'Die Hard 2' Sets Home-video Mark

Posted: February 21, 1991

Under the heading of records that were made to be broken, consider Dick Tracy's brief day in the sun as the rental market's top-selling video of all time.

Even as Walt Disney's Touchstone Home Video division last month was toting up the 476,000 copies bought by video stores (eclipsing previous record holder Three Men and a Baby at 465,000), another champ was in the wings, Die Hard 2: Die Harder from CBS/Fox Video.

The Bruce Willis action spectacle, priced at $92.98 suggested retail, handily achieved a new plateau, selling 509,000 copies to video stores for rental. It's the first so-called rental title (distinct from under-$30 movies meant for consumer purchase) to break the half-million unit barrier in the history of home video.

Its predecessor, Die Hard, has been available for some time at $19.98.

Back in October, when CBS/Fox announced the Jan. 31 release date of Die Hard 2 on video, the company also said that on that day both movies would be

put on moratorium for up to one year - in other words, they would be "out of print."

The moratorium strategy seems to have had the desired effect on dealers. Eventually both Die Hards can be expected to resurface, perhaps in a low-price twin-pack promotion, but until then retailers obviously have decided to stock up for high rental demand.

But will Die Hard 2 hold the top spot for long? Next month could very well prove it doesn't have a Ghost of a chance.


Although the novelty of video wore off long ago, the VCR is still attracting a trickle of new buyers. The Electronic Industries Association estimated last month that at year's end, 72 percent of all households, or about 67 million homes, had a VCR.

That's up from 1989's VCR "penetration" of 68 percent, or about 63 million homes.

Other notable increases, according to the association, were registered by camcorders, now in 13 percent of homes, compared with 10 percent in 1989, and compact disc players, in 25 percent of homes, up from 19 percent.

Those entertainment devices, however, showed slower growth than a couple of more practical electronic items. Telephone answering devices climbed to 39 percent penetration (up from 31 percent) and cordless phones went from 25 percent to 34 percent.

Very young video watchers will be happy to learn that the cute Ewok and Droid characters from the George Lucas Star Wars saga live on in their own series of cartoon adventures called the Star Wars Trilogy Animated Collection.

The shows were produced by LucasFilm and were seen on television in 1985 and 1986. Since then a whole new audience of preschoolers has been born, and they probably won't care that there is no sign of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia or Han Solo.

The initial release, due on March 19 from J2 Communications, consists of four cassettes of two half-hour episodes each and retails for $14.95. J2 says more episodes will follow if sales warrant.

HBO's Guide to Movies on Videocassette and Cable TV, from HarperCollins ($14.95), is now in its second edition. Like many other film guides, it contains capsule descriptions of more than 7,000 movies, along with cast members, directors and running times.

Unlike other film guides, however, its star recommendations are based on a curious viewer "satisfaction" system. According to the book's introduction, HBO researchers "polled randomly selected viewers to record their impressions" after the films were shown on HBO or a sister network. The results are reflected in a rating of no stars (not recommended) to five stars (excellent). For films not shown, HBO "relied on a panel of evaluators who are expert at estimating viewer tastes."

Amusingly, those judgments are often at odds with the editorial staff's summaries. For instance, the capsule for Fellini's 8 1/2 calls it "a masterpiece for sophisticated tastes" and mentions its Oscar in 1963 for best foreign film. But the viewers say "not recommended," no stars.

As you might expect, foreign films are routinely detested (no stars for Jacques Tati's Mon Oncle, Jean Renoir's Rules of the Game, or Juzo Itami's A Taxing Woman), but even Oscar-winning Hollywood productions can be found lacking. Midnight Cowboy gets a grudging two stars for "fair." Nashville, nominated for five Oscars, including best picture, is rated "poor."

So, looking for something good on HBO tonight? How about Naked Vengeance with Deborah Tranelli and Kaz Garas? It sounds trashy, but it has four stars.

Q & A

I had all my family movies put on videotape. It cost more than $200 and was successful. But lately when I run it, half the screen is covered with moving horizontal black lines. Tracking doesn't help. What can I do?

It sounds as if the tape has become wrinkled. If so, there's not much you can do. Perhaps the company that performed the transfer retained a master tape and will make you another copy. You might ask for several or even make extra copies yourself. The lesson here is always to have several copies of any irreplaceable video.

Do you have a question you'd like answered? Send your queries to Andy Wickstrom, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia 19101.

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