"Pretty Woman" may be the surprise movie hit of the year, but its home video fate will come as a surprise to no one who's been watching the video industry the last few months. As expected, Disney label Touchstone Home Video has announced that the 1990 box office champ to date -- and most likely for the year, considering the disappointing performance of the big summer blockbusters -- will come to tape in mid-October priced at $19.99, the lowest price for a major video title this year.
With its aggressive pricing and impressive $160 million box office take, "Pretty Woman" immediately takes a top position in the fall video sales sweepstakes. The movie's chances are further enhanced by its apparent monopoly on the adult market for low-priced videocassettes, which is dominated by high-profile children's releases. Disney is confident enough of its chances that it is releasing the tape without a sponsor or promotional tie-in partner and will offer no money-back rebates for consumers. Of the other major fall releases, only second-place box office contender "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" will also reach the market without a rebate offer, although each $24.95 "Turtles" package will include $20 worth of coupons from Pizza Hut.
The Richard Gere-Julia Roberts film's lack of competition for the grown-ups' dollars may be short-lived, however; executives at both Disney and Carolco parent LIVE Home Video continue to drop very pointed hints that their companies may add to the Christmas season mix with low-priced releases of "Dick Tracy" and "Total Recall," respectively. When announcing the October "Pretty Woman" release, Disney executives commented that "there is still room" for another low-priced blockbuster in the last two months of the year -- a bit of imprecision that is widely interpreted as a reference to "Dick Tracy," for which no video plans have been revealed. And LIVE is reportedly still contemplating pricing strategies for the summer's top hit, "Total Recall," which is already being advertised (without a price) to the trade as a fall video release.
The sales side of the video business is expected to post increases of as much as 20 percent over last fall's selling season, which was dominated by the "Batman"-"Bambi"-"Who Framed Roger Rabbit" triumvirate, in which Disney came out on top. The arrival of "Pretty Woman" virtually guarantees that Disney will repeat last year's performance whether or not "Dick Tracy" slugs his way onto the discount shelves this fall.
MCA/Universal Home Video, meanwhile, added yet another title to the crowded low-priced children's market for the fall: Its big-screen "Jetsons" feature will hit stores in late October priced at $22.95.
Price Wars While industry speculation about "Total Recall" and "Dick Tracy" continues to grow, an increasing number of video retailers are voicing concerns that both titles could end up at the other end of the spectrum -- specifically, the $100 retail price that Paramount Home Video has revived for the October release of "The Hunt for Red October." Concerns are so strong that the Video Software Dealers Association went on the record at its annual trade show and convention last week to discourage studios from driving prices higher; the group's board of directors took the unusual step of issuing a formal statement designed to stave off the anticipated round of price hikes before it goes any further.
"There is a conflict in the video industry at this time regarding the increasing cost of movies at the same time discretionary income and consumer confidence is shrinking," read the statement. The board of directors then suggested that the retailers' only recourse would be to buy fewer copies of the titles in question. Although one independent video supplier exhibiting at the show attempted to fan the retailers' fire by distributing rocks that attendees could throw at the booths of Paramount and other studios, the retailers in attendance were placated by the absence of any other high-price announcements at the show. Those rocks may still come in handy in the coming weeks, however, when pricing plans for the rest of the fall releases are expected to be unveiled.