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From ‘Twister’ to ‘Cyclone?’ Home Videos Exploit Box-Office Movie Hits

July 11, 1996

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Thousands of movie theaters are overflowing with scenes of flying cows in ``Twister″ and rampaging aliens in ``Independence Day.″

Now, an equal number of living rooms may be filled with similar sights _ thanks to a glut of video knock-offs piggybacking on this summer’s biggest box-office hits.

In fact, cloning successful films is such good business that video companies are even looking ahead to the 1997 movie slate and beyond _ in anticipation of expected hits such as the ``Jurassic Park″ sequel and two expensive movies about volcanos.

The clones range from high-quality documentaries to low-budget B-movies.

``We’re trying to tie-in our releases with theatrical blockbusters,″ said Evan Fisher, director of retail sales and marketing at National Geographic Television.

National Geographic released the tornado documentary ``Cyclone″ and the natural disaster highlight reel ``Nature’s Fury″ shortly after ``Twister″ debuted in theaters in May. According to Fisher, both sold up to 50,000 copies _ making them among the label’s better-selling titles.

``They’ve been a phenomenal success to us with the success of `Twister,‴ Fisher said. The company’s philosophy with such videos: ``You’ve seen the movie. Now see the real thing,″ Fisher said.

He was among thousands of video exhibitors displaying their wares at the 15th annual Video Software Dealers Association Convention in Los Angeles. The convention, the single-largest annual sales event in the video business, ends Saturday.

Goldhil Home Media International is one company which is already planning on releasing a volcano video to coincide with the upcoming lava movies ``Volcano″ and ``Dante’s Peak.″

``I don’t know if (volcanos) will be as popular as tornadoes,″ President Gary Goldman said.

Goldman said their video ``Twisters: Nature’s Fury,″ which was released in late April, is already approaching a sales record of 200,000 copies.

``It definitely benefited from the film,″ Goldman said. ``The story line is consistent with the movie. We have actual storm chasers in our video.″

But ``Twister″ and next year’s volcano films aren’t the only blockbusters spawning video spinoffs.

Tim Crawford, president of UFO Central Home Video, said ``Independence Day″ has sparked considerable interest in space-invader titles. The catalog includes the videos ``Flying Saucers Are Real,″ ``Are We Alone in the Universe?″ and ``Alien Autopsy.″

``Because of the movie `Independence Day,′ everyone’s become interested in the Roswell Crash and Area 51,″ he said, alluding to alleged discovery sites of flying saucers made by the U.S. government in the 1940s. Area 51 plays a central role in ``Independence Day.″

Ken Profitt’s Ideal Marketing specializes in soft-core exploitation movies such as ``Peephole,″ ``My Secret Satan″ and ``Wild Child 2: A Toy to Play With.″ One of Ideal’s most heavily promoted convention titles is ``Stripshow,″ promoted with a giant poster flaunting a larger-than-life bosom squeezed into a gold lame bra.

The movie aims to exploit the ``Showgirls″ and ``Striptease″ buzz.

``We play off whatever is hot out there,″ Profitt said.

The occasionally low-rent carbons of Hollywood blockbusters aren’t brand new. When ``Jurassic Park″ was released in 1993, a rival home video company introduced the bargain-basement ``Carnosaur″ into video stores at the same time.

At this week’s video convention, however, the copycat frenzy reached new heights _ prompting a possible oversupply of such titles. Video companies say this is the time when consumers rely on reputable brand names to decide which titles to buy.

``There’s room for a number of players,″ said Thomas Heymann, vice president of new media at A&E Television Networks. ``But with non-fiction products, branding does play a role. We have a serious responsibility to deliver.″

Heymann said their 1995 A&E documentary ``Tornado Chasers″ experienced a 100 percent sales increase within two months after ``Twister″ came out, although he would not reveal the exact sales figures.

``Movies have the ability to raise to visibility the profile of a subject so we can all reap some benefit,″ he said.