DVD sequels firm at Fox

'Turn,' 'Bachelor' follow-ups going straight-to-disc

The homevid unit at 20th Century Fox is tripling its 2006 straight-to-DVD output with “Dr. Dolittle 3,” “Like Mike 2” and “Behind Enemy Lines 2.”

Fox, which sold 1.5 million units of last year’s “Sandlot 2” straight-to-disc, is readying a “Sandlot 3” DVD and sequels to teen horror pic “Wrong Turn” and vintage Tom Hanks sex comedy “Bachelor Party.” The three should bow this year or next.

Production budgets for the films average about $4 million.

The third installment in the “Dr. Dolittle” talking animal franchise arrives April 24 with a few of the original cast members and Norm MacDonald as a returning voice. “Like Mike 2” bows in June with an entirely new cast for the sequel, as does “Behind Enemy Lines 2,” which goes out on DVD in June or July frame.

Since starting its straight-to-DVD division two years ago, Fox is starting to solidify its strategies for the genre. Led by chief operating officer Steve Bersch and VP of production Tom Siegrist, unit is gunning to deliver four to six live-action sequels in categories particularly strong on DVD, including broad comedy and horror.

Buena Vista Home Entertainment has broken off a large piece of the market with its animated sequels. Four of the top five straight-to-DVD pics in 2005 were in the Disney stable, including “Mulan II,” “Tarzan II” and “Lilo and Stich 2,” according to research by Daily Variety sister publication Video Business.

Some consumers may need memories jogged for Fox’s upcoming sequels. The first “Bachelor Party,” headlined by Hanks before he was a star, bowed theatrically more than 20 years ago.

Fox’s Bersch counters that “Sandlot” was “12 years old and we did a sequel,” before admitting that “very rarely will you see a movie launch specifically for video that doesn’t have any brand equity attached.”

“Wrong Turn” was deemed sequel-ready because its DVD sales decidedly trounced its $15.4 million U.S. box office gross, according to Fox estimates. “Sandlot 2” sales paved the way for a third installment.

Fox marketing plans are still being finalized. But the studio expects to trot out film participants for promotional appearances, including basketball greats Clyde Drexler and Michael Cooper for “Like Mike 2.” That echoes its “Sandlot 2” strategy of using baseball legend Steve Garvey, who makes a cameo in the film, to drum up buzz for the DVD.

“I think our philosophy is that it’s hard to get shelf space,” Bersch said. “So you have to come up with very strong properties that have a strong theatrical life and strong afterlife.”

Fox is also expected to push for another straight-to-disc “Family Guy” title. “Family Guy Presents Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story,” crowned the No. 1 2005 DVD premiere with $78.2 million in revenue, hails from creator Seth McFarlane and outside of Fox’s straight-to-DVD unit supervision.

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