Can ‘Willow’ Join the Christmas Video Race?

Where there’s a “Willow” there’s a way to break into the Christmas video race for big bucks, RCA/Columbia seems to think.

The company is trying to make it at least a three -video race for this season’s rental trade with the summer hit “Willow.” The adventure-fantasy, produced by George Lucas and directed by Ron Howard, will reach video stores Nov. 22.

Just how does RCA/Columbia expect its entry to compete with the season’s two big leaders, “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” and “Cinderella”? By spending at least $2 million on TV ads, and perhaps as much as $3 million more on other forms of advertising, according to the trade publication Video Insider. That’s more than the company has ever spent to promote a videocassette.

No matter how much is laid out for its promotion, “Willow” isn’t likely to be ordered by dealers in numbers anything like those racked up by Steven Spielberg’s lovable creature from space and Disney’s rags-to-riches fairy tale. One reason: RCA/Columbia opted for an $89.95 tag on “Willow"--directing it at renters rather than buyers.


“E.T.” and “Cinderella” seem beyond the reach of any other film this fall.

Dealers have ordered 4.3 million copies of “Cinderella” (released today) and 7.5 million units of Disney’s entire 35-tape Christmas package (which includes previously released but price-reduced tapes). That translates to approximately $100 million in gross revenue for Walt Disney Home Video.

But that’s topped by MCA’s blockbuster--for which more than 11 million orders have been placed by dealers.

The main impetus for all those orders comes from the bargain prices placed on “E.T.” ($24.95) and “Cinderella” ($26.99 until the end of the year, $29.95 thereafter). Both tapes are also backed by big TV ad campaigns.


One possible negative result of RCA/Columbia’s pricing policy for “Willow” may be disappointment among Christmas gift shoppers. Attracted by all those TV ads for the video, many may stop by stores expecting a price tag similar to those for “E.T.” and “Cinderella.”

Of course, RCA/Columbia can cash in again on “Willow” next year, when its price will almost certainly drop to between $20 and $30.