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Retailers Speculate About Q4 Dark Horses

5 Sep, 2002 By: Jessica Wolf

Though the fourth-quarter video slate is highlighted by super-box-office stars, retailers say there are plenty of opportunities for sleeper titles on the home entertainment docket this year.

Frailty. There's your Memento of the year,” said Todd Zaganiacz of South Deerfield, Mass.-based Movie Zone of the Lions Gate Home Entertainment thriller directed by and starring Bill Paxton. “It's a great movie, and it got lost in the shuffle theatrically, with its release dates changing after Monster's Ball got the Academy Award nomination, but it will be a great rental.”

“Video always saves theatrical's butt,” Zaganiacz said, laughing.

Frailty streets Sept. 17 and earned $13.1 million in theaters.

Chad Farr, buyer for three-store DVD-only chain Backlot DVD in Olympia, Wash., said he looks forward to a strong showing from Warner Home Video's Insomnia, thanks to its high-powered Academy Award-winning cast of Al Pacino, Hilary Swank and Robin Williams, and its connection to last year's video favorite Memento, from the same director, Christopher Nolan. Insomnia streets Oct. 15 and garnered a respectable $67 million in theaters.

“It's a good movie, it's got Pacino, it did OK in theaters but it wasn't widely seen,” Zaganiacz agreed. “It's a perfect video movie.”

Titles with less-notable casts also should find a good home on video this shopping season as well, retailers said.

“I think with the release date [Warner] put out for Eight Legged Freaks, right before Halloween, it's going to do very well,” said Kevin Brock, buyer for midsized chain Bradley Video in Petaluma, Calif. Teen horror/comedy Eight Legged Freaks earned $16.6 million in theaters and streets Oct. 29.

Chuck Greacham, owner of midsized chain JC Flix headquartered in Chicago, said Eight Legged Freaks could go either way. “It could be a cult classic that everyone picks up and laughs at, or it could be one that nobody sees because there's so much other stuff on the shelf,” Greacham said.

Competition is one of the biggest challenge this year's sleepers will face, retailers said.

“There's so much product coming out, I'm a little nervous,” Zaganiacz said. “It's becoming a whole new marketplace with so many people buying DVD. How much can they spend in a week? How much are they going to have left to spend on rental?”

One title retailers are sure will be a hit is HBO's acclaimed miniseries Band of Brothers. “People have been asking for that one since it originally aired,” Zaganiacz said. Greacham agreed: “Word-of-mouth on that is so good. But everything from HBO seems to be a hit these days,” he said, citing the popularity of HBO complete-season sets of “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City.”

“HBO could be even hotter if they got the stuff out quicker,” Zaganiacz said. “There's been bootleg copies of Band of Brothers selling on eBay for months.”

Zaganiacz also is hopeful for MGM's oft-postponed war drama Windtalkers (Oct. 15). “It's a good movie for DVD with all the battle sequences,” he said. He also looks forward to good things from Paramount's as-yet-unannounced Harrison Ford actioner K-19: The Widowmaker, which could hit video by December.

But Greacham predicts Windtalkers won't fare well, noting a lukewarm response at his locations for Paramount's We Were Soldiers and MGM's Hart's War.

“I think, rather than surprise hits, your going to find some surprise flops in there,” Greacham predicted. “For example, I also don't think Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron is going to do as well as we all are anticipating or hoping.”

Retailers expect foreign titles like Universal's long-awaited French-language actioner Brotherhood of the Wolf (Oct. 1) and MGM's Spanish-language theatrical sleeper Y Tu Mamá Tambi?n (Oct. 22) to get renters' attention.

“We were really surprised by how strong Am?lie was,” Backlot DVD's Farr said. “I think Brotherhood of the Wolf could do very well, too.”

Brotherhood of the Wolf earned $11 million in theaters this year, and Y Tu Mamá Tambi?n brought in $13.6 million at the box office.

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