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Ritter, Cash Titles in Demand as Fans Mourn

21 Sep, 2003 By: Jessica Wolf

As the credits rolled last week on ABC's tearful tribute to John Ritter, “A Lifetime of Laughter,” a toll-free number offered viewers a chance to order copies of the TV special.

But video viewers were looking to fill the Ritter void almost immediately after news of the beloved comedian's untimely death broke Sept. 12. Fans saddened by the death of country music legend Johnny Cash, who also died that week, looked to video for comfort as well.

A clerk at a Melbourne, Fla., Suncoast location said he was besieged with requests for “Three's Company” on DVD.

“I had 10 or 12 people asking me in just the few hours after we opened [Friday] if we had it,” he said.

Anchor Bay Entertainment announced at this year's Video Software Dealers Association convention that it would release complete-season sets of the raucous 1970s sitcom beginning next year. The day after news of Ritter's death broke, however, Anchor Bay announced the possibility of pushing up the release date.

“Anchor Bay Entertainment is deeply saddened by the sudden passing of actor John Ritter,” said David Vasile, president of Anchor Bay. “We were to begin working with him next month on the DVD extras for the TV series ‘Three's Company.' Both parties were excited about the prospect, and the DVD release of ‘Three's Company' was originally scheduled for early 2004. At this time, we are discussing our options for releasing a Standard Edition shortly, followed by a Special Commemorative Edition early next year.

“Additional release information will be sent out at a later date.”

Ritter, 54, died Sept. 11 of a previously undiagnosed heart condition after falling ill on the set of his current ABC sitcom, “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.” The studio has since announced plans to continue the series, without Ritter's lead character.

But viewers headed to video stores were looking for “Three's Company.”

“We've been telling people it's in production,” said Marc Oringer, general manager of Manhattan-based Champagne Video.

Ritter was more of a TV personality, and his death hasn't brought in a rush of people looking to rent his movies, said John Krumbiegel of Philadelphia-based TLA Video.

“It's not like with Charles Bronson or Gregory Peck or Katharine Hepburn, who all also died recently, when we can't keep their movies in stock, and we have people on waiting lists to rent them,” Krumbiegel said. “I'd have to say that everyone really seems to remember him through ‘Three's Company.’

Krumbiegel said, however, that he would point interested customers to movies like Tadpole and Sling Blade, in which Ritter seemed to be going through something of a reinvention of his acting career.

For fans of country music legend Cash, who was in the midst of a renaissance of popularity with a new album, a slew of Grammy nominations and an MTV Music Video nomination for his poignant video of his Nine Inch Nails cover, “Hurt,” there comes Johnny Cash A Concert: Behind Prison Walls, which streets this week (Sept. 23) from Eagle Rock Entertainment and features a 1976 concert with Cash and special guests Linda Rondstadt and Roy Clark (VHS $14.98, DVD $20.98). Debuting on DVD Sept. 30 from White Star Video is The Highwaymen: On the Road Again ($19.95), which features footage from Cash's first European tour with The Highwaymen, an event-group made up of legends Cash, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings.

“We've had lots of preorders for that stuff,” Champagne Video's Oringer said of the upcoming Cash releases.

Ritter Releases
Until “Three's Company” becomes available on DVD, John Ritter fans can get a dose of the beloved actor in some of his movies available now on video.

Tadpole (2002, BV/Miramax)
Bride of Chucky (1998, Universal)
Sling Blade (1996, BV/Miramax)
North (1994, Columbia TriStar)
Stay Tuned (1992, Warner)
Problem Child 2 (1991, Universal)
Problem Child (1990, GoodTimes)
Skin Deep (1989, Warner)

Ritter also guest-starred in an episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” titled “Ted,” which is included in the Season 2 boxed set from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

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