Fox Vid mints new o’seas tag

Say goodbye to the Fox Video brand name overseas and hello to 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

The new moniker, following a similar rechristening by Fox’s domestic video company a couple of months ago, denotes a “significant switch in strategy,” according to FHE Intl. prexy Jeff Yapp.

Yapp says the division is broadening its distribution capacity to handle all kinds of entertainment product, including videogames and interactive titles. FHE Intl. will release 10 to 12 games and new media titles globally starting next spring. The product will come from Fox’s new interactive unit, including games spun off from major film franchises, and from its joint venture with Magnet, a producer of electronic games.

The name change is effective immediately, virtually everywhere, said Yapp in L.A. before heading to Queensland to address the Australian Video Retailers’ annual conference.

The product will go out on CD-ROM and on the Sony Play-Station and Sega Saturn platforms. He identifies the most fertile territories as the U.K., France, Germany, Japan and Australia.

World visions

Yapp envisions day-and-date releases worldwide, even closer than for video product, to focus the company’s energies in areas such as publicity.

“We’re extending our franchise,” he says. “There is an opportunity (for new media formats); no one knows how big the opportunity will be.”

In the traditional video area, FHE Intl. has had big successes with “Mrs. Doubtfire” (selling 4.2 million copies) and “Speed” (2.2 million). Another winner are movielength versions of the hit series “The X-Files,” which Yapp predicts will gross $20 million to $25 million next year in Japan alone.

He anticipates a huge fall season for his banner, with the “Star Wars” and “The Sound of Music” reissues, plus “Miracle on 34th Street,” “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie” and “Nine Months.”

His theatrical counterparts have firmed deals to distribute “Speed” and “Baby’s Day Out” in China, probably in the fall, via the new revenue-sharing arrangement with China Film Import Export. Yapp aims to release both titles there on video soon afterward, and is talking to potential distribs.

Yapp is convinced that new delivery systems such as near video-on-demand won’t threaten the vid business’s viability. He cites projections that near VOD in the U.S. may eventually achieve a penetration rate of between 4% and 10%, comparing that with the VCRs in 70% or more of households.

As for the knotty question of the two competing DVD formats, Fox remains neutral. “We believe it would be advantageous if a single format were adopted,” Yapp said.

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