‘Terminator’ Shows Its Sales Muscle


The bang-up box-office business for “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”--a near-record $52.8 million in the first five days--is reverberating through the home-video market, creating an incredible demand for the original. Suddenly “The Terminator,” released in 1984, is the hottest video title around.

Since its re-release on cassette June 26, Hemdale Home Video has shipped 504,000 copies of “The Terminator” to video outlets--as many as had been put out in all the years since its original home-video release in 1985. On the new Billboard magazine sales chart, the movie, priced at $14.95, debuts at No. 4 and probably will jump to No. 1 next week. Eric Parkinson, Hemdale president, predicts that the company will ultimately ship 1 million copies.

“The Terminator” is also a huge seller on laser disc, where the letterboxed version is being released though Image Entertainment, priced at $29.95. Parkinson said that 12,000 copies--a whopping number for this market--have been shipped in the last two weeks, with another 5,000 on order.


What’s remarkable about this flurry of interest is that “The Terminator”--which, like the sequel, stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton--was until recently a dead title. No new cassettes had been issued since January, 1990.

“There was no great consumer interest in this movie a few months ago,” Parkinson said. “In April, our research showed that there was no great intent-to-buy among consumers. We figured that we’d be just replenishing the rental supply. We thought we’d sell maybe 100,000-200,000. We put it on the market just before the sequel came out and hoped for the best.”

Now the company is scrambling to keep up with the demand.

“The success of the sequel caught everyone by surprise,” Parkinson said. “The stores didn’t have enough in stock. An example is what happened with the 677-store Musicland chain. They bought 8,000 pieces, sold out in two days and re-ordered 11,000 just before the Fourth of July weekend and then sold those out by the following Monday. They just ordered another 18,000. The movie isn’t that easy to find because many stores are sold out. We hope people who can’t find it will wait until next week when all those reorders are filled.”

Hemdale’s film division made the original movie but, since it had no home-video department at the time, farmed out the distribution to Thorn/EMI, which was later taken over by HBO Video. After five years, the rights reverted to Hemdale, which formed a video company that opened in early June, with “The Terminator” as its first release. Hemdale put it in a fancy new package, remastered the film from the original negative and marketed it at the right time, about a week before the sequel was released.

But Parkinson isn’t hogging all the credit for the revitalization of “The Terminator.” He acknowledged that without Tri-Star’s ad campaign and the sequel’s great audience appeal, “The Terminator” wouldn’t be a runaway video hit.

“We’ve benefited from what Tri-Star has spent advertising ‘Terminator 2’--about $20 million,” he said. “By default, it created a tremendous awareness of the first ‘Terminator’ and generated consumer interest in owning the first one.”


The availability of “The Terminator” at such a low price is part of its appeal. Previously it was marketed at $19.95.

For comparison shoppers, the cheapest copies of “The Terminator” probably won’t be at the local video store. Half the copies are being shipped to discount stores, where it’s being sold for as low as $12. Parkinson said that ultimately, 60% of the cassettes will be sold through discount stores.

What’s happening with “The Terminator”--the theatrical release of a sequel boosting home-video business for the original--has happened before, but not to this extent. Citing one example, Parkinson said, “When there’s been a new ‘Indiana Jones’ movie, that always increases business for the old ones on home video.”

But only if the sequel is well received. In the past year, the release of two sequels--”FX2” and “The Two Jakes” (the follow-up to “Chinatown”)--didn’t drum up much business for the originals because the sequels weren’t box-office hits.