Religious-themed videos, especially those aimed at children's audiences, continue to make a comeback this year, led by the high-profile home-video release last week of "The Prince of Egypt" from DreamWorks Home Entertainment, Glendale, Calif.
"'The Prince of Egypt' is a big hit," said Bob Tollini, senior vice president of marketing at Major Video Concepts, Indianapolis. "It's repeatable and Disney-esque. In fact, the customer response is equivalent to that for a Disney classic."
"'The Prince of Egypt' is a home run," said Kirk Kirkpatrick, vice president of marketing at WaxWorks/VideoWorks, Owensboro, Ky. "It's an excellent concept that touches many different demographics, so it will be an evergreen title. Sales will be great for Christmas, and there will be a good opportunity for an Easter re-promotion."
Christmas and Easter together furnish the bulk of marketing opportunities for religious product, which traditionally offers a refuge for retailers wanting to avoid the controversy of R-rated movies, extreme-reality video and graphically violent video games.
"We did well with a promotion of religious and other Easter-themed family product," said Brenda Vanover, director of video operations at K-VA-T Food Stores, Grundy, Va. "Our Easter promotions weren't chain wide," said Clifford Feiock, video coordinator at Nash Finch Co., Minneapolis, "since our stores have free rein to carry appropriate product on their own."
"There was an influx of religious product for Easter that did very well," said Bill Bryant, vice president of sales, grocery and drug at Ingram Entertainment, La Vergne, Tenn. "Where religious video is merchandised properly, it does extremely well, and Easter is always a good video window for it."
The one religious-themed title most stocked by supermarkets seems to be "Veggie Tales," from The Lyons Group, Dallas. "This series is very wholesome with a capital W," said Kirkpatrick. "Its appeal is that it has the undertones that are the basis of any religion."
"'Veggie Tales' rents very well for us," said Ryndie Liess, video manager at Country Mart, Hollister, Mo. "We get good rentals and sales from them," said Jamie Molitor, director of video operations at Dierbergs Markets, Chesterfield, Mo. "We brought in the first couple of titles," said Feiock, "and we're still getting requests, so there is a demand for more in the market."
Other product is available from Columbia TriStar Home Video, Burbank, Calif. "We've had good national reception for our line of 'Shari Lewis One-Minute Bible Stories,"' said spokesman Jeff Kaplan.
In addition, two volumes of the "Beginner's Bible" series were recently released in Spanish by Sony Wonder, the children's and family division of Sony Music and Epic Records, New York City. "Hispanic product is a growing category for us," said John Phillips, vice president of marketing. "It has a great business potential."
Also in time for the holiday season will be the Nov. 2 reissue of "The Greatest Story Ever Told," in both pan-and-scan and wide screen versions, from MGM Home Entertainment, Culver City, Calif.
"In this category, I'd commend Turner for their revitalization of basic stories like those of Joseph, David, and Abraham," said Kirkpatrick.
Other retailers have been able to capitalize on special events. "We brought in the video of the pope's appearance in St. Louis," said Molitor. "It was filmed here, so it did exceptionally well as a special-interest tape."
The category benefits retailers in other respects as well. "One nice advantage of religious videos is that even though they don't do well as a general rule, they're more image makers than moneymakers," said Greg Rediske, president of Video Management Company, Tacoma, Wash. "They help give the retailer a good image as someone involved with the community."
Another bonus for retailers is shrink control. "Religious tapes have very few theft problems," said an industry analyst. "It makes sense that they're naturally impervious to it."