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Delay Seen in Filling Orders for ‘E.T.: Extra-Terrestrial’

Times Staff Writer

A few months ago, when MCA Home Video announced the Oct. 27 release of “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial,” fans were urged to order early and avoid the rush. At $24.95, with a further reduction with rebates, it was geared to sell rather than rent.

Well, rush hour is here. “E.T” is due in the stores Thursday. But as one disgruntled retailer put it, some of the early birds are going to get burned.

MCA has announced that all of its customers--from retailers to distributors and mass merchants initially will receive only 75% of their orders. The company says it will fill the balance of the orders by Nov. 19.

That means that come Thursday, there won’t be enough copies to meet the demand. Some customers who pre-ordered will have to wait a few weeks.

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Apparently MCA misjudged the demand. “E.T.,” the 1982 blockbuster movie about a loveable alien, is a much hotter item than MCA expected. The company anticipated selling between 6 million and 8 million copies of the cassette, but it announced a few weeks ago that orders had reached 10.6 million.

Louis Feola, MCA’s senior vice president of marketing, told the trade journal Video Insider last week that the company had not expected orders to reach the 10-million mark until perhaps Christmas. Since then, harassed MCA executives have adopted a no-comment policy.

Retailers are fuming. “It’s unbelievable that MCA couldn’t have seen this problem coming,” griped Harvey Dossick, director of movie purchasing for the West Coast Video chain. “They started selling ‘E.T.’ early in the summer. It’s bad planning.”

Retailers are nervously anticipating the wrath of customers who’ll have to wait for “E.T.” even though they paid for it in advance.

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“I won’t be able to fill my orders,” said Carol Pough of Videocassettes Unlimited in Santa Ana. “I’m going to have some angry customers. All I can do when I get my allotment is give it to the customers who ordered the earliest.”

But what about the customers who didn’t preorder? “If you didn’t preorder, you may have trouble finding ‘E.T.’ until MCA’s supply catches up with the demand,” noted Ron Castell of the Erol’s chain.

In addition, a by-product of the “E.T” supply cuts might be a rental-copy shortage, since stores will set aside most of their “E.T” inventory for sales.

“Our rental transactions will be way down until we get the rest of our order,” Dossick said.

What retailers resent most is that they’ll take the heat for this mistake, not MCA. “Most people don’t know which company releases a cassette,” said Meir Hed of the Westside Videotheque chain. “When there’s a problem, they think the retailer screwed up.”

“Small stores will be hurt the most,” predicted Lou Berg of Audio Video Plus in Houston. “They don’t have the resources to make huge orders. They’re going to be scrounging for copies of ‘E.T.’ ”


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