Some Bright Spots at Consumer Electronics Show : The MiniDisc digital audio format gets a boost with the announcement of upcoming models. CD boomboxes are a big growth area.


In the aftermath of the consumer electronics show in Chicago last weekend, the industry is still buzzing about the showcase products: futuristic multimedia players and assorted video games. But in the standard audio-video sphere, there was some news too.

According to industry people who attended the show, the expensive, slow-starting digital audio formats--MiniDisc (MD) and digital compact cassette (DCC)--were a hot topic of conversation.

The MiniDisc got a boost with the announcement of upcoming models by RCA (a playback-only portable) and Kenwood (a recordable mini home deck). So far both companies are shunning the DCC. Sanyo also has a new MD playback-only unit and plans a play-record unit later this year.


A tonic for sluggish sales of both formats, insiders agree, is drastically lower prices and more easily available software.

Elsewhere, CD boomboxes are a big growth area, challenging cassette-only boomboxes. The sales of various portable CD players are up tremendously as consumers are leaning away from assorted portable cassette players.

In the TV market, the newest thing is the rectangular, movie-screen-shaped-set, said to be more suitable for films. Thomson’s 34" ProScan is on the market and Philips has a model coming in late summer. But these sets sell in the $6,000 range and the jury is still out on them.

Those TV sunglasses from Virtual Vision--a $900 luxury item--recently hit the market, in Seattle, Chicago and locally, at Superco stores in Monterey Park and Rowland Heights. When you put on the glasses, which are hooked up to a tiny portable TV receiver, you see a giant TV screen--about 50-60 inches--floating about 10 feet in front of you. Since the January consumer electronics show in Las Vegas, Virtual Vision has upgraded the unit’s sound. But there’s still a problem: As with all small portable TVs, the reception varies from decent to lousy as you move to different locales.

There were gloomy predictions about laserdisc player sales this year, a sharp reversal of the optimistic outlook at the January show. The Electronics Industry Assn.'s prediction of sales of 300,000 this year has been revised to 235,000, only a small increase over last year’s 212,000.

Overall, the consumer electronics industry continues its upward trend, with the Electronic Industries Assn. forecasting a 6% rise in national sales, to $40 billion.

What’s New

Here are some new releases:

“Forever Young” (Warner, $95). On vacation from action roles, Mel Gibson stars in this gooey romance--a mixture of several old movies. In 1939, a pilot (Gibson), grieving for his love (Isabell Glaser) who’s in a coma, volunteers to be frozen in a medical experiment and wakes up 50 years later. He adjusts to a new era with the help of a single mother (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her son (Elijah Wood). A treat for Gibson’s female fans and a trial for anyone else.

“Shadow of a Wolf” (Columbia TriStar, no set price). Set in the 1930s in the Arctic, an Eskimo (Lou Diamond Phillips) embittered about the invasion of whites kills a trader, goes on the run with his pregnant lover (Jennifer Tilly) and struggles to survive in the wilderness. Some exciting sequences and gorgeous scenery, but the movie has minimal dramatic impact due to the filmmakers’ feeble storytelling skills.

“Johnny Suede” (Paramount, no set price). Director Tom DiCillo’s extremely quirky drama, showing strong influences of directors David Lynch and Jim Jarmusch, about an aspiring rock ‘n’ roller (Brad Pitt) who idolizes Ricky Nelson. His adventures in the seedy sections of New York don’t add up to much.

“LT” (PolyGram, $20). Informative portrait of the New York Giants’ great--and very egotistical--pass-rushing linebacker Lawrence Taylor, made up of interviews and game clips showing what a force he was in his prime. Mainly of interest to Giants’ fans who want to remember Taylor, now well past his peak, at his best.

What’s Upcoming

Just announced: “Sommersby,” the romantic drama starring Jodie Foster and Richard Gere, is due Aug. 4, along with “Sniper,” with Tom Berenger. The latest from Jean-Claude Van Damme, “Nowhere to Run,” comes out July 28.

Also: “Body of Evidence,” “Damage” and “The Lover” (Wednesday); “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” and “Jennifer 8" (June 23); “A Few Good Men,” “Leap of Faith” and “Matinee” (June 30); “Unforgiven” and “The Crying Game” (July 7); “The Bodyguard,” “Lorenzo’s Oil” and “Teenage Mutant Turtles III” (July 14); “Malcolm X,” “1492: Conquest of Paradise,” “Passion Fish,” “Amos & Andrew” and “Love Field” (July 21); “Home Alone 2" (July 27); “Scent of a Woman” (July 28); “Swing Kids” (Aug. 4); “The Vanishing” (Aug. 11); “Aladdin” (Oct. 1).