Parents who never figured out what all the fuss was about last spring when "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" took over the nation -- or at least its young moviegoers -- will have another chance this fall. The biggest surprise movie hit of the year, still ranked second on the 1990 box office list, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" will make its expected attack on the low-priced video market in October priced at $24.95 from children's video specialist Family Home Entertainment.
The tape is likely to be the highest-profile release ever for FHE, which won the rights before the film's theatrical release; bidders were reportedly required to enter their bids without actually having seen the movie. FHE won out with a blind bid based largely on the continued strength of its animated "Turtles" cassettes. Such high-stakes auctions for major movies are rare these days -- most movies are distributed on tape by their studios' video divisions or through long-standing distribution deals -- but FHE's gamble seems to have paid off: "Turtles" ranks as the most successful film in recent memory whose home video rights were made available through competitive bidding.
FHE is taking its release strategy cue from the major studios, including a heavily promoted tie-in with a corporate sponsor. Pizza Hut, which sponsored last year's animated video also-ran "The Land Before Time," will have a one-minute commercial on the tape, which will offer consumers $20 worth of Pizza Hut coupons. Pepsi, veteran of the "E.T." video bonanza, will also pitch into the $20 million marketing campaign.
If domestic box office receipts are any indication of video market strength, the Turtles' $130 million take should make them the most powerful weapon in the video industry's Christmas-season children's crusade, which also includes both the Walt Disney and Mary Martin "Peter Pan" movies, the 1989 animated feature "All Dogs Go to Heaven" and the home video debut of television animation star Garfield. The lineup of low-priced video blockbusters is so heavy on children's titles that many industry watchers are concerned that grown-ups won't have any tapes to put on their Christmas lists and are searching for signs that current box office leaders "Pretty Woman," "Dick Tracy" or "Total Recall" might end up on low-priced tapes this fall. After its disappointing performance this summer, "Days of Thunder" is no longer mentioned as a likely candidate for the sales-priced video treatment this year.
The Hunt Is On
One big-screen blockbuster that definitely won't hit the discount video shelf this Christmas is the year's No. 3 box office attraction, "The Hunt for Red October." In fact, Paramount Home Video's pricing strategists are plotting a course in the opposite direction; although Paramount no longer publishes retail prices on its rental titles, a rise in the wholesale price effectively raises the retail price for "Hunt" to $99 -- the first movie to hit the $99 mark since "Platoon." The tape will arrive, naturally, in October, supported with what Paramount executives promise will be the most expensive advertising campaign ever mounted for a rental title. They also say that the new price level will be used on future rental blockbusters and that video dealers should raise their rental rates to pay for it. Some retailers, fearful that Paramount's move will set off another round of unwanted price hikes, are threatening to buy fewer copies of the Cold War thriller than they would have bought at current prices (in the $90 to $99 retail price range). If they make good on their threats and heat up the long-standing studio/dealer Cold War once again, it could be the would-be renters who do the hunting among understocked video shelves this October.
This month's releases can take overheated summer renters back to cooler times, with hits from the winter -- and flops from the spring. Some highlights: Aug. 2: "Driving Miss Daisy," "Flashback." Aug. 8: "Nightbreed," "Blue Steel." Aug. 9: "Born on the Fourth of July," "Coupe de Ville." Aug. 18: "Joe Versus the Volcano." Aug. 16: "Sweetie," "Mountains of the Moon." Aug. 23: "Nuns on the Run." Aug. 29: "Stella," "Bad Influence." Aug. 30: "Lord of the Flies."