RETAILERS SET TO BASK IN SUMMER RENTALS' GLOW

Retailers are looking forward to a sizzling summer for video rentals. Led by major national promotions involving three dominant studios and many top titles, chains expect to have brisk sales through August. They plan to bring in extra copies of these titles to meet demand, particularly the ones offered through shared transaction fee distributor Supercomm, Dallas. "I'm expecting the best summer in

Retailers are looking forward to a sizzling summer for video rentals. Led by major national promotions involving three dominant studios and many top titles, chains expect to have brisk sales through August. They plan to bring in extra copies of these titles to meet demand, particularly the ones offered through shared transaction fee distributor Supercomm, Dallas. "I'm expecting the best summer in the last couple of years," said a video executive with a southwestern chain who asked not to be identified. "The summer looks good," said Matt Dillon, video director at Boogaart Retail Div., Fleming Cos., Concordia, Kan. There are two big promos involving a total of 27 movies. "Hollywood H.I.T.S." -- for "Hot In The Summer" -- will be used by Buena Vista Home Video, Burbank, Calif., to boost rentals of 17 titles. These include "Father of the Bride II," "Mr. Holland's Opus" and "Il Postino/The Postman." With $15 million in marketing spending, the first titles in the program will street on June 11. Ten movies from MGM/UA Home Entertainment, Santa Monica, Calif., and Warner Home Video, Burbank, Calif., are being supported by the "Power Players 2" marketing campaign. Among the key titles are "Goldeneye," "Get Shorty," "Heat" and "Leaving Las Vegas." Support for the titles, which began streeting in late May, include a multimillion post-street date advertising campaign and a cross-promotion with Act II microwave popcorn. "This is exactly what we need for rental. I am glad to see them doing something different instead of just putting it out there," said Tom Hembree, vice president of operations at K-VA-T Food Stores, Grundy, Va. "Any time the studios run a continuity program, they experience a lift in sales," said Bill Bryant, assistant vice president, major accounts and special markets, Ingram Entertainment, La Vergne, Tenn. " Both of these studios have pretty attractive programs and product this year." Retailer reaction has been very favorable, Bryant said. "We expect to see a lift in sales at the retail level. We expect those to be great rental months and retailers will experience some pretty significant increases in sales for their rental departments," he said. "Any time you have very strong support from the studio, it is only going to enhance what the product does," said Jeff Olson, video specialist at The Copps Corp., Stevens Point, Wis. "So if it is a strong and well-thought-out advertising scheme, which this appears to be, I think it only makes sense." The titles from the Disney labels offered by Buena Vista will be available to supermarkets through Supercomm, which is a Disney subsidiary, or through traditional video distributors. Some chains will offer promotions where they guarantee availability on select Supercomm titles. If the movie is not in, the customer gets a free rental. "We'll be supporting the titles from Supercomm very strongly," said Clifford Feiock, video coordinator at Nash Finch Co., Minneapolis. "We have no reason not to. The investment is very low and we'll have multiple copies of those titles available, which should improve the rentability. We are going to push them hard in our stores," he said. Supercomm is preparing special point-of-purchase materials to support the "Hollywood H.I.T.S." program, said Des Walsh, vice president and general manager. For example, special signage is being designed with an eye toward the more limited space available in supermarkets, he said. There will also be a contest for store-level personnel based on maximizing revenue and turns per copy. "We see this as a forerunner of future programs where we will be able to piggyback on major national programs developed by Buena Vista and customize them for our supermarket accounts," said Walsh. '

Of the titles available, retailers agreed that "Goldeneye," "Grumpier Old Men," "Father of the Bride II," "Get Shorty" and "Mr. Holland's Opus" would perform best. Some were less excited by the so-called "art house" titles like "Il Postino/The Postman," "Les Miserables."