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'Fugitive' Runs Home : Movies: Even though the hit film is back in theaters, Warners rushes its video release on the heels of Oscar nominations.

March 04, 1994|DENNIS HUNT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In an unusual case of overlap, "The Fugitive" will be released on home video Thursday while the Academy Award-nominated film is still playing in theaters.

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There has been industry speculation that Warner Bros.' decision to move up the home video release--it originally had been scheduled for March 22, the day after the Oscar ceremonies--was fueled by the tepid response to the theatrical reissue, despite the film's seven nominations, including one as best picture.

But that suggestion was denied by Warner Bros. spokesman Ron Friedman, who pointed out that the announcement about the change in the home-video release date was made Feb. 16--before the reissue of "The Fugitive," not in response to the tiny crowds attracted by the movie's return to theaters. The film took in about $774,000 at the box office last weekend, compared to $6.5 million for top-grossing "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective."

Friedman said "The Fugitive" is lackluster in theaters now because its initial theatrical release last summer was so successful, grossing more than $180 million--indicating that nearly everyone who wanted to see it at the movies had already done so.

Warner Home Video executives declined to discuss their reason for moving up the release of "The Fugitive," but many in the home-video industry assume it was because, like their counterparts in the movie division who decided to put the film back in theaters, they saw an opportunity to make extra money off the Oscar nominations. With growing consensus that "Schindler's List" will win as best picture, "The Fugitive" (priced at $25) may be more appealing now, while it's still in the running, than on March 22, when it would be an also-ran.

"People have started talking so much about 'Schindler' as best picture that the Warner people probably decided it would be smart to change the release date," said John Thrasher, vice president of video purchasing for Tower Records and Video. "The buzz about 'The Fugitive' would be bigger before the Oscar show than after, when the buzz might be over. They figured that Tommy Lee Jones' supporting actor nomination was worth something right away in the rental market. So now they have two weekends of the movie in the rental market as an Oscar nominee. That would mean better sales for Warner."

Distributors speculate that for a March 22 release, Warner would have shipped about 4.7 million copies of the film. Coming out March 10, that figure may climb to 5 million or higher, they say. It will be the only major Oscar-nominated movie in the home video market for now.

Nonetheless, "The Fugitive" probably won't be the top home-video title this spring. Distributors and retailers believe that honor will go to "Mrs. Doubtfire,"the Robin Williams comedy due April 26 at $20.

"It's cheaper than 'Fugitive' and it's more of a family movie and has wider appeal," Thrasher said. "At the end of the year, I think 'Fugitive' shipments will be around 7 million copies and 'Mrs. Doubtfire' will be $8 million to $10 million."

Video Olympics

In case you haven't had enough of the Winter Olympics, CBS Video is releasing highlights tapes on April 6. For $20, there's an overall highlights tape and one focusing on the figure skating competition. There's also a two-cassette, $40 set, covering both the figure skating competition and exhibition. No, there's no separate tape on the Kerrigan-Harding scandal. All tapes will feature footage not show on TV.

New on Video

"Demolition Man" (Warner). In this sci-fi thriller, an L.A. cop (Sylvester Stallone) and a super-villain (Wesley Snipes) are frozen, then thaw out in 2032, when the world is tame and excessively automated. There's some amusing social satire as these two battle each other in a milquetoast environment, but it's mainly an orgy of mind-boggling mayhem that's a treat for dedicated action fans.

"The Good Son" (FoxVideo). A fast-paced thriller, set in Maine, that works most of the time, despite some glaring implausibilities. It relies on the shock value of a murderous villain (Macaulay Culkin) who's 12. The evil kid victimizes his cousin (Elijah Wood), who's grieving his dead mother. Playing against his goody-goody "Home Alone" image, Culkin doesn't have the acting range to be that convincing but Wood is very good.

"Much Ado About Nothing" (Columbia TriStar). Great cast--director-star Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington, Michael Keaton, Keanu Reeves--and lushly filmed, but only so-so entertainment. Branagh, rather than offering a bold new interpretation, brings Shakespeare down a notch or two so the average person can understand what's going on in this comedy about the romantic trials of Beatrice (Thompson) and Benedick (Branagh).

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