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HOME ENTERTAINMENT : A New Video Network for Independents

June 30, 1995|DENNIS HUNT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Renters who like foreign movies and small independent movies are often out of luck, particularly if they live in the suburbs or small towns. Many retailers, especially smaller ones, stock few of these movies--or none at all.

Many retailers would rather buy more copies of a hit Hollywood studio movie than risk dollars on a small movie that won't get much rental action. The independent movies, even the acclaimed ones, are generally underpublicized and don't get the theatrical exposure that Hollywood movies do. And no one has been stating their case to video retailers.

Enter Hallmark Home Entertainment. In business since January, the company has signed deals with two theatrical producers--the Samuel Goldwyn Co. and October Films--to fight the video distribution battles for the independent film producers.

Hallmark, a division of Hallmark Cards, has the finances to establish an extensive video distribution network. Just as important, though, is its well-established name.

"The Hallmark name translates well to retailers," said Hallmark senior vice president Glenn Ross. "They're more open to consider stocking an independent film that they might not have considered because it's attached to the Hallmark name--which means quality to people. The name does carry credibility that helps us sell some titles that are hard-sells."

This week, Hallmark has released two titles--the Chinese film "Eat Drink Man Woman" and David Mamet's "Oleanna," a drama about sexual harassment. With Hallmark involved, more retailers, particularly smaller ones, are likely to stock these movies--which is good news to renters.

The plan, added Hallmark executive vice president Steve Beeks, is to focus on movies that gross $20 million or less. "These are the ones that need special attention--that are tougher to sell to video retailers," he said. "These pictures don't have the major studio muscle behind them. That's why they need us." Hallmark, Beeks said, plans to release an average of four rental titles a month.

But that's just part of the plan. Hallmark is also getting into the sales market, with access to about 700 titles from the Goldwyn library. Mostly, Hallmark will repackage and repromote titles that have already been released--at a rate of about six per month, according to Beeks.

The blitz of sales-market titles, priced at $15, will begin in late September. The list includes two Laurence Olivier movies--"Hamlet" and "Henry V." Two Marlon Brando films, "Sayonara" and "Guys and Dolls," are due in early October.

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Special-Interest Videos: Prospective homeowners can pick up some valuable hints from an informative, well-organized, nearly half-hour program, hosted by a real estate agent, called "Welcome Home: A Consumer's Guide to Home Buying." The section explaining how to get a mortgage is particularly helpful. From American Home Productions at $30; (408) 622-9441.

Another fact-filled tape about the real estate market, the hourlong "For Sale by Owner," is geared to those who are looking to sell their homes but want to bypass expensive brokers. This do-it-yourself guide effectively covers all the key steps and is perfect for those who are starting from scratch. From Gordian Productions at $30; (800) 771-5874.

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What's New on Video: "The Last Seduction" (PolyGram). Linda Fiorentino is positively chilling as the ruthless Bridget, who rips off her drug-dealer husband (Bill Pullman), skips out of New York and hides in a small town where she continues her evil pursuits. The melodrama was directed by John Dahl, who did "Red Rock West." Brilliantly performed by Fiorentino, this cold-blooded character ranks with the most memorable femme fatales in film history.

"Cobb" (Warner). Baseball great Ty Cobb (Tommy Lee Jones) recounts his life with a biographer (Robert Wuhl) in the early '60s, when he was in his 70s and dying of cancer. What we see isn't very pretty--a rich and famous man who's a mean, obnoxious, drunken bully. Director Ron Shelton's portrait of Cobb is an uncompromising character study that has little to do with baseball. Many will find this box-office flop hard to sit through because the main character is so unsavory.

"Mixed Nuts" (Columbia TriStar). A farce about a bungling counselor (Steve Martin) and his staff at a chaotic suicide prevention hot-line center on Christmas Eve. Besides dealing with all the depressed people, the counselors are concerned about impending eviction from their headquarters. Co-starring Robert Klein and Rob Reiner, and directed and co-written by Nora Ephron.

"Ready to Wear" (Miramax). Juggling a string of subplots in his usual style, director Robert Altman skewers the fashion industry in this comedy/drama set in Paris. The all-star cast includes Julia Roberts, Tim Robbins and Kim Basinger.

B-Movies: Ernest, that kindly moron played by Jim Varney, is back in a direct-to-video tale, Touchstone's "Slam Dunk Ernest." This time he's in a basketball league, and with the help of magic sneakers, goes from bench-warming sub to high-jumping star.

Vidmark's "Leprechaun 3," starring Warwick Davis as the killer elf, is sleazy fun, if lots of gross-out murders suit your taste.

Cabin Fever's "Scarlett," the TV movie that continues the adventures of the Scarlett O'Hara character from "Gone With the Wind," is just out.

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