'Back to the Future' Makes Its Bow at 'Rental' Prices; More Grunts, Groans for Wrestling, Roller Derby Fans

Times Staff Writer

It's official: "Back to the Future," last year's top-grossing movie, will be released by MCA Home Video on May 22. This teen fantasy, starring Michael J. Fox, has grossed just over $200 million.

But speculation about its price turned out to be just that. Rather than $29.95 or $39.95, MCA decided on the standard $79.95. A lower price stimulates customer sales. At the higher price, sales are mostly to stores buying rental copies. Home-video companies prefer the higher price because they believe they can make more money more easily.

Many industry insiders expected MCA to market "Future" the way Paramount did "Beverly Hills Cop"--the biggest seller in home-video history--which came out during the last Christmas season at $29.95.

But according to MCA Home Video President Gene Giaquinto, such a price might not result in whopping customer sales outside the holiday buying season.

"At $29.95, how many people would buy 'Back to the Future' in May?" he asked. "We think more people would be renting it, so we price it to sell rental copies."

"Back to the Future" should easily exceed 400,000 in initial orders from distributors and retailers. Many predict that orders will reach 500,000, breaking the record for a $79.95 title set recently by "Rambo: First Blood, Part II," which topped 425,000.

There's a good reason, Giaquinto explained, for that May 22 release date: "Home-video business is down during the summer and it doesn't pick up until the end of August. We wanted it to be out long before that slow period started. Even though the VCR population will be bigger this summer than last summer, there will still be that summer slowdown."

"Back to the Future" eventually will cost $30 or less, he predicted, but only in the distant future: "Eighteen months or two years after its release, you put it out at a cheap price. That's after it has been in the rental market for a while and the demand is much less."

MCA will have "Back to the Future" on the market for nearly a year before its release to cable TV. According the Giaquinto, the movie will debut on HBO in April, 1987.

ODDS 'N' ENDS: Steelman Rocco, the wrestling video expert at Video Insider magazine, has the lowdown on the sequel to "Wrestlemania": "Wrestlemania II" should be out in June on Coliseum Video. The tape, which will run nearly two hours, will be based on three events in three cities--Chicago, New York and Los Angeles--on April 7. Chicago will offer a 20-man battle featuring football players William (The Refrigerator) Perry, Russ Francis, Harvey Martin and Ed (Too Tall) Jones. The main attraction in New York is a boxing match between Mr. T and Rowdy Roddy Piper. At the Los Angeles Sports Arena, Hulk Hogan will battle King Kong Bundy.

Roller derby--basically wrestling on roller skates--may catch on with the home video crowd, Rocco predicted. Today Home Entertainment will test the market on April 21 with the first roller derby tape, "Roller Derby Mania," which will sell for $39.95. In an all-star skate-fest, the Los Angeles Thunderbirds tangle with the Northern Devils. If this one sells, three other roller derby releases will follow.

Remember "Faces of Death," those grisly compilations of death scenes that were so popular among home video horror fanatics? All those who were thoroughly outraged by those tapes--particularly the animal slaughter sequences--won't like to hear this, but the first two volumes sold so well for MPI that the company is releasing a third.

NEW AND COMING MOVIES: "Cocoon," a sizable hit last summer, will be released by CBS-Fox on April 29. This fantasy, about senior citizens invigorated by an encounter with aliens, will have added appeal if Don Ameche wins the best supporting actor Oscar.

"A Chorus Line," panned by critics and largely ignored by fans last holiday season, is being rush-released by Embassy on April 30.

After last week's mighty debut schedule--"Return of the Jedi," "Summer Rental," "Silverado" and "Real Genius"--there's little of interest coming out in the first two weeks in March.

However, the week of March 16 features debuts of two movies that did poorly at the box office--CBS-Fox's "Better Off Dead," a teen comedy starring John Cusack, and MGM/UA's "Year of the Dragon," a violent New York gangster drama starring Mickey Rourke. Complaints from Chinese groups about alleged racism in "Year of the Dragon" reportedly hurt its box-office appeal. But that shouldn't scare off the huge rental audience that loves bloody action movies.

Coming in the week of March 23: "The Goonies," "The Bride," "Plenty" (a Meryl Streep drama) and "Commando" (an Arnold Schwarzenegger action movie).

OLD MOVIES: "My Darling Clementine" (1946), which many film historians regard as the best version of the O.K. Corral shoot-out, is due April 8 from Playhouse Video at $59.98. Henry Fonda and Victor Mature star. At the same time and for the same price, Playhouse is releasing one of the most star-studded, sophisticated Westerns of the '50s, "Warlock"(1959), with Fonda, Anthony Quinn, Richard Widmark and Dorothy Malone.

The final teaming of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" (1967), will be released March 26 (RCA/Columbia, $59.95). Hepburn won a best actress Oscar for her work in this comedy/drama about an interracial romance between Sidney Poitier and Katharine Houghton. Tracy died shortly after filming was completed.

WHAT'S HOT: Next week "Return of the Jedi," debuting at No. 28, really will make its presence felt on the rental chart, possibly knocking "Rambo" out of the top spot. Teen renters favor "Weird Science" (No. 7) and "Creator" (No. 15), which seemed to be dying only last week. "The Man With One Red Shoe," a box-office bomb, is doing decent rental business. It's No. 18.

CHARTS (Complied by Billboard magazine) TOP VIDOECASSETTES, RENTALS 1--"Rambo: First Blood Part II" (Thorn/EMI/HBO). 2--"Prizzi's Honor" (Vestron). 3--"Mask" (MCA). 4--"St. Elmo's Fire" (RCA/Columbia). 5--"Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome" (Warner Video). 6--"Teen Wolf" (Paramount). 7--"Weird Science" (MCA). 8--"Beverly Hills Cop" (Paramount). 9--"Gremlins" (Warner Video). 10--"Pale Rider" (Warner Video). TOP VIDEOCASSETTES, SALES 1--"Jane Fonda's New Workout" (Karl-Lorimar). 2--"Rambo: First Blood Part II" (Thorn/EMI/HBO). 3--"Beverly Hills Cop" (Paramount). 4--"Pinocchio" (Disney). 5--"Jane Fonda's Workout" (Karl-Lorimar). 6--"Return of the Jedi" (CBS-Fox). 7--"The Wizard of Oz" (MGM/UA). 8--"The Best of John Belushi" (Warner Video). 9--"Prizzi's Honor" (Vestron). 10--"Gone With the Wind" (MGM/UA).

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