There was little movement on the Daily Variety/VideoScan Top-25 sell-through chart last week, but that may be the calm before the storm as key titles from Disney are about to be dropped and Orion’s “Dances With Wolves” is set to tango in at $ 14.95.

Working under the assumption that absence makes a product more popular, Disney formally announced the withdrawal of four hot sellers from the market. ” 101 Dalmatians” will go back to the kennel March 31 and “Beauty and the Beast” will be caged on April 2. Also, “The Great Mouse Detective,””The Rescuers” and “The Rescuers Down Under” will all punch out on April 30.

As word spread of their impending departure, four of the five vids posted sizable gains during an otherwise flat week. Only “The Rescuers Down Under,” which climbed to No. 20 last week, saw sales head south and sold less than 10, 000 units, compared to 15,000 a week earlier. In the process it dipped to No. 32 .

In all, about 2.8 million vids moved during the week, about 100,000 more than were sold during the previous week. Year-to-date, about 22.4 million cassettes have sold. Of those, more than 12.4 million were theatrical pics, 4.4 million kidvids and 2.3 million sweat cassettes.

Combined with figures supplied by hardware makers, the numbers suggest that the video industry is resisting its oft-predicted “flattening out” phases. Prerecorded vidtape sales overall are up by about 20% over this time last year, while the Electronic Industries Assn. reports that 12.3 million VCR’s were sold in 1992, a 15% gain over the 10.7 million in 1991. EIA also says sales of TV/VCR combo units were up from 662,000 to 935,000.

The practice of pulling films out of release — something Disney does frequently with its franchise family films — is designed to ensure that the pix generate B.O. appeal a few years down the road and then ultimately rekindle the vid success. Even so, traditional tracking methods linked to the number of vids shipped to dealers make it difficult to gauge whether the demand is generated by consumers or by retailers stockpiling the cassettes.

Because the Daily Variety/VideoScan chart is based on point-of-purchase data that tracks only those vids sold to consumers, the sales gain posted by the Disney foursome suggests that consumers are getting the message.

Stores, of course, are free to keep selling their existing stock of the titles after the cut-off dates. Naturally, the new Disney sell-through campaign will center on the theme “get ‘em while you can.”

Another question mark swirling around the vid biz is the March 24 release of “Dances With Wolves.” Orion is already sending smoke signals that a big marketing push will support the title. Still, some dealers say they were peeved by the studio’s decision to give McDonald’s an early exclusive on the vid. A number of retailers noted that anyone who wanted to buy the vid probably already ordered it along with a burger and fries.

Also announced last week was Musicland Group’s decision to sever its remaining ties to the video rental biz and focus solely on sell-through. The move says more about store location than the health of the rental business: Almost 90% of the company’s stores are in malls not the most convenient place for renters to return tapes.

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