EXERCISING JUDGMENT ON STOCKING NEW VIDEOS

Times Staff Writer

With a few exceptions--the Jane Fonda workout programs for instance--video store owners aren't too keen on exercise cassettes. Most of them are reluctant to stock them because their space is so limited and they would rather use the space for movies.

So when it comes to exercise cassettes, retailers, looking for sales pegs, are inclined to stock those with celebrity status. So a $39.95, Westwood Productions exercise tape, "Say Goodbye to Back Pain"--one of the few dealing specifically with back ailments--can't find a place in video stores, chiefly because the exercises are led by Alexander Melleby, who's a recognized expert on relief of back pain, but no celebrity.

Since back problems are so widespread, this cassette would seem to have high sales potential. It presents a specialized exercise program pioneered by noted back specialist Dr. Hans Kraus. The program is taught at 900 YMCA branches throughout the country. The 96-minute cassette, based on the YMCA class, includes self-tests, injury prevention instruction and a three-stage exercise program.

Richard Boren, president of Westwood Productions, almost hired a celebrity--Debbie Reynolds--to lead the exercises on this cassette but decided against it.

"It would have been Debbie's show and not my show," explained Boren, a former stockbroker whose chronic back problem has been nearly alleviated by these exercises. "I wanted to be able to do it my way."

Actually, a celebrity would have enlivened the 20-minute introduction, which Melleby--not an experienced on-camera performer--handles rather stiffly. But, Boren noted, he may one day bow to commercialism, reshoot the intro with a celebrity, sign with a prominent video company and remarket the cassette with major distribution.

MUSIC: Some interesting music cassettes will be available this fall. One of the most educational is "British Rock-the First Wave" (MusicVision, $29.95), an informative look at 60s' British pop. Among the wealth of clips is Gerry and the Pacemakers' singing "Ferry Cross the Mersey" and the Animals' "We Gotta Get Out of This Place." Actor Michael York narrates this one-hour documentary.

"Frankie Goes to Hollywood-From a Wasteland to an Artificial Paradise," is strictly for Frankie fans who want the group's collected videos, such as "Two Tribes," "Welcome to the Pleasure Dome" and "Relax"--both the censored and uncensored versions.

Of the two Tina Turner cassettes on the market--"Tina Turner Private Dancer" and "Tina Turner Live: Nice 'n' Rough"--the latter is superior. "Nice 'n' Rough" (Thorn/EMI/HBO, $19.95) includes terrific versions of the Stones' "Honky Tonk Woman" and "Jumping Jack Flash." She's also featured in a lively cassette, "Chuck Berry" (Passport, $29.95), filmed at the Roxy in 1982.

In the stores next week: "The Cars: Live 1984-1985," from the tour promoting the last Cars album, "Heartbeat City." But the album was released so long ago that Cars fans may be blase about this one.

A Deadheads delight. "The Grateful Dead Movie" (Monterey, $39.95) filmed in 1974 at San Francisco's Winterland and released in 1977. It's due in the second week in September.

OPERA: From Thorn/EMI, at $39.95, a Royal Opera production of Offenbach's "Contes D'Hoffman," with Placido Domingo and Ileana Cotrubas. Georges Pretre conducts.

Video Arts International is releasing two of England's Glyndebourne Festival Opera productions: Verdi's "Falstaff" (1976), starring Donald Gramm and Benjamin Luxon, conducted by John Pritchard, for $69.95; Monteverdi's "Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria" (1973), featuring Dame Janet Baker and Benjamin Luxon, for $79.95.

Not to be outdone by prolific Video Arts International, Sony, another leader in opera cassettes, is releasing a four-volume Australian opera series featuring Dame Joan Sutherland and her husband, Richard Bonynge, conducting the Elizabethan Sydney Orchestra. The operas, produced this year, selling for $79.95, are "Il Trovatore," "Adriana Lecouvreur," "Die Fledermaus" and "Dialogues of the Carmelites."

ODDS 'N' ENDS: According to informed insiders, "Ghostbusters," one of the last year's movie blockbusters, will definitely be out this fall. The release date will be announced at the Video Software Dealers Assn. convention in Washington, D.C., early next week.

Some members of the home-video industry are looking forward to that convention for one reason--a chance to meet Lena Horne. She'll be at the RKO booth on Tuesday, promoting her cassette, "Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music on Broadway." RKO won't have to worry about attendance at its exhibit that day.

A recent movie, "Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird," didn't fly high at the box office but it should soar when released to the home-video audience. Many parents who didn't drag the kiddies to the theaters will buy it so the youngsters can watch it again and again and again. . . .

The home-video boom is contributing to the cable-industry slump. But cable is hoping to rally with "pay-per-view," a service that allows subscribers to pay--$5 to $10--to see new movies. Film studios heavily support "pay-per-view," because revenues from this system would surpass what they make from home video cassettes. Will "pay-per-view" make a dent in the home-video market? It's doubtful.

CBS-Fox is spending a fortune advertising "The Compleat Al," a comedy/music cassette starring pop music parodist Weird Al Yankopvic. The ads urge you to "Catch the Buzz." If you do maybe you'll pay $29.95 for the cassette when it's released next month.

The "Earl of Exercise," Richard Simmons has a new cassette out next week, "Get Started," on Karl at $39.95.

NEW AND COMING MOVIES: The lone major release this week is "Desperately Seeking Susan," featuring America's favorite newlywed, Madonna. Though this is better known as the "Madonna movie" Rosanna Arquette is actually the star. From Thorn/EMI/HBO at $79.95.

Next week is the biggest of the month for recent movie releases. "The Killing Fields," boasting Haing S. Ngor's Oscar-winning performance, will be the high-powered new movie cassette of the month. Another popular movie will be Woody Allen's "The Purple Rose of Cairo." Also on next week's release schedule is the teen movie, "The Sure Thing," and the rural drama, "Paris, Texas," starring Nastassja Kinski and Harry Dean Stanton.

TOP CASSETTES, RENTALS

1--"The Karate Kid" (RCA/Columbia).

2--"The Falcon and the Snowman" (Vestron).

3--"A Soldier's Story" (RCA/Columbia).

4--"The Flamingo Kid" (Vestron).

5--"A Nightmare on Elm Street" (Media).

6--"Starman" (RCA/Columbia).

7--"Runaway" (RCA/Columbia).

8--"Micki and Maude" (RCA/Columbia).

9--"Pinocchio" (Disney).

10--"The Terminator" (Thorn/EMI/HBO).

TOP CASSETTES, SALES

1--"Jane Fonda's Workout" (Karl).

2--"Pinocchio" (Disney).

3--"We Are the World: The Video Event" (MusicVision).

4--"Prince and the Revolution Live" (Warner Music).

5--"Wrestlemania" (Coliseum).

6--"Prime Time" (Karl).

7--"Singin' in the Rain" (MGM/UA).

8--"Wham! The Video" (CBS/Fox).

9--"Star Trek III: The Search For Spock" (Paramount).

10--"Gone With the Wind" (MGM/UA).

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