‘Snow’ vid polishes Disney year

The Walt Disney Co. will reach into the vaults for one of its last film evergreens to hit the homevideo shelves, by releasing “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” the second highest-grossing animated film of all time.

The vidcassette will sport a worldwide sell-through release pattern and be available only for a limited time, beginning in the fall.

The release will be backed by an extensive marketing and promotion campaign involving all of the company’s divisions, from theme parks to TV and retail merchandising.

“It’s a perfect time for this to come out,” said Ann Daly, Buena Vista Home Video prexy. “The market is bigger than it’s ever been and consumers have told us that it is among the films on the top of their list that they would like to see released on video.”

The announcement of the release was made by Roy Disney, vice chairman of the Walt Disney Co., at Tuesday’s annual stockholders meeting in Orlando.

The release of “Snow White,” coupled with the studio’s success with “Aladdin, ” which had sold more than 21 million units as of Dec. 17 (besting the 20 million tally racked up by “Beauty and the Beast”), should put the studio solidly in the homevideo industry driver’s seat.

The studio’s upcoming release of a pair of highly anticipated theatricals, the summertime “The Lion King” and Christmas-scheduled “The Goofy Movie,” will give the Disney banner an already high profile, which it will increase once the marketing missives for “Snow White” begin.

“The reason we’re comfortable and confident to go with ‘Snow White’ at this time,” said Jeffrey Katzenberg, Walt Disney Studios chairman, “is because the results have shown that this strategy, which we started 10 years ago, of treating the theatrical and video release as one, both getting a short, limited release period, has paid off. It also maintains the evergreen value of the Disney library.”

The studio is expected to keep the tape out for about the same length of time as it has “Aladdin,” which had a seven-month retail window. Although “Aladdin” will be withdrawn from retail on April 30, the title will be available to consumers while supplies last.

Other theatrical favorites “Pinocchio” and “101 Dalmatians” had successful vid releases, each backed by extensive rebate and consumer packaged goods tie-ins. “Pinocchio,” which is still on the market, will be withdrawn in tandem with “Aladdin.”

With vids averaging a wholesale price of about $ 12, the homevideo release of a Disney theatrical evergreen, which typically sells about 15 million units, gives the company a quick cash hit of $ 180 million. With these vids being recycled every five or so years, reaching each new generation of consumers, the studio potentially has an unending revenue stream from which to draw.

The company has stated it wants a 20% per year overall growth rate, in which the homevideo arm figures prominently.

“It’s unfair to say one piece of business causes us to achieve or not achieve the growth we’d like. We’re just too big,” Katzenberg said. “The video library is just one important ingredient.”

Although marketing plans were not announced, the studio is expected to use extensive rebates and packaged goods tie-ins.

The tape is expected to be sold in the “$ 20 range,” according to Daly.

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