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‘Wrestlemania’ Makes a Comeback for Round 2; And a Big Week for Summer Releases to Take Home

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Times Staff Writer

Those who contend that wrestling is nothing but low-grade theatrics aimed at the blue-collar set keep predicting the craze will fade very soon. But it just keeps getting more popular.

Consider the figures for an April 7 match, shown on pay-per-view TV and closed-circuit TV. Four million watched worldwide on pay-per-view, 2 million watched on closed circuit. “This one event made millions,” said video wrestling expert Steelman Rocco, a columnist for Video Insider magazine. “And Coliseum (Video) is about to make a fortune on the videocassette.”

“Wrestlemania II” is the cassette version of that wrestling extravaganza, staged in Los Angeles, Chicago and Long Island. It’s out this week on Coliseum at $39.95. According to Rocco, the cassette is a streamlined version of the live matches: “I went to the show in L.A. and there was a lot of filler material, but you don’t get all that extra stuff on the cassette.”

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The bulk of the giants of wrestling participated, including Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant and King Kong Bundy. A celebrated entrant in the 20-man Battle Royal was Chicago Bears’ tackle William (The Refrigerator) Perry. According to Rocco, the Fridge was paid $150,000 for roughly 10 minutes’ work.

Rocco noted that “Wrestlemania” was a phenomenon, selling more than 80,000 cassettes and inaugurating the home-video wrestling craze last year. “The sequel may do even better,” he predicted.

Will there be a “Wrestlemania III”? “Of course,” Rocco replied. “Probably next year some time.”

OLD MOVIES: One of the biggest trend-setting movies of the ‘50s, “The Wild One” (1954) will be available July 2. Marlon Brando’s stylized, understated portrayal of a motorcycle gang leader had a tremendous impact on impressionable young men in the mid-’50s. They all wanted to be Brando--strong and smoldering. However, many film buffs revere this one not for Brando but for Lee Marvin, who steals the picture as the slimy rival gang leader (RCA/Columbia, $59.95).

Next week: “Darling” (Embassy, $39.95), which won Julie Christie the 1965 best actress Oscar, and “Pandora’s Box,” G. W. Pabst’s steamy 1928 drama about a seductive chorus girl played by the legendary Louise Brooks. Film buffs will like this one, particularly those who’ve heard about but have never seen Brooks. A subtitled silent film (International Collection, $29.95).

Two Hopalong Cassidy Westerns, part of the series on Buena Vista, are now available--”Strange Gamble” (1948) and “Riders of the Deadline” (1943). William Boyd stars as Hoppy. “Riders” has always had added appeal because it features young Robert Mitchum as a villain. Both are $39.95.

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NEW AND COMING MOVIES: Alan Rudolph’s “Trouble in Mind,” rapped by critics as muddled and annoyingly esoteric, will be out on cassette Aug. 20 on Charter Entertainment. Kris Kristofferson stars.

“Back to the Future” (MCA, $79.95) is the big release this week. Jim Jarmusch’s “Stranger Than Paradise” (Key, $79.95) is also available this week. Though it was named best picture of 1984 by the National Society of Film Critics, this low-budget, offbeat comedy wasn’t widely distributed.

“Rocky IV” heads an impressive list of cassette debuts next week. The latest Rocky episode focuses on his star-spangled battle with a champion of the Soviet Union (Dolph Lundgren). Two other movies debuting next week on cassette star Gene Hackman--”Power” and “Twice in a Lifetime.” “Power,” a political drama, also features Richard Gere and Julie Christie. “Twice in a Lifetime” is about a mid-life crisis in which the hero (Hackman) dumps his wife (Ellen Burstyn) and runs off with a waitress (Ann-Margret).

“Black Moon Rising,” an action movie with Tommy Lee Jones, and “Maxie,” a comic fantasy starring Glenn Close,” are also available next week.

Futures: “Jagged Edge” (June 4), “Revolution” with Al Pacino (June 16), “The Jewel of the Nile” (July 1) and “White Nights” (July 2).

ODDS ‘N’ ENDS: Video software companies and video stores continue to add nails to the Beta coffin. Many software companies are now releasing titles in VHS only. According to an American Video Assn. survey, nearly 70% of its member video stores don’t carry Beta.

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Home video industry people are feeling quite smug about the results of a Columbia Pictures Industries’ survey indicating that renting movies on cassette is now more popular than seeing them in theaters. Film exhibitors and distributors are understandably disturbed.

Three more hourlong volumes of those old ‘50s “Honeymooners” episodes, with Jackie Gleason, Audrey Meadows and Art Carney, are being released next week by MPI at $29.95. Each contains two shows. They’ve been on Showtime recently, but that was the only public airing since the original telecast.

Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty,” one of his best full-length animated features, was recently re-released to theaters. Industry speculation is that this may be the next full-length Disney feature to be released on cassette--possibly for the Christmas season.

On June 13, a new Richard Simmons cassette, “Reach for Fitness,” will be in the stores. It’s one of the most unusual exercise cassettes ever made. This 45-minute Karl-Lorimar program is for people with physical disabilities or crippling illnesses such as muscular dystrophy or multiple sclerosis.

A survey by TV Digest, an industry newsletter, indicates that the best-selling VCRs are: 1--RCA, 2--Panasonic, 3--Fisher, 4--GE, 5--Sears, 6--Sony, 7--Quasar, 8--Magnavox, 9--Sharp, 10--Sanyo.

CHARTS

(Compiled by Billboard magazine)

TOP VIDEOCASSETTES, RENTALS

1--”Witness” (Paramount).

2--”Cocoon” (CBS-Fox).

3--”Commando” (CBS-Fox).

4--”Kiss of the Spider Woman” (Charter Entertainment).

5--”Invasion, U.S.A.” (MGM/UA).

6--”Return of the Jedi” (CBS-Fox).

7--”The Goonies” (Warner Video).

8--”Silverado” (RCA/Columbia).

9--”Fright Night” (RCA/Columbia).

10--”Prizzi’s Honor” (Vestron).

TOP VIDEOCASSETTES, SALES

1--”Jane Fonda’s New Workout” (Karl-Lorimar).

2--”The Sound of Music” (CBS-Fox).

3--”Casablanca” (CBS-Fox).

4--”Return of the Jedi” (CBS-Fox).

5--”Witness” (Paramount).

6--”Jane Fonda’s Workout” (Karl-Lorimar).

7--”Cocoon” (CBS-Fox).

8--”Commando” (CBS-Fox).

9--”The King and I” (CBS-Fox).

10--”Pinocchio” (Disney).

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