Turner Home Entertainment will back its March 16 homevid rollout of the Civil War epic “Gettysburg” with its largest marketing campaign ever, bypassing pay-per-view and offering a 100-day retail exclusive on the title.

The film, which cost Turner $ 20 million to make, marked the company’s first foray into live-action features for theatrical release and has grossed $ 12 million in domestic box office.

The homevid release will be letter-boxed to take in the panoramic scale of the theatrical release.

Separately, officials claimed Tuesday that the company experienced its best year in 1993, but did not reveal figures.

Turner Home Entertainment has added nine staffers since a management change last year, increasing its payroll to 24 employees, including a jump in sales staff from three to eight employees.

Big marketing guns

Stuart Snyder, senior VP and general manager of Turner Home Entertainment, said the company plans an initial shipment in excess of 100,000 units by the March 1 pre-order deadline and will back its release with $ 2.5 million in marketing support, the largest outlay in the company’s five-year history.

Elements of the marketing campaign include a North vs. South distributor sales contest, a retail point of purchase offering, an exclusive “The Making of Gettysburg” video for in-store play, and an on-air advertising campaign before and after street date.

The film stars Tom Berenger, Jeff Daniels, Martin Sheen and Sam Elliott. “Gettysburg” is written and directed by Ronald Maxwell and is adapted from Michael Shaara’s book “The Killer Angels.”

The film is produced by Moctesuma Esparza and Robert Katz and is a Mace Neufeld-Bob Rehme presentation. There is no suggested list price for the rental title, but a laser edition that will be released simultaneously with the video will carry a suggested list of around $ 39.

A joint venture with an undisclosed company for a CD-ROM edition is being explored, company officials said.

In addition, Turner Publishing has a 128-page companion book to the motion picture, an illustrated history of the battle of Gettysburg titled “Gettysburg: The Paintings of Mort Kunstler,” with text by historian James M. McPherson.

Turner officials also announced that all of its forthcoming titles, including “Gettysburg,” will have a 60-day, no-questions-asked return policy for defectives.

Promotion in schools

The Turner camp has already been aggressively promoting the title across the country at schools and distributors, getting actors from the film to make appearances for Turner-sponsored Living History days that explain the role of a volunteer in the Union and Confederate armies.

After the 100-day retail window, the film will air on TNT as a miniseries. The company also plans collector’s editions, gift sets and general release of the “Making Of” video approximately six months after initial street date.

Turner Home Entertainment plans to announce its rollout of new Flintstones titles and a revived Hanna-Barbera series within 45 days, Turner officials said. Additionally, “Geronimo: An American Legend,” which aired on TNT Dec. 5, will be rush-released to video Feb. 23.

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