With more new low-priced tapes available for Christmas shoppers than ever, the video business is settling in for its annual case of the holiday jitters. This year's case is worse than ever: Amid predictions of low retail sales in all industries, the video business goes into Christmas without a single blockbuster title that has the markings of inevitable success that distinguished "Batman" and "E.T." in years past. More nervous-making news presented itself at the official start of the shopping season on Thanksgiving weekend when unseasonably warm temperatures helped keep shopping mall traffic below expectations, although major discount outlets reportedly did a brisk business.
The crowded K mart lots may represent good news for the video studios, but that only adds to traditional video retailers' fears that they'll have a smaller share in Christmas cheer than ever. A new study from Nielsen Media Research indicates that the discount store is shaping up as the outlet of choice for this year's buyer of low-price cassettes. According to the latest Nielsen Home Video Index, which monitors tape sales, the largest share of consumers who bought copies of four major low-price releases did so at discount stores, rather than video specialty outlets. What's more, video stores ran third behind grocery stores for three of the four titles -- "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie," "All Dogs Go to Heaven" and "Peter Pan" -- with only "The Little Mermaid" racking up higher sales for video dealers than for grocers.
The Video Index's survey also gave studio executives reason to hope for a happy holiday. "Pretty Woman" ranked as the top title on respondents' shopping lists, turning up as a likely holiday-season purchase among almost two-thirds of the participating VCR owners. The four titles whose purchasing patterns were already under scrutiny also showed up on a majority of shopping lists, with only "Jetsons: The Movie" and "Total Recall" mentioned as likely purchases by fewer than half of the respondents.
The best news was the significant increases among intent-to-buy percentages that the latest study represented over the August-September survey, when all seven of the titles in question failed to be mentioned as likely purchases by a majority of respondents. The biggest gains were registered by "All Dogs Go to Heaven," which showed up on almost twice as many lists in October than it had a month before, while the R-rated "Total Recall" was the only title on which consumers' enthusiasm cooled between surveys -- another indication that Christmas truly is for children, at least in the low-price-video business.
Madonna Without Child
One late entry into the low-price holiday market clearly won't be marketed with children in mind: "Justify My Love," the $9.98 video single that will give the waiting world -- at least that part of it that didn't tape "Nightline" on Monday -- the chance to see what it can't watch on MTV. Copies of the Warner Reprise Home Video release could arrive in stores as early as next week, when they are expected to get plastered with the parental-advisory stickers that have fast become a fixture in music retail outlets.
His fans consider independent filmmaker Henry Jaglom one of the few true auteurs working in film today. Unfortunately for Jaglom, however, those fans are almost all moviegoers with easy access to the urban art-house theaters that play his films, which rarely go into wide circulation and have had little exposure on tape. This week the video renting world can pass its own judgment on Jaglom, when three of his movies make their video debut courtesy of Paramount Home Video. His latest, 1989's "Happy New Year," stars Jaglom as a transplanted Californian beginning the year with a real estate nightmare that could only happen in New York; it reaches video stores priced for the rental market (about $90 for VHS, $29.95 for Beta). Jaglom collectors will appreciate Paramount's $39.95 price ($29.95 Beta) for the remaining two first-timers, "Can She Bake a Cherry Pie?" starring Karen Black and 1977's "Tracks" starring Dennis Hopper. Paramount has also cut the price on Jaglom's "Someone to Love" to $39.95 ($29.95 Beta).