Oscars Give Rentals New Lease on Life


To home video retailers, the Oscar nominations, which were announced Wednesday, are prime marketing tools that can really trigger rental surges.

Video retailers benefit most when Oscar-nominated movies come out on home video just before the nominations are revealed, allowing them to profit from all that post-nomination media exposure that continues for weeks up to the ceremonies.

“It really can boost the rentals of nominated movies,” said Brad Burnside, who runs the Video Adventure chain in the Chicago area. “People like to be able to sit down and watch the Oscar show having seen as many of the nominated movies as possible.”

Of this year’s major nominees, only “In the Line of Fire,” featuring best supporting actor contender John Malkovich, is a new release--it came out Wednesday. Obviously, though, the filmmakers were hoping for a broader range of major nominations.


The only movie already in the rental market featuring a front-line nominee is “The Firm,” co-starring Holly Hunter, who’s up for best supporting actress for this movie as well as for best actress for “The Piano.”

Since “The Firm” is already the No. 1 rental on the Billboard chart, will the nomination make any difference?

“It will give the movie another shot in the arm,” Burnside said. “So far it’s been a real surprise. It’s lasted much longer as a top rental than we expected--and now it will last even longer.”

Enterprising retailers can capitalize on nominations in other ways. “We showcase other movies starring the nominees,” Burnside pointed out. “For instance, with Holly Hunter and Emma Thompson, each up for two awards, we can get some mileage out of their old movies. During the period between the nominations and the award ceremonies, the nominated actors and actresses are real hot properties.”

As usual, most of the major nominated movies came out last fall and aren’t due on video for at least five or six months after their theatrical opening date. So none of the following will hit the home video market before the March 21 Oscar ceremonies: “Schindler’s List,” “The Piano,” “The Remains of the Day,” “In the Name of the Father,” “The Age of Innocence” and “Philadelphia.”

The next best thing to debuting on home video in time to take advantage of the nominations is being situated to capitalize on being an Oscar winner. So coming out on the days after the awards ceremony can pay rental dividends.

Due out March 22: “The Fugitive,” which is up for seven awards. A day later, retailers will offer “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” featuring Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett--both up for best acting honors.

“Fearless,” co-starring best supporting actress nominee Rosie Perez, comes out April 6. If she wins, that would be a big rental-market boost for a movie that so far hasn’t done great business in theaters--$6.5-million gross. But whether Perez wins or not, this movie will be more attractive to renters. Without the Oscar attention, many would have ignored it.


Also due on April 6, “The Age of Innocence,” which has five nominations, including Winona Ryder for best supporting actress.

Oscar nominations can also increase revenues for the video companies releasing the movies. For instance, retailers will order more rental copies of “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” “Fearless” and “The Age of Innocence"--which means more money for the video companies. These movies are in an ideal position since their prime ordering periods are in the next few weeks.

The movies not yet scheduled for home video release will benefit from the nominations too. First of all, nominations invariably lead to increases in box-office grosses. Since the best indicator of rental-market performance is still box-office earnings, the bigger the gross, the bigger the shipments from video companies to rental outlets.

For the video companies releasing “The Piano” and “The Remains of the Day"--a best picture nominee--the nominations could prove especially helpful. Though both have piled up good grosses so far, they’re still arty, fairly low-profile, non-mainstream movies that are tougher to sell to some video retailers--particularly in small towns.


Now, though, both are instantly high-profile movies that are a must for any video retailer.

What’s New

“In the Line of Fire” (Warner); An aging Secret Service agent (Clint Eastwood) plays cat-and-mouse with a brilliant psychopath (John Malkovich) who’s trying to assassinate the President. Malkovich’s riveting character dominates last year’s best suspense thriller, which boasts a truly gripping final half-hour.

“The Real McCoy” (MCA/Universal); A master burglar (Kim Basinger)--an ex-con bent on kicking the criminal habit--is blackmailed into pulling a job by the vicious villain (Terence Stamp). Val Kilmer co-stars as a clumsy crook. A truly terrible movie.


“The Meteor Man” (MGM/UA); A clever idea--the ghetto-ization of the Superman myth--is ruined by director-star Robert Townsend, who plays a modest ‘hood-dweller turned super-hero. Even all the star cameos can’t energize this lame comedy.


“The Secret Garden” (Tuesday); “Man Without a Face,” “The Program,” “Benefit of the Doubt” and “Calendar Girl” (Wednesday); “For Love or Money,” “Son of the Pink Panther,” “Dazed and Confused,” “Son-in-Law,” “Needful Things,” “Strictly Ballroom” and “Boxing Helena” (Feb. 23); “Demolition Man,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” “The Good Son” and “Striking Distance” (March 2); “The Fox and the Hound” (March 4).