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HOME ENTERTAINMENT : 'Flintstones' Video Hitting Stores in November


LAS VEGAS — What's up in home video for the rest of the year?

The best place to find out this week was the 13th annual gathering sponsored by the Video Software Dealers Assn., a four-day event at the Convention Center here that concluded Wednesday. The nation's video retailers perused exhibits mostly showing off tapes that video companies will be marketing for the next six months.

Some significant happenings:

* Of the announcements of new movie videos, the biggest was MCA/Universal revealing that "The Flintstones" is coming out Nov. 8 at $20. This is the third heavyweight on the fall schedule, which so far is highlighted by another MCA/Universal hit, "Jurassic Park," and Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." Other announced releases: FoxVideo's Western "Bad Girls," due Sept. 28, and Columbia TriStar's "Above the Rim," arriving Oct. 5.

Although no dates have been officially announced, sources at the convention indicated late November releases for "Maverick," "Getting Even With Dad," "City Slickers 2" and "When a Man Loves a Woman." The December schedule should include "I Love Trouble," "Wyatt Earp" and "Blown Away." Some distributors were saying that two big summer hits, "Speed" and "True Lies," should debut on home video at the end of the year.

* Judging from the strong push for interactive software, consumers should look for more of it to show up at their local video stores in the next year. Hordes of CD-ROM publishers and distributors were trying to persuade video retailers to stock their software.

These titles are now more attractive to video retailers. The difference is that the software is now more geared to the average consumer. Two years ago, most of it was education-oriented. But with such players as Paramount now in the game, there's been a surge of titles with high entertainment value--the kind video retailers are more likely to stock.

* The most impressive showcase of an upcoming title was Turner Home Entertainment's "Baseball," the video version of Ken Burns' 18 1/2-hour epic that's airing on PBS Sept. 18-28. In the middle of that broadcast period, on Sept. 23, Turner will market the entire series, on nine cassettes. The set sells for $180, but individual tapes will be available at $25 each. Turner executive vice president Stuart Snyder said he expects purchases of the entire set to dominate sales. The most popular single cassette, he predicted, will be the one focusing on the Negro Leagues.

It's very possible that a baseball strike will be raging in late September. Will that dampen interest in the series?

At a separate press conference, Burns said it might have a negative effect. Snyder, though, disagreed, arguing that baseball-starved fans would be even more eager for the programs.

* Throughout the convention, everyone was buzzing about the opening-night speech by Disney Studios chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg. He ripped MCA/Universal, which will be marketing four older titles at drastically cut-rate prices through McDonald's in November. Purchasing a sandwich will entitle the consumer to buy a video for $6.

Such marketing practices, Katzenberg charged, devalue videos in the eyes of the consumers. If they get used to spending $6 for a tape, they'll balk at spending the usual $10-$20. Most retailers, also wary of such competitors, strongly backed the Katzenberg attack.

Special Interest: One of the primary values of this convention is that it spotlights small companies selling non-theatrical videos. Among the more interesting tapes:

* "You Can Do Much More for Your Body," a 48-minute exercise tape for seniors, assembled by and featuring Ed Perazone, a 64-year-old former engineer. At the convention, he said this program is a alternative to the heavily hyped celebrity tapes that, he charged, "have more entertainment value than exercise value." He added: "It's a low-key program that's OK for older people who don't start out in great shape." From Wellspring Media, at $20, (914) 693-2366.

* Another specialty exercise tape, "Big on Fitness." This one is for overweight people, with a workout led by five overweight women. Since many who might use this program would probably be in poor physical shape, it's loaded with valuable cautions. From Superior Promotions Inc. at $15, (800) 441-9501.

* If you want to learn Spanish and money is no object, then you might consider the "Spanish Video Tutor Program" from HABLA!, a package that includes eight video tapes and 15 audiotapes. The price, though, is $395, (800) 422-5299.

What's New On Video

"What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" (Paramount); what's eating Grape (Johnny Depp) is being stuck in a small Iowa town working as a grocery clerk, coping with a quirky family that includes a 500-pound mother (Darlene Cates) and a retarded brother (Leonardo DiCaprio). Romance, with a perky woman played by Juliette Lewis, further complicates his life. A warmhearted, ultra low-key, fairly enjoyable comedy/drama. DiCaprio's Oscar-nominated performance is remarkable but Cates is even better.

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