Prices may be rising in most sectors of the entertainment industry, but the home video business -- at least part of it -- will have some good news for budget-minded consumers next year. Two of the largest videocassette suppliers will be launching lines of budget-price cassettes next year, reducing to $15 and less tapes of movies that were released theatrically as recently as early 1990.
By staking out their territory in the budget tape market, RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video and LIVE Entertainment join Paramount Home Video in taking an aggressive position in the video market's low end. This small but fast-growing corner of the market has been dominated by companies unaffiliated with major Hollywood production outfits. If more video majors follow suit as expected, consumers should find a much wider selection of low-price tapes in the discount bins of music stores and mass merchandisers, where the majority of them are sold.
The initial selections offered by RCA/Columbia and LIVE may not cause traffic jams in the bargain basement, but they do indicate that there are more bargains on the way. RCA/Columbia is testing the $14.95 price point in January with two titles tied to new promotions for older movies: "School Daze" from Spike Lee, whose "Mo' Better Blues" reaches the rental market in January; and "Stir Crazy," featuring Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, whose subsequent "See No Evil, Hear No Evil" will be discounted to $19.95 at the same time.
LIVE Entertainment has set up an entire label to market its under-$15 offerings -- the Avid Home Entertainment imprint. Its first releases range from the marginally interesting -- "Wired," "Millennium" and "1984" -- to such natural candidates for discounting as "Meatballs III" and "Hollywood Hot Tub II." LIVE, which relies on corporate affiliate Carolco Pictures for many of its releases, ranks as one of the fastest-growing companies in the video business, with two of the fall's biggest video hits to its credit: "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and "Total Recall" (each $24.95). As Carolco and LIVE gain momentum on film and video screens, Avid may develop one of the highest-profile lists of low-price tapes in the market -- a profile that will be closely watched by LIVE's larger studio-based competitors, for which a journey south of the $15 price level may become a trip worth taking in the coming months.
New Line's New Venture
One title that LIVE may not get to add to its list is the eagerly awaited sequel to "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," scheduled to arrive in theaters in the spring. LIVE's pre-release acquisition of video rights to the original provided much of the funding that independent film distributor New Line Cinema poured into the blockbuster theatrical release. Now, bucking the trend among independent film outfits that are lining up distribution deals with established video suppliers, New Line has formed its own home video unit. While rights to New Line's most successful film series, "Nightmare on Elm Street," are already spoken for by co-producer Media Home Entertainment, "Turtles II" video rights have yet to be sold off and may provide the ammunition next year for New Line's first video blockbuster. The sequel should be a very loud bang with which to start off, if the original "Turtles" video's success is any indication: LIVE has already sold 9 million units of the cassette, as well as 15 million tapes featuring episodes from the top-rated animated series.
There are only 25 more renting days left until Christmas; here are some highlights of what's in store: Dec. 1: "Ernest Goes to Jail." Dec. 5: "Gremlins 2: The New Batch." Dec. 6: "Henry V," "Ghost Dad." Dec. 12: "Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!" Dec. 19: "Dick Tracy," "Last Exit to Brooklyn," "Without You I'm Nothing." Dec. 20: "RoboCop 2." Dec. 27: "My Blue Heaven."