WB pushes ‘Willy 2’ vid

Warner Bros. Home Video jumps into what is shaping up to be a crowded fourth quarter for popular vidcassette titles, setting the release of “Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home” for Nov. 14.

According to industry sources, the title will list for $22.98 and be backed with an aggressive marketing effort that includes tieins with Bumble Bee Seafood and Act III popcorn.

Industry research indicates that consumer intent to purchase the vid is higher than it was for the homevideo bow of the first “Free Willy,” which has since sold more than 9 million units at sell-through.

Along with TV and cable ads, a trailer for the orca sequel will appear on the “Batman Forever” vidcassette.

Warner Home Video will back “Free Willy 2” with a $5 rebate program available on six WHV titles: “A Troll in Central Park,” “Born to be Wild,” “Free Willy,” “Little Giants,” “Richie Rich” and “A Little Princess.”

Warner also is expected to back the vidbow of “A Little Princess” on Sept. 19 with a major marketing and promotional campaign.

Sources said the studio will increase its efforts on the “Princess” vid release in an attempt to correct the marketing fawx pas made by the theatrical division during the film’s release.

Unlike last year, the fourth quarter will be devoid of any blockbuster vids, such as Disney’s “Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs” and MCA’s “Jurassic Park.”

Instead, an aggressive slate of midline titles, with each expected to move between 5 million and 8 million units, will vie for consumer attention.

The competition is expected to be fierce among such previously announced titles as Disney’s “Cinderella” and “The Santa Clause,” MCA’s “Casper” and FoxVideo’s “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie.”

But with its wide appeal, retailers also are hoping for MCA’s “Babe” to be out there competing for shelf space.

The releases of “Batman Forever” and “The James Bond Collection” are likely to score the biggest awareness among consumers. MGM/UA Home Entertainment and Warner Home Video have joined forces for the upcoming promotional campaign to herald the arrival of the homevideos.

MGM, while promoting its $5 million campaign for the repackaged “James Bond” pics, will cross-promote Warner’s “Batman Forever” vidcassette onto its TV spots.

MGM’s video division will promote its Bond catalog alongside the studio’s $20 million campaign for the “Goldeneye” theatrical release, which marks the return of 007 to the big screen.

Homevid industry observers expect the 007 series and “Batman Forever” to sell about 10 million units each. More than 8.5 million units of the Bond series have been sold since it was first introduced in the early 1980s, while the first two “Batman” pics have sold more than 18 million units combined.

WHV, MGM and Fuji Film will contribute a combined $10 million in advertising while vidgame maker Acclaim will spend $2 million in its promotion of a $10 rebate tied to the purchase of the “Batman Forever” vid.

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