Times Staff Writer

A spot survey of local video stores reveals that “We Are the World: The Video Event,” released last week, is selling well and should be a big hit.

The RCA/Columbia cassette is a 30-minute, highlight version of the 50-minute HBO TV special documenting the recording of the “We Are The World” single and the video, which is included in the new cassette. The company shipped 200,000, priced at $14.95 each.

“They’ll sell quickly because they’re so cheap,” predicted Fritz Friedman, RCA/Columbia marketing executive. “Our aim was to keep the price low enough to make it attractive to buyers and high enough to make a decent profit for USA for Africa.” The profit, he said, is roughly $7 per tape.

The retailers have to turn in the profits they make on selling the cassette voluntarily. “We can’t dictate to them to send the profits to USA for Africa,” Friedman said. “Let’s hope the retailers have a conscience.”


One store owner complained that RCA/Columbia didn’t spend enough money on advertising, calling it a “low-profile” videocassette.

Friedman explained why the cassette wasn’t advertised more heavily: “If the ads aren’t donated, the ad costs come out of the profits, which go to help those starving people. If you spend a lot on advertising, it’s like you’re taking food out of people’s mouths.”

One store owner, who asked not to be identified, criticized RCA/Columbia for not releasing the cassette sooner. “They should have put it out three months ago, when the enthusiasm for the single and the album was so high,” he said. “People have heard the song and seen the video so much that they’re tired off it. I’ll bet they lost about 200,000 sales by waiting too long to release it. Some people now think anything else from USA for Africa is overkill and might not buy the cassette.”

Friedman countered: “We put it out as quickly as we could under the circumstances. Sure, it would have been nice to put it out earlier, but it didn’t work out that way.”


VALENTI SPEAKS UP: One afternoon at the Polo Lounge, Jack Valenti, the president of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, spent about half an hour talking about what a good public speaker he is. He certainly convinced me.

He’ll convince others, too. Some people will get a chance to watch him on three 30-minute instructional videocassettes--"Speak Up With Confidence,” “Speak Up With Style” and “Speak Up on Television"--teaching the art of public speaking. On the cassettes--based on his recent book, “Speak Up With Confidence"--Valenti is interviewed by Dinah Shore.

“There’re my own ideas,” he explained. “I’ve developed them over a long period of time. They’re very simple. There’s nothing pedantic about my ideas. That’s the problem with a lot of these books about speaking--too pedantic, too technical.”

How did Valenti get to be such a smooth, authoritative speaker? He replied: “By being interested in the art of speaking and being my own severest critic. You’re not born a good speaker--it’s something you learn. I’ve been working at this all my life. I learned how to speak confidently and convincingly to individuals and groups by practicing and practicing and practicing.”


That’s what he advocates on the cassettes: “If people are looking for shortcuts, then they shouldn’t get these tapes. People have to really work and work and work at this.”

At the moment the cassettes, marketed by National Educational Media Inc. in Chatsworth, are geared to the organizational training market. Schools, businesses and agencies buy these tapes to instruct groups in the art of public speaking. The price is high--$1,500 for the three-cassette, 90-minute course.

The average person will have a chance to buy these cassettes after they’ve peaked in the training market.

“The price will drop when they get to the home-video market,” Valenti said. “At $1,500, I don’t think we’d sell too many to the general public.”


COMING MOVIE RELEASES: We’re getting closer and closer to the time when movies will be available on videocassette a month or two after their release date. The “window” between theatrical and cassette release is usually six months. But the “window” is closing.

Paramount is releasing “King David,” the Richard Gere Biblical drama, on Aug. 14, a mere 4 1/2 months after its release. The movie wasn’t a hit, so Paramount is probably looking to make some money on cassette sales as soon as possible. It’ll sell for $79.95.

One of the big late summer releases will be “The Killing Fields.” It will be in the stores the last week in August, on Warner Bros. at $79.95.

MOVIE CLASSICS: Sept. 30 is the 30th anniversary of the death of James Dean, one of the top young actors of the ‘50s. That date will certainly get a lot of media attention. In late August, anticipating a surge of interest in Dean, Warner Bros. will release “Giant,” the 1956 epic family drama featuring his best performance and an all-star cast including Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor. The price is $59.95.


