The tapes of "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers," the biggest hit in the kidvid market in years, have been repackaged and slightly revamped.
So don't be surprised when the kids try to talk you into buying the versions that just hit the market. Pointing out that they already have the original tape or that they've already seen the show on Fox isn't likely to change their minds.
The packaging change--live-action scenes replacing illustrations--isn't as important as the additions. What the kids are so eager to get is the three-minute interview footage at the end of the 10 tapes--a different segment on each one featuring the Rangers answering questions.
Here's the simple strategy, said Nancy Jones, vice president of sales and marketing for Saban Home Entertainment, which markets the tapes: "We give the consumer the TV episode plus an added value they don't get on TV, which is the interview. Kids are so into this series that they want anything new that's involved with it."
Since the series came out at the end of last year, 10 tapes have sold an estimated 6 million copies. The revamped tapes, Jones said, should sell another 2 million by September.
The first five tapes were priced at $10 each. But Jones said that's low for a hot half-hour kid's tape. So when it was clear the "Power Rangers" series was a runaway hit, the price of the next five, released in March, jumped to $13 each. Now all 10 sell for $13 each.
With the release of the repackaged tapes featuring the interviews, look for retailers to discount the original 10 videos. But with kids wanting what's hot, the old tapes aren't likely to be that popular, even at bargain prices.
In September three new titles are due, Jones said, all featuring another tantalizing extra--music videos that haven't been seen on TV. A Christmas tape is also due in October. Those four tapes, she projected, will sell 5 million copies by the end of the year, swelling the grand total to a staggering 13 million.
Another change will occur Aug. 31. The Saban series will shift distributors, from PolyGram to A*Vision Entertainment. The change isn't expected to affect consumers but it certainly will affect PolyGram's profits.
If you're interested in videos about Irish history, your best bet is Irish Visions USA, a small, Bronx-based company that's one of only a handful making videos about Ireland.
The showpiece of Irish Visions' small catalogue is "When Ireland Starved," an absorbing, beautifully made documentary about the potato famine, priced at $30--the most expensive of the company's six-title catalogue. The latest is "The Guide to Celtic Monasteries," which uses photographs, drawings and films to detail the austere life of the monks. It's part history and part travelogue, offering glimpses of sites tourists might want to visit.
Though limited to historical documentaries right now, there are plans to add music videos and kidvid, co-owner Martin Somers said. He said the catalogue should have eight titles by the end of the year, with 10 more due out next year. "Our goal is to educate people about Irish history and about what's happening at present in Ireland," Somers said.
Titles are available mainly through mail order: (800) 474-7480.
What's New on Video:
"Sister Act 2: Back to the Habit" (Touchstone). In the original--one of the best formula, feel-good movies in years--a tawdry lounge singer (Whoopi Goldberg) hides out in a convent. The nuns bring out the best in her while she knocks some of the stodginess out of them. In the sequel, she returns to the nunnery to school a bunch of thugs in music. It's nowhere near as engaging as the original, but if you like Goldberg, it's passable entertainment.
"Shadowlands" (HBO). In early 1950s England, a repressed, scholarly British bachelor (Anthony Hopkins) falls in love with a brash American poet (Debra Winger) who later develops cancer. What's basically a romantic tear-jerker about opposites attracting is elevated by remarkable performances by Hopkins and Oscar nominee Winger. Based on a true story about theologian C.S. Lewis.
"Reality Bites" (MCA/Universal). Underneath all the trendy Generation X trappings, this is an old-fashioned romantic comedy, about a TV production assistant (Winona Ryder) being wooed by a strait-laced executive (Ben Stiller) and a carefree musician (Ethan Hawke). Charming, lightweight entertainment geared to the late teens and twentysomething crowd.
"Blink" (New Line). In this thriller set in Chicago, a feisty, blind fiddler (Madeleine Stowe) is the target of a serial killer. The twist on the usual plot about a blind woman being stalked by a murderer is that she's slowly regaining her sight. After an intriguing first half, setting up her character and her relationship with the cop (Aidan Quinn) investigating the murders, the second half turns routine thriller. Still, it's worth a look. Directed by Michael Apted.
"Body Snatchers" (Warner). The second remake of the 1956 sci-fi classic "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" is directed by Abel Ferrara. It's arty, offbeat and good, creepy fun--boasting some truly scary moments. The story is the same--a slow takeover by aliens creating a society of conformists. Ferrara offers a different perspective, setting it on a military base, from the point of view of a teen-age girl (Gabrielle Anwar). Meg Tilly co-stars.
"Heaven and Earth" (Warner). A Vietnamese woman (Hiep Thi Li) brutalized by the war marries a Marine (Tommy Lee Jones) and moves to California, where her trauma continues. Director Oliver Stone's third movie about the Vietnam War (after "Platoon" and "Born on the Fourth of July") is the first to center on a female character and is by far the weakest. What could have been a taut, tragic drama is just a superficial soap opera.
"House Party 3" (New Line). If you liked the first two tales about the comic exploits of the footloose characters played by rappers Kid 'N' Play, you might like some of part three, which is as thinly plotted as the first two. The original was a frolicking funfest but this one, riddled with unfunny jokes, is just a stale sequel.