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‘Tomatoes”s sales slip in 3rd week

It made you laugh, it made you cry, but did it make you want to buy it?

The future remains cloudy for the sell-through success of pix like “Fried Green Tomatoes.” Even spiced with lots of hype and B.O. coattails, sales on the MCA/Universal title cooled by more than a third during pic’s third week on the chart.

“Tomatoes” fell from No. 1 to No. 3 on the Daily Variety/VideoScan sell-through chart, moving just over 60,000 units compared with almost 100,000 a week ago. While overall vid sales also simmered down this week from last, “Tomatoes” proved far more perishable, laying claim to the biggest dip of any vid tracked.

Reason: Small-fry shoppers don’t tug at mom and dad’s sleeve to buy sensitive adult films. And if a vid can’t coddle a toddler, it better help shed pounds.

About 2.7 million tapes were sold during the week reflected in the chart. The figure may be slimmer than the 2.9 million moved a week earlier, but it is healthier than the 2.5 mil sold two weeks ago and the 2.4 mil moved three weeks past.

With a few notable exceptions, sales were relatively flat for most vids on the chart. Unlike B.O. numbers, there was no uptick in sell-through for the Oscar nominations because virtually none of the pix tabbed in the marquee categories has been released on cassette even at a rental price.

The lone, albeit marginal, exception: Fox’s “My Cousin Vinny.” Expect the vid to soon go sell-through, but not because of Marisa Tomei’s best supporting actress nomination. It has been on the rental shelf for months and is due for a shift to sell-through.

Oscar is not likely to win any award this year for supporting the video sell-through biz. While an Oscar may help jingle the vidstore cash register, the impact is unpredictable. And a nomination itself is rarely a boost.

Even worse for sell-through is the fact that none of the major nominations this year went to family-oriented, collectible titles.

The most telling effect of the Oscar is usually on the rental side. The supplier of a winning pic can expect vid dealers to fatten orders by at least 10 %. But, of course, the vid push comes only after the last B.O. dollar has been squeezed. With rare exceptions, sell-through is an afterthought.

So far, three of the five films up for best picture — Col’s “A Few Good Men, ” Sony Classics’ “Howards End” and Universal’s “Scent of a Woman”– have been tapped for a summer release to the rental pipeline. Meanwhile, Fine Line’s “The Player” (best director) and Col’s “Mr. Saturday Night” (best supporting actor) are due to hit rental shelves next month.

Aside from a lack of Oscar juice, vid biz seems to be doing just fine. The mood among retailers is that the post-holiday slump is history and that sales are back on track.

Broken down by genre, 1.5 million of the vids moved last week were theatrical , 525,000 were kidvids, 255,000 were sweatcassettes and the remainder filled categories such as recycled TV shows and X-rated adult vids. The latter group remains the smallest category tracked, but year-to-date data reveals that adult vidmakers have moved a significant 124,000 units, with the vast majority priced between $ 15 and $ 19.99.

Two Muppet pix from Buena Vista made a splash when they bowed four weeks ago, but “The Muppet Movie” sales were trimmed from nearly 30,000 to just under 20, 000 and fell from No. 9 to No. 15, “The Great Muppet Caper” slumped from more than 20,000 units to around 15,000, sliding from No. 17 to No. 19.

Col/TriStar’s “My Girl” also got tripped up at the stores. After rocketing from No. 35 to No. 11 last week, sales sputtered from more than 25,000 to less than 15,000. In the process, the vid dropped to No. 21 this week.

On the “Barney” watch, the good dinosaur easily retained his grip on the top spot. “Barney’s Magical Musical Adventure” was the only vid in the top five to post a gain. Sales figures for the nine “Barney” tapes in the top 25 indicate five were up and four were down.

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