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THE MORNING BUZZ: Why Not Launch Pearl Harbor Today?<br>Respect, for One

7 Dec, 2001 By: Kurt Indvik

Today, of course, marks the 60th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Obviously, the Buena Vista Home Entertainment release this week of Pearl Harbor has been a tremendous success in its first days in retail, with some 3.1 million total videos sold. An interesting sidebar to this: according to sources, the DVD sellthrough and VHS sellthrough numbers achieved parity, with DVD selling 1.5 million and VHS selling 1.6 million. That's the first time we've seen DVD close the gap with VHS and, doubtless, it won't be the last.

At first, I had to wonder about Pearl Harbor's release date this week. Why not break with tradition once in a while (as Shrek did not too long ago) and launch the video on, say, Pearl Harbor Day? That would be today. Obviously, the folks at Buena Vista timed the release for the same week as Dec. 7. I understand that Tuesday, the traditional video release day, is timed to allow retailers to get the units stocked and promotions up and the momentum going for the upcoming weekend. It's also timed to avoid any conflicts with theatrical launches; either your own studio's or some other major competitor's. (Of course that didn't stop the launch of Shrek, much to Disney's irritation as it debuted Monsters, Inc. the same Friday.) But, still, these things can be overcome. This week's lineup of theatrical releases, led perhaps by Vanilla Sky, posed no major threat to a Friday Pearl Harbor video release. So why not take full advantage of the obvious Dec. 7 connection?

Then I took a step back and I think saw what Disney may have seen (and I'll give them credit here, whether they were thinking along these same lines or not)—that taking the obvious advantage would, in fact, denigrate the memory the movie was trying to truthfully serve (laced, in inimitable Hollywood style, with a fictional love story). And after the events of Sept. 11--perhaps to be seen in later years as this generation's Pearl Harbor--any such commercial attachment to Dec. 7 would, indeed, have been viewed as unseemly.

The attack on Pearl Harbor was a cataclysmic event that brought World War II home to the United States. In short order it became a rallying point around which the Americans bolstered themselves for the sacrifices that ensued for five years, before the eventual victorious outcome.

Over time Pearl Harbor has become a hallowed and heroic military event even in defeat, and one that, eventually, we could celebrate collectively as something uniquely American. With decades between us and the awful reality of the attack (and with most of those who had to live through the terrible tragedy gone), a new generation of Americans has obviously been able to comfortably relive the event as something like a tradition, of bearing witness to the kind of sacrifice that is required to keep a civilization together.

Would Pearl Harbor have made a bigger impact being released on Dec. 7? Hard to say, and certainly the numbers indicate it would have been hard put to be any more successful than it was. In any case, I applaud Buena Vista for its choice to stick to Tuesday and let Dec. 7 stand quietly, without commercialism, in memory of those who died that day.

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