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'Top Gun' Cassette Breaks Sales Barrier

March 20, 1987|DENNIS HUNT | Times Staff Writer

That Diet Pepsi commercial on the home-video version of "Top Gun" doesn't seem to be scaring away customers. Paramount has already received a whopping 600,000 reorders, bringing total sales to 2.5 million cassettes, Paramount Video Division President Bob Klingensmith said Thursday.

The film's relatively low $26.95 price--made possible, Paramount says, by sharing promotional expenses with Pepsi--is even being discounted at some stores to as low as $19.95.

A check of some major local outlets revealed that "Top Gun," officially released 10 days ago, has either sold out or is selling at a phenomenal pace.

"It's the most popular cassette we've ever had," said Yehuda Hed, co-owner of the Videotheque chain.

"I've never seen anything like it," said a clerk at the Wherehouse in Hollywood, which will be out of stock until this weekend.

Tower Video's 700 copies reportedly sold in just four days. A Tower Video clerk said Thursday that he, too, hoped to be restocked by this weekend. But that may not happen.

"Bell & Howell (the company that makes the copies) is running every machine they've got around the clock," Klingensmith said. "The maximum they can make is 100,000 units a day. But we're getting orders in excess of 120,000 a day. We're trying to play catch up. We're filling the reorders as fast as we can. We never expected this kind of response."

So far, then, the commercial hasn't been a drawback, though a clerk at the Music Plus store in Studio City, which reported still having "Top Gun" in stock, said that there had been customer complaints about the addition of the commercial. But, the clerk added, the tape is still selling.

Of 20 people interviewed at five stores around town, only two said they wouldn't buy 'Top Gun" because of the commercial. "The whole idea of commercials on home video is offensive," George Jeffreys, 28, of Hollywood, griped in a 20/20 store. "I wouldn't buy it on principle, and I like the movie."

Some said they didn't mind the commercial, which features pilots and jets racing around the skies, because it's like a sequence in the movie. "That makes it easier to take," Cheryl Wilson, 18, of Van Nuys, said at Videotheque. "If it was like a normal TV commercial, it might be irritating."

A few said they probably wouldn't even bother looking at the commercial. "That's what the fast-forward button is for," Carrie Taylor, 21, of Santa Monica, said at Video Rave in West Los Angeles. "I don't mind it being on the tape--as long as I don't have to see it."

Some people said they didn't even know about the commercial. "A what?," Judy Cohen, 20, asked at Tower Video. "I didn't know there was a commercial on it. It doesn't make any difference to me. I like Tom Cruise. I'm going to buy one as soon as I get the money."

However, all the interviewees feared that, because of the "Top Gun" success, video companies would overdo commercials.

At the 20/20 store in West Hollywood, Bobby McRae, 26, who bought "Top Gun" last week, observed: "If this goes well, then other companies will be putting commercials on movies. Next time they'll add two or three at the beginning. Then maybe they'll start adding some at the end. Then they'll add some in the middle. That's what we're all really afraid of."

Carol Hughes, 22, of Encino, shopping at Music Plus in Studio City, suggested a negative impact may be delayed. "I don't mind the commercial now," she said. "But after watching the movie a few times, the commercial may get on my nerves. Maybe next time there's a cassette with a commercial, I won't be so quick to buy it."

COMING MOVIES: If Kathleen Turner wins the best-actress Oscar for "Peggy Sue Got Married," that will boost the demand for CBS-Fox's April 30 release of the film. If Jane Fonda wins for "The Morning After," fans will have to wait longer to see her performance on home video. Karl-Lorimar is releasing it May 29. "Crimes of the Heart," featuring another best-actress nominee--Sissy Spacek--is due in late June, also from Karl-Lorimar.

Another big Oscar nominee, Paramount's "Children of a Lesser God," will be released in May. It's up for best picture, best actor (William Hurt) and best actress (Marlee Matlin). Touchstone's "The Color of Money" stars Paul Newman--a best-actor Oscar favorite--but the big attraction really is his co-star, Tom Cruise. When this movie hits home video stores May 12, Cruise will be the big lure again.

CHARTS (Compiled by Billboard magazine)

TOP VIDEOCASSETTES, RENTALS 1--"Back to School" (HBO/Cannon).

2--"Ruthless People" (Touchstone).

3--"Aliens" (CBS-Fox).

4--"The Karate Kid Part II" (RCA/Columbia).

5--"Running Scared" (MGM/UA).

TOP VIDEOCASSETTES, SALES 1--"Top Gun" (Paramount).

2--"Jane Fonda's Low Impact Aerobic Workout" (Karl-Lorimar).

3--"Jane Fonda's New Workout" (Karl-Lorimar).

4--"Aliens" (CBS-Fox).

5--"Callanetics" (MCA).

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