While Paramount Home Video's "Ghost" plans have yet to materialize -- the studio still hasn't announced how it will handle the video release of the box office monster -- the Disney Co. is laying plans to dominate the low-priced video market this spring. Walt Disney Home Video has announced a mid-March release date for "DuckTales: The Movie," with the lowest price yet for an animated feature -- $22.95. And the studio has confirmed rumors that it will capitalize on last year's successful re-release of 1967's animated classic "The Jungle Book" with a late-spring, low-priced video release patterned after Disney's similar success last spring with "The Little Mermaid."
"DuckTales: The Movie -- Treasure of the Lost Lamp" comes to tape on the Ides of March after last year's moderately unsuccessful $18 million run at the box office. That's paltry by Disney standards -- and far below the usual box office take of films that make their video debut on low-priced tapes. But where "DuckTales: The Movie" may have sunk at the multiplex, "DuckTales: The Movie" as a tape is expected to swim to video bestsellerdom on the continued strength of the syndicated animated television series on which the film is based. According to Disney, the series had an unbroken streak at the top of the syndicated children's show ratings for two full years. Moreover, the studio contends, the series' animated stars have a higher appeal -- "Q" rating -- among mothers of children in the target age group (2 to 11) than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; while "Q" ratings rank among Hollywood's most closely held secrets -- not that there are many of us who knew that ducks and turtles were even eligible -- it's tough to imagine the folks at Disney coming up with characters that would rank lower among mothers than anything that lays claim to being a teenage mutant.
Expectations are no doubt higher for "The Jungle Book," whose $44.3 million box office success last year earned it a No. 2 rank on the list of Disney animated reissues (right behind "Snow White's" $50 million, 50th anniversary re-release a few years back). Disney is keeping quiet on details for now, but the release strategy is expected to mirror the company's plan for "The Little Mermaid," which hit stores in May and easily became the best-selling tape of the first half of the year.
If Disney promotes "The Jungle Book" throughout the Christmas season -- as it did with "The Little Mermaid" -- then the animated adventures of Mowgli and friends should become one of the top sellers of 1991.
Both Disney tapes will reach a low-priced market that is distinctly different from last year's. While the first three months of 1990 brought three major low-priced titles -- "Lethal Weapon 2," "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" and "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" -- there is nothing yet in line for this winter and spring. Two of the obvious candidates -- "Dick Tracy" and "Die Hard 2" -- both ended up on the rental shelf at premium prices, and "Ghost's" video future remains cloudy in anticipation of Paramount's announcement.
Meanwhile, CBS/Fox Video's plans for the surprise blockbuster "Home Alone" are already the focus of industry speculation; but that film's Christmas theme makes it a likely autumn arrival on tape, whatever the price.
One reason video studios have not rushed to lower their prices on blockbuster releases this winter is that their top-priced tapes are working so well -- such as the $100 "Hunt for Red October" and the $93 "Dick Tracy" that broke sales records last year. Retailers worried about an across-the-board price hike, and it turns out they had good reason: One sure sign that the price increase has caught on is independent supplier Vidmark Entertainment's plan to release the failed sequel "The Return of Superfly" in March priced at $92.92. That makes Vidmark the first independent to embrace the new higher price for rental market tapes -- and makes "Superfly," which grossed $650,000 at the box office, the first film to get the high price without cracking the million-dollar mark in the theaters. Vidmark is counting on the generally warm reception that action films get at the video store, but the move probably will mean that suppliers no longer seek justification -- the price hike is here to stay.
This may not be the best time for world travel, but Turner Home Entertainment and Jacques Cousteau will soon be available to take viewers to six of the globe's more exotic locales. The latest batch of video volumes in Turner's series of Cousteau nautical voyages offers a half-dozen worry-free destinations, including: Haiti, whose overpopulation problems are revealed in "Waters of Sorrow"; the Bering Sea, where old and new worlds collide in "Twilight of the Alaskan Hunter"; Thailand and its underwater tin-mining efforts in "Convicts of the Sea"; Borneo, the planet's third-largest island, with lush "Forests Without Land"; Australia's little-explored western coastline in "Out West Down Under"; and wherever the windships' studies might take it in "Riders of the Wind." Each 48-minute volume of the Cousteau library is priced at $19.98.