‘Casper’ vid gets spirited promotion

Betting that an already successful franchise can translate into bigger bucks, the vid arm of 20th Century Fox will back “Casper: A Spirited Beginning,” its first direct-to-video product, with a promotional campaign worthy of a major theatrical release.

With several promotional partners kicking in tie-ins, hefty advertising schedules, coupons and millions of free-standing inserts, Fox estimates that 90% of its target audience will be hit with the ad assault an average of 10 times before the vid hits store shelves on Sept. 9. It will list for $19.98.

The vid will also get a boost from the first-ever soundtrack for a made-for-video release, with the recently bowed Capitol Entertainment Properties releasing the disc of tunes by K.C. & the Sunshine Band and Kool & the Gang, among others.

The $10 million made-for-video pic answers the philosophical question that has no doubt for years troubled fans of the tiny apparition: How did Casper become the friendly ghost? The vid also boasts Fatso, Stinkie and Stretch, the trio first seen in the 1995 Universal Pictures theatrical release “Casper.”

Ironically, Universal held the theatrical rights as granted by Harvey Entertainment, but not any direct-to- video rights. Harvey execs were free to market the vid rights elsewhere and landed a pact with Fox and Saban. Even though Universal earned north of $325 million on the video release of “Casper,” it expressed little interest in obtaining the direct-to-video rights.

Steve Guttenberg, Lori Loughlin, Michael McKean and Rodney Dangerfield star in the new vidpic, which also features the voices of Pauly Shore and James Earl Jones.

“The strength of the Casper franchise, the great story line and the high production values of this movie plus the overwhelming consumer interest in owning it make this a perfect entree for Fox into the made-for market,” said Jeff Yapp, newly installed worldwide prexy of the vid arm. Yapp said consumers’ intent to purchase registered higher than “Mrs. Doubtfire.”

The studio has inked Boston Markets for the food chain’s first-ever entertainment industry tie-in to provide discounts on meals, advertising support and in-store promotion of the vid.

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