It will be time warp time on tape this November when one of the last big no-shows at the video party finally makes its home video debut. CBS/Fox Video has announced a Nov. 8 release date for "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," confirming one of the industry's worst-kept secrets and contradicting the official denials with which the firm responded after a flurry of recent reports of the tape's imminent release.
Timed to coincide with the film's 15th anniversary, the "Rocky Horror" video will carry a $89.98 price tag -- a high-road pricing approach that has taken many in the industry by surprise. Few films have demonstrated a greater degree of the "repeatability" that is regarded as the most crucial element in sales-priced video success; in fact, it's "Rocky Horror's" rampant repeatability that has kept the tape out of the video market all these years and has inspired a release strategy as unusual as the movie itself.
"Rocky Horror," still a favorite midnight attraction at 200 theaters across the country after a box office take of more than $110 million, has easily earned more money at the box office in the past few years than any other '70s film -- none of which, obviously, are still in regular theatrical release today. In fact, it is such a moneymaking machine that many doubted it would ever be released on videocassette.
CBS/Fox's release plans reflect those concerns. The film will not air on broadcast or cable television for at least two years, guaranteeing that the only "Rocky Horror" tapes out there are official, copyrighted copies; the tapes will be in specially designed packages that the studio hopes will foil would-be pirates; and a plea for help in controlling video piracy will be included in the $1.5 million ad campaign for the title. And CBS/Fox will be able to control the number of copies in release easily, as dealers will be unable to reorder copies of the tape after the official late-October order cutoff date, after which the tape will be put on a "moratorium" of at least two years.
That means that the tape may be in short supply shortly after its release, especially if dealers underestimate the number of fans willing to spend $90 for a copy. That also means the price will not drop to more affordable levels for at least two years, so this will be those fans' only opportunity for a while to do the time warp along with Transylvania's most high-profile transvestite in the privacy of their own homes.
The studio's efforts to limit the tape's availability could actually drive prices up -- an unheard-of result that would vindicate CBS/Fox's pricing decision. CBS/Fox remains one of the last major video studios that have yet to try a low, sales-targeted price on a major new release. It's also suffering from its parent studio's recent bad luck at the box office, which has forced CBS/Fox to reach back into its archive for its fall lineup -- which, with such attractions as "The Sound of Music" and the Rodgers & Hammerstein collection, the repackaged "Star Wars" trilogy and "I Love Lucy," already had a time-warp feel. However brief their visit, Frank-N-Furter and the rest of the "Rocky" horrors will look right at home.
Viewers who prefer their cult camp classicism closer to the source may want to look into three releases arriving in stores today on the "Joe Bob Briggs Presents the Sleaziest Movies in the History of the World" label. The trio offer the unique delights of 1960s filmmaking that the "Rocky Horror" filmmakers lampooned. "She Devils on Wheels," from 1968, is billed as the first feminist biker movie. And writer-producer-director Doris Wishman, "Queen of Exploitation Movies," is represented by a pair of her finest, "Bad Girls Go to Hell" and "Deadly Weapons," the latter featuring Chesty Morgan, a film phenomenon about which all has been forgotten except one particular 73-inch vital statistic. The three tapes, all of which are unrated, are priced at $19.98 each.
Out in October
Low-priced titles will dominate video industry activity this month, but the rental market will not be completely quiet. Some highlights: Oct. 3: "Q&A." Oct. 4: "Tales From the Darkside" and "The Guardian." Oct. 10: "Loose Cannons." Oct. 11: "The First Power." Oct. 17: "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover," "Stanley & Iris" and "I Love You to Death." Oct. 25: "The Hunt for Red October," "Miami Blues" and "Love at Large." Oct. 31: "Wild Orchid."