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What Will Happen When Movie-River Runs Dry?;'After Hours’ Release Will Perk Up a Slow Summer

Times Staff Writer

Movies are being released on videocassette so quickly that the great backlog of films will run out at some point. Movies aren’t being made fast enough now to keep up.

The rental and sale of movies makes up more than three-quarters of the home-video business. What will happen when the movie warehouse is almost empty?

Some in the business, like MCA Home Entertainment President Gene Giaquinto, insist that original programming will take up the slack: “With the emphasis on movies, people forget that we’re in the original-programming business too. I think original programming will pick up where movies leave off. Most of the companies agree, I think. In nine years or so, original programming may dominate the business.

“The key is for retail prices to come down so this is a sell-through (sales) business and not a rental business. Then I think you’ll see there’s a strong music-video business, for one thing. But prices have to come down and stores have to concentrate on selling. That’s slowly happening.”

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But, among others, Tim Clott, Paramount Home Video senior vice president, disagrees. He firmly believes the depletion of the old movie supply won’t matter: “Sure the movie catalogue is being used up but this is not a catalogue business.

“The home-video business is a new-release business. That’s what people go the video stores for, not so much old movies. And every year there will be two or three new blockbuster movies. They really help bring people to the stores.”

What about original programming?

“I don’t see original programming or how-to programming replacing motion pictures,” Clott replied. “There’s a niche for it but it won’t dominate.

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“Movies dominate the home-video business. That won’t change.”

NEW MOVIES: At this point, summer still looks like a slack period for new releases. Home-video companies still think people will be more interested in various summer activities than renting movies.

The only significant cassette-debut announcement this week is the Warner Video release of “After Hours” on Aug. 13. This oddball comedy, starring Griffin Dunne and Rosanna Arquette, never really found an audience, despite critical raves. There was a lot of publicity surrounding director Martin Scorsese’s best director award for this movie at the recent Cannes Festival. This may help attract renters.

The next major cassette debut for this month is “Nightmare on Elm Street Part II,” which Media is releasing Thursday. Of the July releases announced so far, only CBS-Fox’s “The Jewel of the Nile,” (July 1), RCA/Columbia’s “White Nights” (July 2) and Warner’s “Spies Like Us,” (July 14) loom as certain Top Five rentals. However, two July 23 cassettes, RCA/Columbia’s “Murphy’s Romance” and Thorn’s gory “Hitcher,” should also be fairly popular rentals.

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“Revolution” (Warner Video, $79.95), which stars Al Pacino, and “Maxie” (Thorn/EMI/HBO, $79.95), a comedy with Glenn Close and Mandy Patinkin, are available this week.

Next week, Vestron’s “Smooth Talk,” with Treat Williams and Laura Dern, is scheduled for release. So is Paramount’s “That Was Then . . . This is Now,” featuring Emilio Estevez. Estevez also wrote the screenplay based on yet another S. E. Hinton novel about the trauma of the teen-age years. Cassettes of movies based on Hinton’s books usually do well in the rental market.

“Troll” (Vestron, $79.95) was out on cassette last week. Though not widely released in theaters, it has accumulated a solid cult following. Starring Shelly Hack and Gary Sandy, this is an eerie movie about a strange creature who transforms people into equally strange creatures.

KID VID: Mister Rogers is going to open his neighborhood up to the home-video audience. On Aug. 12 the one-hour program, “Dinosaurs and Monsters,” will be available (Playhouse, $19.98). In this one, Mister Rogers aims to ease youngster’s fears about monsters. This is the first of a series of cassettes culled from the “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” shows on PBS. Portions of the footage on some cassettes will be new.

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It used to be that toys were inspired by movie and TV characters. Now it’s the other way around. Those cute Pound Puppies toys are so popular that there’s an animated movie based on the characters. “Pound Puppies” is due next month on Family Home Entertainment at $14.95.

