Since there are no reliable home-video charts for foreign films, a good way to find out the most popular titles is by checking the sales and rentals of a store which specializes in them.
Videotheque, owned by the Hed brothers, is nationally renowned among foreign-film buffs for its extensive foreign-film section--generally regarded as the largest in the country. There are branches in Beverly Hills, Westwood and a new location on the Sunset Strip.
To no one's surprise, Meir Hed reported that Jaime Uys' "The Gods Must Be Crazy" (CBS-Fox, $79.95), a South African movie, is easily the year's most popular foreign film. Also, Hed noted, its popularity has generated interest in a largely forgotten 1974 Uys movie, "Animals Are Beautiful People" (Warner, $59.95), a bizarre wildlife documentary.
According to Hed, several movies on Embassy, which offers the biggest and best foreign-film selection, are very popular, including Jean Renoir's "Rules of the Game" ($29.95), Kenji Mizoguchi's "Ugetsu" ($29.95) and two by director Akira Kurosawa--"Yojimbo" ($29.95) and "The Seven Samurai"($89.95).
Other titles in big demand, Hed reported, are Jean-Luc Godard's "Breathless" (Henwood, $79.95), Werner Herzog's "Aguirre, Wrath of God" (Continental, $39.95) and Luis Puenza's Oscar-winning "Official Story" (Pacific Arts, $79.95).
Fans of German movies, Hed pointed out, like Rainer Fassbinder's "Berlin Alexanderplatz," a 15 1/2-hour, eight-cassette drama made for German TV in 1980. He reported that another epic, Claude Lanzmann's "Shoah," a 9 1/2-half hour, five-cassette documentary on the Holocaust, is also doing good business.
The first part of next year, Hed predicted, will be a bonanza for foreign-film lovers. Kurosawa's "Ran" comes out Jan. 2. Hed forecast that this CBS-Fox cassette will possibly be the foreign-film blockbuster of 1987. Federico Fellini's "Ginger and Fred," a MGM/UA release on Jan. 20, should also be very popular.
"Men" is scheduled to be released by Vista on Feb. 25. This West German comedy, directed by Doris Dorrie, was a sensation in Germany and has been well received by the American art-house crowd.
UPCOMING MOVIES: Considering that exciting crime dramas are usually popular rentals, look for "Manhunter," starring William L. Petersen, to be a smash when it's released by Karl-Lorimar on Feb. 4.
"Club Paradise" is due out on Jan. 28 from Warner Video. Despite Robin Williams, it didn't really turn audiences on last summer, but Warner Video is counting on this comedy about vacationing in the tropical Caribbean to rent well this winter.
"Fool for Love," an MGM/UA release on Jan. 20, is a moody, quirky drama based on Sam Shepard's play, directed by Robert Altman and starring Kim Basinger and Shepard. The key to its home video success is Basinger, who's co-starring in the steamy "9 1/2 Weeks," one of the most popular rentals.
Though it hasn't been officially announced, Steven Speilberg's "The Color Purple" is expected to be released by Warner Video early next year.
PRICING: Most retailers are very nervous about the pending increase in the standard $79.95 list price of major movies to $89.95 or $99.95. Video companies plan to sell movies to retailers at a higher price in an effort to compensate for the rental revenues that they don't share. Video store owners keep all the rental fees.
CBS-Fox has announced a higher price--not yet fixed--for its key movies starting in late winter. According to industry speculation, "Aliens" will be the first CBS-Fox movie to be offered at the new price. HBO-Cannon reportedly plans a price hike for early next year too. Other video companies are also expected to raise the price of their hottest movies. Most retailers will undoubtedly protest. Their wholesale price, now about $50, will increase. Consumers will feel it too. The rental fees on the more expensive cassettes will undoubtedly go up.
(compiled by Billboard magazine). TOP VIDEOCASSETTES, RENTALS 1--"Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" (Paramount).
2--"Down and Out in Beverly Hills" (Touchstone).
3--"Out of Africa" (MCA).
4--"The Money Pit" (MCA).
5--"9 1/2 Weeks" (MGM/UA).
6--"Pretty in Pink" (Paramount).
8--"Police Academy 3: Back in Training" (Warner).
9--"Sleeping Beauty" (Disney).
10--"At Close Range" (Orion).
TOP VIDEOCASSETTES, SALES 1--"Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" (Paramount).
2--"Sleeping Beauty" (Disney).
3--"Jane Fonda's New Workout" (Karl-Lorimar).
4--"Jane Fonda's Low Impact Aerobic Workout" (Karl-Lorimar).
5--"White Christmas"" (Paramount).
6--"Beverly Hills Cop" (Paramount).
9--"Raiders of the Lost Ark" (Paramount).
10--"The Sound of Music" (CBS-Fox).