At $89.95, ‘Beverly Hills Cop II’ Is No Steal; HBO, Vestron Still Battling Over ‘Platoon’

Times Staff Writer

Paramount’s “Beverly Hills Cop II” seemed like a natural movie to debut on home video at a low price--$25 or $30. Eddie Murphy’s comedy-adventure--the No. 1 box-office hit of last year with its gaudy $153-million gross--is the kind of movie fans like to watch repeatedly. Many would buy it rather than rent it--if the price were right.

But the price for the March 9 release is $89.95, meaning sales will be almost exclusively to video stores for consumer rental. Not many fans will shell out that kind of money; they’ll wait until it’s discounted later in the year.

Most movies that gross more than $150 million are released at a lower price to stimulate consumer sales. So why did Paramount opt for a high price?


According to Eric Doctorow, vice president of sales and marketing at Paramount Home Video, the answer is simple--the company will make more money.

“The point is to maximize revenues,” he explained. “We saw it made more sense financially to do it this way. We take into account factors like the state of the market and the interest of mass merchants--like K mart--in the title. Everything pointed to releasing at the higher price.”

Doctorow emphasized that this doesn’t mean Paramount is backing away from its usual policy of offering blockbuster titles at lower prices. “We evaluate each title on its own merits,” he pointed out. “People only look at the box-office gross and figure that’s all that counts in offering a movie at a lower price. But this is a complicated business. There’s more to consider than just the box-office gross.”

PLATOON UPDATE: On the “Platoon” battlefront, the court skirmish continues between HBO Video and Vestron over who will get the home video rights to the Oscar-winning movie that has grossed $138 million. Though Vestron was apparently close to victory last month, no winner has been declared and no release date has been set for the 350,000 videocassettes originally scheduled to be in the stores last October. According to Vestron attorney David Bargman, there’s no indication that the conflict will be settled soon.

“DIRTY DANCING” ADS: When that Diet Pepsi ad was tacked on the opening of “Top Gun” cassettes last year, everyone predicted a flood of commercials on home video releases. So far it’s been more like a trickle.

“Dirty Dancing,” which debuted Wednesday on home video and promises to be a rental smash, is one of the few cassettes with commercial sponsorship. It features not one but two ads. The Vestron release will have a 30-second commercial for a chocolate bar called Alpine White at the beginning and will close with a spiel for the RCA Records sound-track album, which is No. 2 on the Billboard magazine pop album chart.


In return, the Nestle Food Corp., which markets the Alpine White bar, is launching a massive ad campaign with “Dirty Dancing” tie-ins. Apparently, this is just the beginning. Nestle and Vestron have quietly made a deal that includes cross-promotions on future releases.

COMING MOVIES: MCA’s “Dragnet” and IVE’s “Lady Beware” are out next week. Later in the month: “Predator” (Jan. 21), “La Bamba” (Jan. 21), “Disorderlies” (Jan. 27), “Good Morning Babylon” (Jan. 27) and “RoboCop” (Jan. 28).

That white shark is back again in MCA’s “Jaws: The Revenge,” due Feb. 4. The Mel Brooks comedy “Spaceballs”--an MGM/UA release--will be in the stores Feb. 9. Virgin Vision will put out “A Prayer for the Dying,” starring Mickey Rourke and Bob Hoskins, on Feb. 24.

HBO will release two acclaimed thrillers next month: “No Way Out,” with Kevin Costner and Gene Hackman, is due Feb. 1, and “The Big Easy,” the steamy thriller co-starring Dennis Quaid and Ellen Barkin, on Feb. 17.

NEW RELEASES: Vestron’s “Dirty Dancing” is like one of those teen-romance novels set to music. In this coming-of-age fairy tale set in a Catskills resort in the summer of 1963, a sheltered, rich, 17-year-old doctor’s daughter (Jennifer Grey) is swept off her feet by a poor-but-sexy dancing instructor (Patrick Swayze) who teaches her both dancing and sex. It’s not only spiced with this cultural clash but also with a youth-vs.-parents struggle. And whenever this predictable fantasy lags, director Emile Ardolino juices it up with great dance sequences performed to likable oldies. The sound track is much more fun than the movie.

Paramount’s “Back to the Beach” is a belated sequel to those cornball “Beach Party” movies that Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello starred in back in the ‘60s. Now those two play stuffy parents on vacation, returning to the sandy scene of their glory days, reliving their youth while immersing themselves in the problems of their teen-age children. It aims for the same wacky, carefree spirit that made the ‘60s movies such mindless fun, but too often misses. Yes, this movie is mindless but frequently not that much fun.

The problem with HBO’s “The Believers,” directed by John Schlesinger, is that at times it’s not believable. But this thriller, about a sinister cult that believes in the sacrifice of male children, does have its scary, grisly moments. Set in New York, the hero is a widowed therapist (Martin Sheen) who battles the cult followers who want his son for sacrificial purposes. Schlesinger is great at creating an eerie mood and suspense in certain sequences, but because of assorted script holes, you never get caught up in the story because it’s never quite convincing enough.

OLD MOVIES: “The Shop Around the Corner” (MGM/UA, 1940, $24.95), directed by Ernst Lubitsch, is a romantic comedy bathed in that low-key, infectious charm known as the Lubitsch touch. It’s about two salespeople (James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan) in a Budapest leather-goods shop who don’t get along at work. But they don’t realize they’re anonymous lonely hearts pen pals who’re falling in love by mail. Though you never believe this American cast is Hungarian, that doesn’t dampen the movie’s appeal. The last five minutes, when the confusion is finally cleared up, is one of the pinnacles of American romantic-comedy writing.