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HIVE EXCLUSIVE: 'Grinch,' 'Apes' Officially Kick Off Holiday Shopping Season

21 Nov, 2001 By: Thomas K. Arnold

The holiday shopping season officially kicks off Friday with the home video release of two more blockbusters: Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the top-grossing movie of 2000, and Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes remake.

John Thrasher, v.p. of video purchasing for Tower Records and Video, says both titles are among the 100-store audio-video combo chain's top five buys for the fourth quarter.

First-day sales, he says, met Tower's projections. “For us on the DVD side, Planet of the Apes is a little stronger out of the box,” he says. “But when you factor in VHS they are pretty comparable.”

Thrasher says he expects both Grinch and Planet to join Tower's top-selling fourth-quarter videos, a list that's headed by Star Wars: Episode One -- The Phantom Menace and Shrek. Following, in no particular order, are Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Godfather trilogy, The Sopranos: The Complete Second Season, The Mummy Returns and Swordfish.

On the rental side, independent retailer Tom Hannah of Video Quest in Joliet, Ill., says first-day demand was high for both Grinch and Planet. “I rented 11 of 12 copies of The Grinch on VHS and three out of four on DVD,” he says. “On Planet, I rented all eight VHS copies and 11 out of 12 DVDs.” Hannah says he picked up additional copies of Planet of the Apes at Best Buy.

Because of the nearly year-long window between The Grinch's theatrical and home video release, Universal wanted to make extra sure consumers “reconnected” with the furry green creature, according to Craig Kornblau, president of Universal Studios Home Video.

To that end, the studio began a $20 million media campaign 10 days before street date, saturating prime-time TV shows like “Survivor” and “West Wing” with Grinch spots. In addition, the studio inked deals with a parade of promotional partners. Hershey is selling Grinch candy, Nabisco is selling green Oreo cookies and Heinz is selling green Grinch ketchup.

The video's release was marked by a gala tree-lighting ceremony at the new Hollywood & Highland entertainment complex in Hollywood, Calif. to kick off both the video release and a massive Toys for Tots drive, organized by the Marine Corps.

“Grinch” trucks will visit 17 cities around the country, collecting toys for the children and families affected by the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. The trucks will arrive in New York City at Macy's Herald Square on Dec. 12 to give away the goods. Universal Studios Home Video will match the quantity of toys donated in each community.

Director Ron Howard and several stars from the movie, including brother Clint and Taylor Momsen (Cindy Lou Who), were on hand, as were executives from Universal Studios Home Video.

“When was the last time you saw a studio stage a big event like this for a home video release,” asked Kornblau, who accepted a plaque on behalf of Universal Studios Home Video from the Marine Corps, honoring the studio for its commitment to Toys for Tots.

He answered his own question: a month ago, when Universal, again, had a big event -- a treasure dig on the beach at Santa Monica, Calif. -- to mark the video debut of The Mummy Returns.

Even though The Grinch is a year-old movie, it's getting the same VIP treatment at big retail stores as current “event” titles like Shrek.

At Target stores, special Grinch merchandisers are set up near the cash registers, a tactic the chain last employed for Shrek. Wal-Mart and Best Buy also have the title prominently displayed.

But as far as exposure goes, Kmart takes the cake. The Grinch is all over the discount chain's latest mailer, even on the cover.Accordingly, Kmart spokesman David Karraker said the mass merchant's campaign in support of The Grinch is the biggest ever for a home video release.

The chain last week issued a “media alert” that the Grinch had “stolen” a Grinch-patterned race car sponsored by Kmart, only to return it two days later. On Sunday came another announcemnet: that the Grinch had stolen Kmart's famed “Bluelight Special” and that all such discounts would be discontinued until street date.

On street date, consumers who bought The Grinch at Kmart got a free movie poster; on Thanksgiving, they got a Grinch snow globe if they also purchased a second Universal video.

“Consumers, this year in particular, are looking for a feel-good gift to bring home to the kids, and this one is a home run,” says Kmart spokesman David Karraker.

But not all consumers are caught up in Grinch-mania. Maureen Moriarty, a schoolteacher in Carlsbad, Calif., is a big fan of It's a Wonderful Life. Watching the 1946 Frank Capra movie starring James Stewart as a suicidal man saved by an angel is a family tradition for Moriarty, her husband and their four grown daughters.

“I love Jimmy Stewart,” Moriarty says. “We watch it every year.”

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