showstopper from last year's "The Little Mermaid," marks the first time that a winner of the Best Original Song Academy Award has gone from big-screen glory to small-screen anthology in less than a year. If that doesn't class up the budget video shelf, then nothing will.
Duke of the Sea
Most filmgoers probably best remember John Wayne on horseback galloping through some arid Western landscape. But when paired with one of Hollywood's top screen sirens, even the Duke was occasionally at sea -- in 1955 especially, as video viewers will be reminded by a pair of video debuts arriving later this month from Warner Home Video: William Wellman's "Blood Alley," in which merchant marine Wayne guides Lauren Bacall and a boatload of Chinese exiles to freedom; and "The Sea Chase," a South Pacific World War II thriller costarring Lana Turner. The tapes are priced at $59.95 each.
Cruise With 'Thunder'
Tapes that take viewers behind the scenes on the creation of a major Hollywood blockbuster are showing up more regularly as those movies blockbust onto the video market. But the makers of "NASCAR Goes Hollywood: The Making of 'Days of Thunder' " couldn't wait for the video release of the Tom Cruise vehicle vehicle; the 45-minute documentary is already being offered on tape. But the odds are against the tape's beating the real "Days" in the race to the video store -- the $19.95 program is currently available only through direct-response ads on sports-cable network ESPN. Future plans for the tape include a tie-in with Mello Yello, the highly visible sponsor of the car Cruise's character drives in the movie. "Days of Thunder" is still being talked about as a possible low-priced fall video release, but "NASCAR Goes Hollywood" isn't expected to arrive in video stores until 1991.