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The Kid-vid Market Isn't For Bert And Ernie

May 24, 1985|DENNIS HUNT | Times Staff Writer

In the home-video market, Bert and Ernie would be a gold mine. The escapades of these frisky puppet pals--created by Jim Henson--regularly captivate toddlers on TV's "Sesame Street."

Kids love them. Compiling Bert and Ernie segments into videocassettes would seem to be smart business, as would filming new ones specifically for home video. But, as parents who have been on Burt-and-Ernie hunts in video stores already know, no such videocassettes exist. Furthermore, there are no plans for any.

"Sesame Street" is produced by the Children's Television Workshop. Judy Jackson of CTW explained the conspicuous absence of the lovable duo in the home-video market: "Henson just doesn't want to do Bert and Ernie videocassettes. It's up to him. He obviously doesn't need the money. He's happy the way things are. The way things look now, he's not going to change his mind."

So parents have to make their own Bert and Ernie videocassettes by taping the TV segments on VCRs. Jackson pointed out that Bert and Ernie participate in a videocassette series called "Sesame Street Recognizing Number Sets, 1-12," available through Child Guidance by catalogue only. It's purchased strictly as a set. The problem is the price. A set costs $445.

HOT KID VID: Videocassettes for children are big sellers. Last year kid-vid revenues amounted to $70 million. This year the forecast is for $100 million.

Industry experts predict that 12 1/2% of videocassettes and video-discs sold this year will be kid-vid product. Video companies like kid vid because parents tend to buy rather than rent these videocassettes. Just as they read their favorite books over and over, youngsters tend to view cassettes repeatedly. For parents, buying kid-vid cassettes makes sense since they are likely to be used extensively.

An added inducement to purchase the cassettes is the price. They are relatively inexpensive, most costing between $20 and $35. To meet the demand, video companies are offering a bigger selection and a wider variety of releases.

Disney, which is strong in the home-video market, will make these titles available in late June: "Paddington Bear, Vol. 1," ($29.95) based on the children's books of Michael Bond and "Bill Cosby's PicturePages Vol. 3" ($49.95), lessons for preschoolers, focusing on math.

SNIPPETS: Coliseum Video seems to have cornered the market on wrestling videos. For $59.95, they're offering "Hulkmania," a homage to that huge hero Hulk Hogan, and "Wrestling's Bloopers, Bleeps and Bodyslams," featuring Capt. Lou Albano and Freddie (the Butcher) Vachon.

Another videocassette teaching youngsters how to avoid child molesters will be out at the end of June. "Too Smart For Strangers--Winnie the Pooh," including songs, stories and dramatizations, is aimed at children 3 through 10. Priced at $29.95, it's from Disney.

In production: Celluoid Video is making an anti-molestation videocassette for children. It should be released just before Christmas.

NEW AND COMING VIDEOS: A Marvel comics videocassette series will be marketed in late September by Prism, which will release 18 one-hour, double-feature, animated videocassettes at $19.95. Originally made for TV, the package includes 213 half-hour shows featuring quirky superheroes like Spider Man, Captain America and the Incredible Hulk.

In July "Pinocchio," the 1940 animated movie, will finally be available on cassette. In seven releases it has grossed $145 million. Its most recent release was last Christmas, earning $26 million.

A videocassette of a most unusual event is due out in mid-June. It's "The Female Impersonator Pageant" (New World, $39.95), hosted by Lyle Waggoner and Ruth Buzzi. Masquerading as female celebrities, men compete for the Female Impersonator of the Year title.

Ready for another exercise videocassette? Fitness guru Richard Simmons is featured in "Get Started" (Karl: $39.95), available next week. . . . An unusual American premiere. A European movie, "Murder-Ultimate Grounds For Divorce" (Karl: $79.95) was a hit there so it's being marketed here--but on cassette only. The star is Roger Daltrey, the former lead singer for the Who. . . . "The Flamingo Kid" (Vestron: $70.95) starring Matt Dillon, from last Christmas, should do well in the home-video market.

Movie classics now available: "Journey into Fear," starring Orson Welles, 1943 (RKO: $34.95); "The Caine Mutiny," the 1954 Navy drama starring Humphrey Bogart (RCA/Columbia: $59.95); "Follow the Fleet," one of the best from Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, 1936 (RKO: $34.95).

CHARTS: Lately there's been a hot new rental almost every week, one that obliterates the competition, such as "The Terminator" (No. 1) and "The Cotton Club" (No. 2). This week it's "Teachers," the Nick Nolte movie from last year, which jumped from No. 20 to No. 3. In the next few weeks, "Dune," "City Heat" and "The Karate Kid" will be the renters' new favorites.

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