Cinderella, E.T. Go Head-to-Head in Video Market

Times Staff Writer

Beauty versus the “beast.”

That’s how some home-video insiders describe the contest between “Cinderella” and “E.T.” Both videos, priced under $30, hit the stores next October, but the selling campaign has already started.

“Cinderella,” the 1950 Disney cartoon, will be released first: Oct. 4 at $26.99. Steven Spielberg’s “E.T.: the Extra Terrestrial,” the 1982 movie about the friendship between a boy and a lovable space invader, follows Oct. 27 at $24.95.

Traditionally, Disney has owned the Christmas market, selling millions of cassettes by releasing one of its classic feature-length cartoons and promoting bargain-priced old titles. This year, “Cinderella” is the showpiece of a 35-title promotion. But this year there will be that alien invader from MCA, “E.T.”

“If ‘E.T.’ wasn’t coming out, Disney would have the Christmas gift market all to itself as usual. But ‘E.T’ is going to take a big chunk out of Disney this year,” said Harvey Dossick of West Coast Video chain. “Disney is rereleasing some older titles again, product that a lot of people have already purchased. It’s their same routine. If there was no ‘E.T.’ this year, ‘Cinderella’ would sell a lot more. But there is an ‘E.T.’ ”

Other industry observers figure the “beast” will win come Christmas.


Allan Caplan, who heads the Applause chain in the Midwest, predicts “E.T.” will outsell “Cinderella” 2- or 3-to-1.

Both videos are expected to out-sell the current champion, “Lady and the Tramp,” another Disney feature-length cartoon, which since its release last fall has sold 3.2 million units.

Some retailers predict “E.T.” sales to hit 6 million with “Cinderella” selling 4 million-5 million units.

Dossick of West Coast Video optimistically guessed that “E.T.” would hit 10 million. Caplan of Applause agreed: “I’d say it will do 8 (million)-10 million. One out of every five VCR owners will own ‘E.T’ before Jan. 15.”

“E.T” has a head start. MCA announced its release in early May, while Disney didn’t reveal the “Cinderella” debut date until late last month.

Spurred by assorted incentives from retailers--like free rentals and free E.T dolls--some consumers are now beating the Christmas rush. Caplan reports more than 5,200 “E.T.” orders in Applause’s 87 outlets. According to Dossick, the 245-store West Coast Video chain has pre-sold more than 2,000.

Disney also is offering an early incentive. The lure is a limited-edition lithograph of a “Cinderella” scene for those who order before Oct. 4.

Disney and MCA have special rebate programs linked to advertisers. From Oct. 10-Dec. 31, purchase of two tubes of Crest toothpaste entitles buyers to a $3 rebate on “Cinderella.”

The “E.T.” rebate program has joined up with Pepsi-Cola. A $5 rebate coupon is available on purchases of certain Pepsi products.

Video retailers are scrambling to get as many consumer orders as possible before the release dates. At that time, they’ll have to contend with the mass merchants--K mart, for example--who might discount both videos.

“They can offer tremendous discounts that video store owners can’t afford,” said Carole Pough of Santa Ana’s Videocasettes Unlimited. “They can use these videos as loss leaders to bring people into the stores. They can buy these videos for $15 wholesale and sell them at $15.05. They can work with a small profit like that. A video retailer can’t afford that.”

Some industry observers believe Disney held up its announcement on “Cinderella” hoping to determine what MCA would do with “E.T.,” hinting also that Disney’s rebate program is similar to MCA’s. Disney’s marketing vice president Carole Black sees it differently: “There were no marketing decisions made in response to ‘E.T.’ We had our plans made early. We knew last fall we were going to release one of the cartoon features, but we didn’t know which one. We decided on ‘Cinderella’ at the beginning of January.”

But Louis Feola, MCA senior vice president for marketing, says that Disney “had to react to what we were doing, whether they admit it or not. Any competitor has to react to another competitor. They’re looking at the marketplace and reacting to it. They analyzed the marketplace to see how they had to position themselves to keep up. But they still might have done the same thing even if ‘E.T’ wasn’t there. . . . We knew long ago Disney would come out with something . That was taken into account all along.”

Disney and MCA have one thing in common in this competition--each has planned advertising campaigns in the $25-million range. Said one retailer who asked not to be identified: “The consumer is going to have ‘E.T’ and ‘Cinderella’ coming out of his ears.”