Fox hits home with ‘Menace’

Worldwide homevid bow commences April 3

“Star Wars” geeks are dusting off their light-sabers and printing up the invites for screening parties. Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment and Lucasfilm said Wednesday that “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace” will bow on homevid worldwide beginning April 3.

Fox and Lucasfilm plan to release the George Lucas-helmed pic globally within a week (April 3-8), the tightest worldwide release ever for a homevid, the companies said. The pic hits U.K.’s shores on April 3; North America on April 4. Japan and Brazil round out the week with release on April 8.

DreamWorks’ “Prince of Egypt” previously set the tightest worldwide release last September, but even that release pattern extended over a two-month period.

North American consumers will be able to reserve their copies of the vid, priced at $24.98, beginning Jan. 28.

Collection box

While Fox and Lucasfilm plan to release a widescreen collector’s edition VHS of the pic (to be priced at $39.98 and include a docu, 35mm film strip and collector’s book), neither company disclosed plans for a DVD. In fact, the companies said in a statement, “The film is being released on VHS only, and is not being released on the DVD format in 2000 or for the foreseeable future.”

Sources said Lucas’ delay in releasing “Phantom Menace” on DVD is based on creative considerations and timing and hinted that a DVD may not hit the market until the next two “Star Wars” episodes are released theatrically. Lucas is in pre-production on “Star Wars: Episode II,” skedded to begin lensing in Australia this summer.

“Until George has time to concentrate on the DVD, we won’t be releasing one,” a Lucasfilm spokesman said.

DVD future

One sign that a DVD release, however, is in the works materialized this week when Lucasfilm chose Technicolor Videocassette Services over Deluxe Video Services to dub the VHS copies of “Phantom Menace.”

Technicolor also publishes DVD titles. Deluxe does not.

The decision by Lucasfilm to consolidate its vid production lines could amount to a potential loss of up to $30 million in sales for Deluxe should “Phantom Menace” sell 20 million copies.

Fox, however, continues to use Deluxe to produce its other pics on videotape featuring the Fox logo. Deluxe is also continuing to produce tapes for Universal Studios Home Video, Columbia TriStar Home Video and Paramount Home Video.

Rich with detail

“A film such as this is rich with detail, and watching it at home provides the opportunity to discover new and different things every time you watch it,” Gordon Radley, prexy of Lucasfilm, said in a statement.

Fox plans to push the vid’s release with a multimillion dollar ad campaign that includes $20 million earmarked for television spots alone. Pepsi, Frito Lay, Hasbro and Lego are also expected to play a role in the effort.

“We’re excited to join Lucasfilm in releasing on video the biggest film of the year and, obviously, the most anticipated title for sell-through,” Fox Filmed Entertainment chairman and CEO Bill Mechanic said. “We look forward to bringing this landmark picture to the millions of ‘Star Wars’ fans around the world.”

“Phantom Menace” ended 1999 as the highest-grossing pic of the year, raking in $430 million at the domestic B.O.

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