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‘Piano’ vid bow gets $ 1 mil boost from Live

Live Home Video will release the critically acclaimed film “The Piano,” supporting the title with a $ 1 million promotion and marketing campaign. The release will also mark the first test of the new management regime of the beleaguered company.

Calling it the most aggressive marketing campaign to date, Live will release the Golden Globe and Writers Guild Award-winning film on May 25, backed by a multitiered game plan to spur consumer interest and take advantage of the film’s continuing theatrical run and its eight Academy Award nominations.

Aggressively marketed

Jeffrey Fink, VP of sales and distribution of LHV, stressed the company will aggressively market the title in an effort to “not experience another ‘Crying Game’ here,” referring to the film that Fink said retailers were reluctant to add to their inventory because it was perceived as an “art film,” a label that he believed scared off retailers from purchasing sufficient quantities of the vidcassette.

“Even though it was a major success in video, with a lot of units sold, our research has shown retailers underbought because they didn’t think it would do well in the marketplace.”

Live said it will distribute 10,000 screener copies of “The Piano” to retailers and distributors, supporting it with heavy advertising buys in trade publications. Caps and rugby shirts will also be distributed to multiple video purchasers.

High profile

With “The Piano” close to $ 40 million in box office, and its expected multiple award wins during next Monday’s Academy Awards ceremonies, Fink said the film’s high profile should help overcome any resistance from retailers.

“We want to make sure that as many retailers and distributors as possible see (‘The Piano’),” Fink said, explaining the unusually large number of screener cassettes used to promote the homevideo. “Because I think it plays extremely well, (retailers) seeing the movie will get it over the so-called ‘arthouse’ stigma attached to it.”

Fink believed “The Crying Game” should have sold, based on its $ 60 million box office gross, just south of 400,000 units instead of the actual 205,000 copies. Live expects “The Piano” to move “above average” units, according to Fink, who said the film’s box office should indicate sales between 250,000 and 300,000 units.

Reviving Live

Fink said the new management team also hopes to create marketing campaigns and release product worthy of retail support in an effort to reestablish Live within the business community.

“The new team that was brought on here (shares) a commitment to the video business — both rental and sell-through,” said Jeffrey Fink, Live’s veep of sales and distribution.

“We believe the video business is a very viable and an ongoing vital business and we intend to make sure that its successful, not only for us but for our retailers and distributors of our product.”

Big plans

Live Entertainment president and CEO, Roger Burlage, who joined the company in January replacing David Mount, who joined music and video distrib WEA, said the company hopes to release around 30 titles to homevideo in 1994, upping that number to 35 by next year.

Among the changes Burlage hopes to advance is Live’s recently opened theatrical division arm, which will provide the company with an additional product pipeline, an area Burlage knows well from his experience at indies New World and Trimark, the latter his previous post.

Bottom line

While declining to quote budgets or rule out possibilities, Burlage said the cost of the films will be examined by “their ability to make money.”

While he said producing a $ 30 million film would “not be ruled out,” sources said it is more likely the films will sport $ 3 million to $ 8 million budgets.

Suggestion box

Fink said Live will ask retailers for suggestions on casting for its direct-to-video and theatrical releases, to help ensure success in the marketplace.

“We’re not looking just to have lists (of retailers),” Fink said.

“We really want their input in terms of what works in the marketplace.”

Live will also include in its second-quarter release slate a homevideo of the laserdisc version of “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” that includes an extra 75 minutes of film and 15 minutes of never-before seen footage.

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