Warners is also offering Dean’s three biggest films--"Giant,” “East of Eden” and “Rebel Without a Cause"--in a package entitled “The Dean Legacy” for $99. The release is scheduled for Sept. 16, just in time for the anniversary.

Three silent short features directed by D. W. Griffith are available from Kartes on one cassette, “The D. W. Griffith Triple Feature,” for $19.95. The most famous is his 24-minute two-reeler, “The Battle at Elderbush Gulch,” made in 1913. The others are “Iola’s Promise” and “The Goddess of Sagebrush Gulch.” Kartes already released the gem of its Griffith catalogue, “The Birth of a Nation,” in February.

UNUSUAL VIDEOS: The wackiest cassette of the year is “Arf” (Kartes, $9.95), which, if you can believe it, is for dogs. It’s aimed at dogs who are into watching TV but are turned off by watching the master’s shows. For your dog’s viewing pleasure, this cassette features an assortment of dogs doing all sorts of bizarre things, like participating in segments about cooking and exercise, or in a game show or a beauty contest. The sound track is all barking and music. It’s for the dog who has everything. . . .

“Chocolate” (One Pass, $29.95) will hit you square in the sweet tooth. For 40 minutes, chef Martin Johner demonstrates the art of making various chocolate desserts, such as mousse and chocolate-covered strawberries. It’ll make chocolate freaks salivate. Here’s a tip. Watch this cassette armed with a supply of candy bars.


SNIPPETS: According to a recent survey, people are buying more videocassettes. Previously, the consensus was that, in the average video store, 90% of the revenue came from the rentals and 10% from sales. Now, the results of a survey done by the Video Software Dealers Assn. indicate that the ratio is closer to 85% rental and 15% sales. That slight rise in sales, say the experts, is due to a dip in the average price per videocassette, which now is $42.46.

Some retail stores owners are complaining about the onslaught of 8mm , the new mini format rivaling VHS and Beta. One problem, they charge, is simply space. There are so many VHS and Beta cassettes on the market that there’s not much room in stores for hundreds of 8mm videocassettes, even though they are about the same size as audio cassettes.

One store owner predicted that consumers will be confused by a third format. “They’re just learning there’s a difference between VHS and Beta,” he said. “If the stores are suddenly full of cassettes in this new format, the poor consumer won’t know what to think.”

CHARTS: The most popular new rentals on the Billboard magazine rental chart are “The River” (No. 8) and “Protocol” (No. 13), which jumped from No. 33 to No. 13. . . . “Ghoulies,” which debuted at No. 11, is an unexpected hit.


Surprisingly, the classic 1952 musical, “Singin’ in the Rain,” starring Debbie Reynolds and Gene Kelly, is a big seller, jumping from No. 17 to No. 6 on the Billboard sales chart. Another old MGM musical, “Gigi” (1958), debuted at No. 28. Other sales chart debuts: “2010: The Year We Make Contact” (No. 15) and “Starman” (No. 17).


1. “The Karate Kid” (RCA/Columbia).

2. “The Terminator” (Thorn/EMI).


3. “Missing in Action” (MGM/UA).

4. “Places in the Heart” (CBS/Fox).

5. “City Heat” (Warner Video).

6. “Dune” (MCA).


7. “The Cotton Club” (Embassy).

8. “The River” (MCA).

9. “Teachers” (CBS-Fox).

10. “Body Double” (RCA/Columbia).



1. “Jane Fonda’s Workout” (Karl Video).

2. “Star Trek III: The Search For Spock” (Paramount).

3. “Gone With the Wind” (MGM/UA).


4. “Prime Time” (Karl).

5. “The Karate Kid” (RCA/Columbia).

6. “Singin’ in the Rain” (MGM/UA).

7. “Wham! The Video” (CBS-Fox).


8. “The Terminator” (Thorn/EMI).

9. “Tina Turner Private Dancer” (Sony).

10. “Lionel Richie All Night Long” (MusicVision).