TOP CHILDREN’S VIDEOCASSETTES

(Complied by Video Insider Magazine)

1--"The Sword in the Stone” (Disney).

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2--"Sesame Street Follow That Bird” (Warner Video).

3--"Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer” (Warner Video).

4--"Pinocchio” (Disney).

5--"Mary Poppins” (Disney).

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6--"Million Dollar Duck” (Disney).

7--"Hugga Bunch” (Children’s Video Library).

8--"The Care Bears Movie” (Vestron).

9--"Return to Oz” (Disney).

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10--"Care Bears: Vol. 4" (Karl-Lorimar).

ODDS ‘N’ ENDS: There has been talk that the simultaneous pay-per-view airing and home-video release of “Rocky IV” has hurt its rental potential. Some retailers are claiming that the movie, which grossed $125 million in theaters, is renting slowly because of the pay-per-view competition. But others have said the pay-per-view screenings, available for a price through cable companies in some areas, didn’t harm the “Rocky IV” rental business.

Who’s right? It’s probably too early to tell. According to various estimates, CBS-Fox shipped about 250,000 copies of “Rocky IV” to distributors and retailers.

That battle between 8mm and VHS-C (the mini VHS format) is getting fierce. Sony heads the 8mm camp while JVC runs the VHS-C faction. Apparently JVC is trying to keep 8mm from getting a foothold in the market. Right now 8mm is a factor only in the camcorder (camera-recorder) market but is ultimately seeking a share of the VCR market. But consumers attracted by miniaturization may find VHS-C more appealing. With an adapter, the VHS-C tape can be played on any VHS machine. No new machine is needed. Anticipating public response, many manufacturing companies are aligning themselves with VHS-C. Hard times may be ahead for 8mm.

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“The Life and Times of Harvey Milk,” generally regarded as one of the best documentaries of the ‘80s, is available this week (Pacific Arts, $59.95). It profiles the gay San Francisco supervisor who was assassinated.

MCA did so well with the feature-length “Miami Vice” pilot that the company is releasing “Miami Vice II--the Prodigal Son” on Aug. 7 at $29.95. This is the one-hour, forty-minute episode that opened the season last fall.

OLD MOVIES: Lash LaRue lovers rejoice! If you’re one of the fans of this ‘40s Western hero who used a bullwhip, you’ll be thrilled that his hard-to-find movies will be out on cassette on July 8. Sony is releasing five at $12.95--"Stage to Mesa City” (1948), “Ghost Town Renegades” (1947), “Border Feud” (1947), “Return of the Lash” (1947) and “Cheyenne Takes Over” (1947). His sidekick, Al (Fuzzy) St. John, is featured in all five.

Whips were big in the ‘40s. Another Western star, Whip Wilson, used one too. Comparisons won’t be possible though. His movies aren’t shown on TV and aren’t available on cassette.

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Two classic Westerns were released this week: “Ride the High Country” (MGM/UA, $59.95) from 1962 and “The Big Country” (MGM/UA, $89.95) from 1958.

CHARTS

(Compiled by Billboard Magazine)

TOP VIDEOCASSETTES, RENTALS

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1--"Back to the Future” (MCA).

2--"Cocoon” (CBS-Fox).

3--"Rocky IV” (CBS-Fox).

4--"Witness” (Paramount).

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

6--"Agnes of God” (RCA/Columbia).

7--"Commando” (CBS-Fox).

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

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

10--"Invasion U.S.A.” (MGM/UA).

TOP VIDEOCASSETTES, SALES

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

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2--"Back to the Future” (MCA).

3--"The Sound of Music” (CBS-Fox).

4--"Casablanca” (CBS-Fox).

5--"Rocky IV” (CBS-Fox).

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6--"Pinocchio” (Disney).

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

8--"Return of the Jedi” (CBS-Fox).

9--"The King and I” (CBS-Fox).

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10--"Cocoon” (CBS-Fox).


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