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A Resurgence of Interest in Films of Brandon Lee

April 09, 1993|DENNIS HUNT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

There has been a surge in renting Brandon Lee movies since the actor--son of the late Bruce Lee--was killed on the set of "The Crow" last week.

In a check of stores around the country, some retailers report that FoxVideo's "Rapid Fire," featuring Lee's first major starring role, is suddenly among their hottest rentals.

But even before his death, the movie had done impressive rental business. On the market for about six weeks, it cracked the Top 10 of the Billboard rental chart but had dropped to No. 16 this week.

It's rare for martial arts movies to make the Top 10. Even when Jean-Claude Van Damme was an up-and-coming star, his movies didn't rise that high on the video charts.

Stores in certain cities, often in areas with large Asian populations, do particularly well with martial arts movies--such as outlets in the Palmer Video chain, based in Union, N.J.

"We ordered extra copies of 'Rapid Fire' for nearly all our stores," said Peter Margo, Palmer's executive vice president. "The rental rate increased dramatically in 90% of our stores. There wasn't an increase in business in the other stores because they don't do much business in martial arts movies in the first place."

There have been reports that FoxVideo would rush to offer the movie--now priced at $95--at $20 for the sales market sometime in the next few months. But company president Bob DeLellis said the earliest it would be available at a reduced price would be October for the Christmas market.

"We also own the Bruce Lee collection," he added. "We may develop some sort of an action collection and introduce 'Rapid Fire' at the low price."

There has also been renewed interest in other Lee titles, such as "Showdown in Little Tokyo," co-starring Dolph Lundgren, and "Laser Mission."

"People are now asking for his other movies--probably some people who didn't know anything about him before but were curious about him because of all the publicity about his death," Margo said. "In some of our stores, 'Showdown' really took off too, along with 'Rapid Fire.' So we ordered some copies of those too."

Often this kind of rental rush is short-lived, but Margo predicts this one may go on longer than usual. "There may be a lot of controversy about Lee's death because of the suspicion that it wasn't accidental--which is being played up big in the media," Margo said. "There's probably going to be commotion about this for a while. As long as his name is in the news, people will be renting his movies much more than usual."

Video Bits

Disney shipped a whopping 10.2 million units of "Pinocchio," priced at $24, to video outlets. The animated feature first came out in 1985, when the home-video market was much smaller and the prices much higher. Back then the shipment was only 600,000 and the price was $80. . . .

Three video companies apparently didn't have much luck trying to capitalize on the Amy Fisher scandal by releasing the three network TV movie versions of the sordid tale. According to some distributor estimates, the three titles, all released last week, shipped a combined total of about 20,000-22,000 copies--a very poor showing. The distributors said that the Capital Cities/ABC version, "The Amy Fisher Story," is by far of most popular of the three. Some stores that had purchased copies of one or all three versions reported none had been rented. . . .

Since Marisa Tomei won the supporting actress Oscar for "My Cousin Vinny," some video stores are reporting that rentals are up. None of these retailers, though, predicted a major, long-term rental rush because the movie has been on the home-video market for months and is well past its peak.

What's New on Video

Among new releases: "Husbands and Wives" (Columbia TriStar, no set price). One of Woody Allen's best dramas, accurately zeroing in on the pain of two unraveling marriages. One couple is played by Allen and Mia Farrow--just like in the headlines--and the other by Judy Davis and director Sydney Pollack. Loaded with exceptional performances, particularly by Davis, who was up for a supporting actress Oscar.

"Pure Country" (Warner, $95). Another rehash of that tired tale of the fed-up star who goes back to his roots, hungering for the simple life. Country singer George Strait, an unconvincing actor, has the lead role and is dwarfed by his charismatic co-star, Isabel Glasser. Strictly for Strait fans.

"Reservoir Dogs" (LIVE, $93). Harvey Keitel stars in this gruesome melodrama about gangsters holed up in a hide-out after a failed holdup. A well-made, often funny, low-budget movie by director Quentin Tarantino that's ideal for those who like vulgar macho wit and don't mind excessive violence.

"Captain Ron" (Touchstone, $95). Silly, low-brow comedy, often approaching the level of a bad sitcom, about an executive (Martin Short) who's sailing his new yacht from the Caribbean to the United States with his family. The fun supposedly comes in when the exec hires loony, laid-back Captain Ron (Kurt Russell) to run the boat.

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