Video Watch -- Christmas Kid-Vid Campaigns Under Way
It's Christmas in July (and August) again, as video companies announce their sell-through kid-vid specials aimed at year-end gift-buyers instead of renters.
Warner Home Video is first up with "Taz-Mania," a collection of made-for-TV cartoons featuring the Tasmanian Devil. The $13 cassettes, which will turn up on store shelves Wednesday, run between 34 and 40 minutes apiece and include four cartoons. Warner claims that Taz, now in his second Saturday-morning season on the Fox network, has become the most popular Looney Tunes character, outpacing even Bugs Bunny.
Due the same day from Warner are "The Coneheads" (the animated cartoon series, not the movie) and five Looney Tunes compilations: "Bugs Bunny's Hare-Brained Hits," "Elmer Fudd's School of Hard Knocks," "The Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote's Crash Course," "Sylvester and Tweety's Tale Feathers" and "Yosemite Sam's Yeller Fever." They're also priced at $13 apiece.
On Friday, Jim Henson Video is releasing four $13 volumes of "Fraggle Rock," including the first episode of the series, "Beginnings," which introduced Doc, Gobo, Wembley, Mokey, Red, Boober and Traveling Matt. Each cassette runs about 50 minutes and is made up of two episodes.
Agnieszka Holland's new movie of "The Secret Garden" opens in theaters in mid-August. On Aug. 4, CBS/Fox Video is reissuing the late-1980s BBC production of the Francis Hodgson Burnett novel, which was filmed first by MGM in 1949 with Margaret O'Brien and Dean Stockwell. The CBS/Fox tape is priced at $15 (a gift set that includes a "Secret Garden" diary goes for $25), while the MGM version will be reissued Aug. 18 for $20.
At the same time, MGM/UA Home Video is bringing out four family-oriented films that have not been on tape before: George Pal's campy 1961 epic, "Atlantis, the Lost Continent"; the horsey 1954 remake of "Lassie Come Home" called "Gypsy Colt"; "The Bushbaby," a 1969 film starring Louis Gossett Jr.; and "Maya," a 1966 jungle adventure starring Clint Walker and Jay North.
All are priced at $20, although a $15 price tag will apply to the company's simultaneous reissues of "Where the Lilies Bloom," "Pocketful of Miracles," "Jack the Giant Killer" and a couple of video debuts: the lumbering 1974 musical version of "Huckleberry Finn," starring Jeff East as Huck and Paul Winfield as Jim, and "Namu, the Killer Whale," a 1966 wildlife movie that was filmed in the San Juans and has some similarities to the current theatrical release, "Free Willy."
Disney Home Video will be just as busy next month, reissuing some long-unavailable titles for $20 ("That Darn Cat," "The Shaggy Dog"), releasing the 1993 box-office hit "Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey" for $23, and bringing out a few new-to-tape titles that have played on The Disney Channel. "Tales From Avonlea," which is based on "Anne of Green Gables," will be released on six $20 cassettes that have two episodes apiece. Pricier are "Back Home," "Friendship in Vienna," "The Ernest Green Story," "Not Quite Human" and "Goodbye, Miss 4th of July," at $40 apiece.
Also coming in mid-August: Columbia Tri-Star Home Video's hour-long cassette drawn from the children's series, "The Best of Beakman's World" ($15); MGM/UA's reissues of "A Pink Christmas" ($10) and "Tom and Jerry's Night Before Christmas" ($13); Columbia Tri-Star's new-to-tape release of "A Bewitched Halloween," with Elizabeth Montgomery, Dick York and Agnes Moorehead; and MGM/UA's boxed sets devoted to the films of Elizabeth Taylor, Clark Gable, Elvis Presley, Greta Garbo, Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney and Fred Astaire (three tapes for $50).
Billboard magazine's Jim McCallaugh recently pointed out that the sell-through video market is expanding because a popular videocassette "can often leave its audio, book and toy counterparts in the dust."
For instance, Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" has sold 20 million videocassettes. That's more than the combined sales of last year's five top LPs.About $5.8 billion is generated annually by the sell-through video market; rentals account for $11.2 billion. The entire theatrical box-office take in North America is a mere $5 billion.
McCallaugh is predicting that Disney's low-priced Oct. 1 video release of "Aladdin" should top all previous records, selling 30 million cassettes and returning $600 million to the studio.
New videos in stores, page E 3.
Video Watch by John Hartl appears Thursdays in Scene. For more information call the Video Hotline on InfoLine, a telephone information service of The Seattle Times. Call 464-2000 from a touch-tone phone and enter category 7369. It's a free local call.
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