'Gump' Hits the Stores in a Big Way : Video: About 7 million copies of Paramount's Oscar-winning movie are sold in the first four days of release. It could become the top-selling non-animated title ever.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

With minimal promotion, a Wal-Mart store in Tuscaloosa, Ala., sold all 1,200 of its copies of "Forrest Gump" by noon Saturday, only about 48 hours after it had first displayed the videocassettes that were released by Paramount Pictures last Thursday.

"I didn't figure they would last that long," sales clerk Naomi Ramsey said.

Don Slatton, the store manager, said the Tuscaloosa Wal-Mart probably could have sold twice as many copies of the movie, in which the title character, played by Tom Hanks, is a slow-witted but wise man from Greenbow, Ala., who is propelled into a series of extraordinary experiences.

"Just about anybody you talk to has seen the movie--and loved it," Slatton said. "It's a movie that appeals to all ages."

That seemed to be borne out over the weekend as consumers got their first opportunity to buy the Oscar-winning movie, which ranks third among the highest-grossing films of all time.

A Paramount executive said Monday that about 7 million of the 15 million copies of "Forrest Gump" that were shipped to video stores in the United States and Canada last week were sold during the first four days of its release.

" 'Forrest Gump' on video reinforces the fact that it was such a stunning success theatrically," said Eric Doctorow, president of worldwide video for Paramount. "It's an amazing picture. It is truly repeatable and collectible, and I think that's what this weekend's sales activity has demonstrated."

Peter Busch, vice president of video purchasing for the Minneapolis-based Musicland Stores Corporation, a national chain of about 1,400 retail outlets, said that sales of the video bested his company's projections by almost 25%.

" 'Forrest Gump' became an event, if you will, at retail," Busch said.

"The only titles that were bigger in recent memory were 'The Lion King' and 'Snow White,' which really puts 'Forrest Gump' in a class by itself. For a non-animated movie, it may become the biggest title of all time in sell-through."

The current non-animated video sales champ is "Jurassic Park," which sold 16 million units. However, Disney's "The Lion King" is the all-time sales leader with 26 million units sold.

Returns on orders of large releases typically can reach 20% or more, but Jeffrey P. Eaves, president of the Video Software Dealers Assn., said he expected a low return rate on "Forrest Gump."

"We think 'Forrest Gump' is going to be one of the first and certainly one of the biggest video products that come out for direct ownership as a collectible," he said. "As such, I don't expect to see as much of a return. It should perform exceptionally well.

"Many of the entries in the sell-through market have been disproportionately directed into the (children's) market, but because of the uniqueness of this film and its very broad appeal, it's going to be much more broadly placed."

Bill Fowler, video buyer for the 346-store Wherehouse chain, described weekend sales of "Forrest Gump" as "phenomenal," saying that 90% of the chain's initial inventory was sold.

"The selloff on this is better than any title we've had in recent history," Fowler said.

Cliff MacMillan, video product manager of the 105-store Tower chain, said sales of "Forrest Gump" were "excellent," though not as spectacular as he had anticipated.

"But it hasn't had the hype that 'The Lion King' produced, where everybody knew exactly when it was out there," he said. "I think over the next week it will show a significant increase as people are more aware that it's out there."

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