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Gay Theme Not Lost in 'Cranes' Marketing

April 23, 1993|DENNIS HUNT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

How do you market a gay film on home video?

"Nobody really knows," said Sal Scamardo, CBS-Fox's director of public relations and promotions. "Some would say the best way is to camouflage it and sell it as an art film. They say design the packaging in a way to hide the topic and never say what it's really about because of fear of alienating certain retailers."

That's exactly what CBS-Fox Video is not doing.

The company will release "The Lost Language of Cranes," a drama about a man admitting his homosexuality, on June 2--the beginning of Gay Pride Month--priced at $90. Because it features no stars and had no theatrical release, it's a tougher sell to video stores. But this BBC production, set in London and starring Corey Parker and Angus Mac Fadyen, did play on some PBS stations last June and received some good reviews. There is no nudity or sexually explicit scenes in the movie.

What CBS-Fox is doing is aggressively marketing it as a gay-themed film with a national campaign that will target the gay community but will also seek the highest possible profile in the mainstream press.

"No major video company has ever promoted a gay movie this way, to this extent," Scamardo said. "Usually they're put out quietly, in stores that are geared to gays--and aren't seen in stores with mostly straight customers."

Scamardo made it clear that CBS-Fox isn't targeting just the three cities--New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco--with the largest gay populations. "This is a national campaign geared to big and small cities--to the average video store, not just the ones in obvious gay areas," he explained.

CBS-Fox has contacted gay groups for their support and has organized letter-writing campaigns to urge retailers to stock the movie. "We want to educate retailers on why it makes sense to carry this film," he said. "According to surveys, gays rent four to six films a month, which is more than twice the national average. We feel there's a huge gay audience that's not being served with films marketed directly to them--with films that speak directly to them."

"Cranes" isn't a first for CBS-Fox. Back in 1986 the company released "Parting Glances," one of the first movies to deal with AIDS. Still, there are few gay-themed movies on the home-video market, with "Longtime Companion" probably the most prominent.

Scamardo, instrumental in convincing the company to release "Cranes," admitted that some CBS-Fox executives were dubious about it--but not for homophobic reasons. "They weren't concerned about the content, just the economics," he explained. "They weren't sure the company could make money on this movie."

The goal, he said, is to ship 25,000 copies, an admirable figure for a TV movie. "Sales are going well," he said. "There haven't been any negative responses yet but it's still early."

Scamardo added that if "Cranes" flies high on video, CBS-Fox may release "Portrait of a Marriage," which has a lesbian theme.

Videobits:

When FoxVideo releases "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York" on July 27, it will be priced, as expected, for the sales market--at $25. The comedy sequel, which grossed $172 million, will also feature a rebate deal with Quaker Oats--buy Life Cereal and get a $5 "Home Alone 2" coupon. . . . LIVE acquired a home-video prize--the rights to "The Crying Game"--acing out Warner Video. The movie is still doing good business so probably won't be on video until late summer at the earliest.

What's New on Video:

Here are some new releases:

"The Mighty Ducks" (Buena Vista, $95). Another rehash of that old story about a reluctant leader trying to mold a band of misfits into a capable unit. This time the arena is peewee hockey and the coach (Emilio Estevez) is a tough lawyer who's coaching to fulfill a community-service sentence. Corny and predictable but an OK family film--with more appeal for youngsters than grown-ups.

"Night and the City" (FoxVideo, $95). Robert De Niro plays a fast-talking, small-time con-man who muscles in on a major sports promoter's territory, looking for the big score. For a while, De Niro's brassy performance carries this comedy-drama, which co-stars Jessica Lange. But the second half of the movie, with its telegraphed twists and contrived happy ending, is progressively unsatisfying.

The remake pales next to the 1950 original, a classic film noir featuring Richard Widmark and Gene Tierney, which also just came out on video (FoxVideo, $20). Set in London and directed by Jules Dassin, this one is truly atmospheric, buoyed by strong performances and punchy dialogue.

"Pet Sematary Two" (Paramount, no set price). If you like gory gross-out sequences, this movie, about eerie events triggered by a dog's burial in a Maine "pet sematary," features some real hair-raisers. Starring Edward Furlong of "Terminator II" and Anthony Edwards, it's not a good movie--just a good gross-out movie.

Upcoming on Video:

Just announced: "Bram Stoker's Dracula," directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Gary Oldman, will be released June 23.

Also: "Bob Roberts," "Dr. Giggles," "School Ties," "Enchanted April" and "A Brief History of Time" (Wednesday); "The Distinguished Gentleman" and "Trespass" (May 5); "A River Runs Though It" and "Glengarry Glen Ross" (May 19); "Toys," "Hoffa," "Used People" (May 26); "Body of Evidence" (June 16).

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