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Tip Sheets Give Video Stores the Industry Scoop

Times Staff Writer

Stocking a video store isn’t that easy.

How many copies of “Fatal Attraction"--due out this week--to order? Or how many of “Suspect” a July release starring two hot stars--Cher and Dennis Quaid--that’s expected to be a popular rental?

How about “The Whales of August,” that arty picture starring Bette Davis? Is it wise to stock up on “Start Up with Jane Fonda” for the aerobics crowd? How many renters will go for that B or C movie being advertised heavily?

Retailers beleaguered by rising wholesale prices know that understocking a title can mean losing customers and that overstocking means wasting limited resources on the wrong item.

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All retailers are flooded with information from distributors and video companies that, in the words of a local retailer, “is mostly just useless hype.” Some retailers, however, rely on tip sheets to help them make their decisions.

Two tip sheets have cornered the market--Video Insider and Video Forecaster--with information designed to help retailers decide what and how many to order.

Video Insider magazine, which is celebrating its fifth anniversary, is a weekly 35- to 40-page buying guide that predicts the home-video popularity of some titles and also provides release dates, order deadlines and synopses of new titles, as well as such information as box-office performance.

“One way to judge how a movie will do on video is how much it earned at the box office,” said Doug Kirschner, the publisher of Video Insider. “In making a decision on what to buy, it helps the retailer to know box-office figures.”

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According to Kirschner, another vital piece of information is the cable TV and pay-per-view debut dates. Video retailers want to know how long a movie will be exclusively on home video. “Pay-per-view (a cable service that allows a customer to order a single showing of a movie) is a threat to home video in some areas,” he said. “If it’s available on pay-per-view a few weeks after it’s out on home video--or about the same time--some people won’t bother to rent it. That’s valuable information for retailers.”

Video Insider also provides business news and information about non-theatrical titles. But 1-year-old Video Forecaster, a bimonthly, four-page newsletter, focuses mainly on prominent movies and offers no features.

Warren Adler, chairman of Adler Communications, which publishes Video Forecaster, defended his publication’s smaller scope. “Only about 40 titles per month really matter. We try to provide all the information on these titles. The lesser titles don’t matter as much.”

In addition to making stronger, more subjective judgments, Video Forecaster provides information about titles that Video Insider doesn’t, including the results of consumer surveys that indicate awareness of titles and rental potential. It also offers information about theatrical release, advertising levels and critical reaction.

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“Whether or not a movie was released theatrically is really important,” Adler said. “If it was released theatrically on an extensive basis, it means there’s a certain level of consumer awareness that translates into rental business.

“But video companies often aren’t honest about theatrical releases. They say movies were extensively released when they weren’t. I caught a couple of them cheating last week. They put out big ads saying the product was theatrically released. They were just lying. But we told our readers the truth.”

Video Insider claims that its subscriber list includes more than half of America’s video stores. Fast-growing Video Forecaster says it has made a small, but significant dent in the tip-sheet market.

A spot survey of retailers around the country indicates about half use Video Insider and about 15% receive Video Forecaster. Approximately 5% read both.

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Said a store owner in Kansas City: “Out here it’s hard to keep track of what’s happening. I need all the help I can get in figuring out what to order. Tip sheets do help.”


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