Don't believe everything you hear about "E.T."
It's not sold out--yet, anyway.
A spot check of 30 stores in the Southern California area indicates that copies of MCA's "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," which made its home-video debut Thursday, are still available.
There was quite of bit of panic buying early Thursday, with anxious customers waiting in line when some stores opened Thursday morning. Manager Peter Ortel of Tower Video on the Sunset Strip reported that his staff faced a line of eager customers when they opened. Music Plus executive Mitch Perliss said there were lines outside of many of that chain's stores. Even the clerk at tiny Movietown Video in Hollywood said a line of "E.T." customers was waiting when it opened.
The customers had heard the reports that there weren't enough copies to go around. MCA had misjudged the demand and was only able to give its customers 75% of their orders.
But depending on which stores you visit, you can still take "E.T." home this weekend. As of yesterday, chain stores were well-stocked. Tower Video on Sunset Strip had a whole display full of them. The Wherehouse in Hollywood had a few dozen, as did the Videotheque in Beverly Hills and the Music Plus in Sherman Oaks.
Smaller stores, however, tended to be either low in copies or out of stock. Complained a clerk at the Video Channel in Canoga Park: "We don't have enough to fill our pre-orders, let alone service the customers who are walking in off the street."
Several small stores nearly depleted their supplies in one day. When their last few copies were gone, the retailers weren't sure when they would get more. Some store owners indicated that they had enough copies for the next few days but might be wiped out by a weekend rush.
MCA had between 11 million and 12 million orders for "E.T." All will be filled, company spokesmen are assuring customers, by the middle of next month.
Most video retailers were selling "E.T" at its suggested retail price--$24.95--which drops to $19.95 if a $5 Pepsi rebate is used.
With "E.T.," home-video stores were worried about competition from mass merchants, who can afford to buy in such huge numbers that they get a sizable discount. Target stores, for instance, are selling it for $16.99, Montgomery Ward for $17.99.
But the cheapest price is being offered by a video chain--Tower Video, which is selling "E.T." for $16.95.
Music Plus executive Mitch Perliss indicated that there was a rebate problem. His stores, he said, were told that they couldn't get the rebate forms without stocking Pepsi. "I had to do an end run to find the rebate forms," he said. "Some of our customers were angry when they found out they couldn't get the rebate forms when they bought 'E.T.' "
MCA was referring calls about any rebate issues to Pepsi corporate spokesman Todd MacKenzie, who said Pepsi was not requiring retailers to stock Pepsi in order to get rebate forms. "It had to be a misunderstanding with the local (Pepsi) bottler. Pepsi has no such policy."
Finding rental copies of "E.T" was easy--as of Friday, anyway. Even stores that had none left for sale had set aside some for rental only.
Some industry observers still predict that "E.T," which most people are buying rather than renting, will trigger a shift in the home-video business, which is, according to various estimates, about 80-85% rentals. The sales success of "E.T," some say, may spur home-video companies to lower their prices for new movies from the usual $80 and $90 to the $25-$30 range.
Don't count on it.
The bottom line is that the $24.95 is still too high for most consumers. At that price, few will buy videos regularly. People may start thinking about consistently buying rather than renting if the price were closer to $10. But home video companies oppose offering new movies at such low prices, insisting that, for them, there's not enough profit in it to make low-pricing worthwhile.