'Playboy Video Centerfold' Scoring High in Sales; Several Horror Films Will Be Turned Loose Soon

Times Staff Writer

"Playboy Video Centerfold 2" zoomed to No. 6 on the Billboard magazine videocassette sales chart largely because of a unique marketing strategy.

This $9.95, 25-minute videocassette, made by Playboy Enterprises and released through Karl-Lorimar, is, of course, available in video stores. But it's also being sold in unlikely places--newsstands, convenience stores and various other outlets that carry Playboy and other magazines. Often the display cases are prominently located on the counters of checkout stands.

"People will pay $10 for a couple of magazines at these places," said Larry Logan, senior consultant in creatives services at Playboy Enterprises. "So they'll spend $10 for a video. It's an impulse buy to a great extent. The buyer knows Playboy and is attracted by the package. So he'll buy the video when he's buying other magazines."

The stars of the centerfold video series are Playboy magazine playmates of the month. The new one--Volume 2--stars Teri Weigel, Miss April. The first--a surprise best seller that was No. 10 on the Billboard sales chart just two weeks ago--features Miss January, St. Louis model Sherry Arnett. Now the plan is to release a new centerfold cassette every quarter and, at some point, maybe monthly. The next one, Logan said, is due in late August. All will be $9.95 each.

These cassettes are simplistic documentary featurettes that include some nudity, interview footage and various set pieces. In a prepared statement, Playboy executive Bruce Binkow described the content: "While Playboy produces video programs geared toward an adult audience and containing sexually oriented material, we do not include in them any hard-core, so-called X-rated themes or scenes."

But those who are campaigning against pornography often don't make such distinctions, frequently lumping soft-core with hard-core. So soft-core Playboy magazine and centerfold cassettes are vulnerable to attack.

Playboy centerfold cassette sales maybe affected by at least two prominent anti-porn drives. First of all, the nation's 7-Eleven chain has banned Playboy magazine from its outlets. Various other outlets may voluntarily decline to carry the magazine. Obviously these outlets won't stock the cassettes either.

The centerfold series faces even greater opposition from the anti-pornography campaign spearheaded by Archbishop Roger M. Mahony, who promises to visit stores to persuade owners not to carry materials that are objectionable under his definition of pornography.

Are Playboy and Karl-Lorimar planning counter moves? "For now, we're not planning to do anything different," Logan replied.

HORROR: Comedy and gruesome horror usually don't mix well, but they do blend nicely in "Return of the Living Dead," which Thorn/EMI/HBO will release on July 2. The wild-about-flesh zombies are loose again. Despite the humor, this is still too grisly for the squeamish. Next week "Rats" (1983) will be released by Lightning Video at $69.95. The hard-core, blood-and-gore crowd has been eagerly awaiting this movie, which played just a few theaters. Set in the future, it's a bloody tale of vicious, mutant rats running wild in a city.

Overlooked when it came out last year, "Night Train to Terror" (Prism, $79.95), starring John Philip Law, was just released on videocassette. It's about a battle between Good and Evil for the souls of a train's passengers.

The gory "A Nightmare on Elm Street, Part 2," which took in $25 million at the box office, is due on June 26.

NEW AND COMING MOVIES: "Marie," starring Sissy Spacek, will be released July 2 by MGM/UA. Spacek stars as Marie Ragghianti, a crusader who battles corruption on the pardons and parole board in Tennessee. Released last fall, it wasn't big box office. Though not likely to be a major hit, initially it should be a fairly popular rental.

This week's main releases are "Dance With a Stranger " (Vestron, $79.95), a true story of a love affair that became fatally entangled in British class conflicts, and "King Solomon's Mines," starring Richard Chamberlain in a Saturday-matinee style version of this famous adventure tale. The big cassette debut next week is "Revolution," the box-office bomb about the American Revolution, starring Al Pacino.

Futures: "Smooth Talk" (June 25), "The Best of Times" (July 1), "The Jewel of the Nile" (July 2), "Brazil" (July 10) , "Spies Like Us" (July 14) and "Shoah" (July 16).

ODDS 'N' ENDS: News has leaked out that Paramount plans to release "The Cage," the first pilot for the TV series "Star Trek." "The Cage" has a different cast than the TV series, including Jeffrey Hunter as the Captain. It was never shown on TV. The series was sold on the strength of another pilot with a different cast. In a month or two Paramount will announce the price and the release date, which will be in the fall to coincide with the TV series' 20th anniversary.

Nostalgia buffs should appreciate "Dick Clark's Best of Bandstand," due this week (Vestron, $29.95). This is a collection of 14 clips from his '50s "Bandstand" shows, featuring guest performances by such stars as Bill Haley, Buddy Holly, Sam Cooke and Jerry Lee Lewis.

The Translator, the Samsung VCR that can play both VHS and 8mm cassettes, was such a hit at last week's Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago that, some insiders now predict, it may be mass-produced after all. The Motion Picture Assn. of America, fearing the Translator will be used mainly for duplicating prerecorded tapes, will step up its counterattack.

CHARTS (Compiled by Billboard magazine)

TOP VIDEOCASSETTES, RENTALS 1--"Back to the Future" (MCA).

2--"Cocoon" (CBS-Fox).

3--"Witness" (Paramount).

4--"Rocky IV" (CBS-Fox).

5--"To Live and Die in L.A." (Vestron).

6--"Agnes of God" (RCA/Columbia).

7--"Commando" (CBS-Fox).

8--"Invasion U.S.A." (MGM/UA).

9--"Kiss of the Spider Woman" (Charter Entertainment).

10--"Death Wish 3" (MGM/UA).

TOP VIDEOCASSETTES, SALES 1--"Jane Fonda's New Workout" (Karl-Lorimar).

2--"The Sound of Music" (CBS-Fox).

3--"Casablanca" (CBS-Fox).

4--"Back to the Future" (MCA).

5--"Rocky IV" (CBS-Fox).

6--"Playboy Video Centerfold 2" (Karl-Lorimar).

7--"The King and I" (CBS-Fox).

8--"Return of the Jedi" (CBS-Fox).

9--"Jane Fonda's Workout" (Karl-Lorimar).

10--"Patton" (CBS-Fox).

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