FOX SLATES $150 MIL PUSH FOR VIDEO SALES, RENTALS: FALL ONSLAUGHT BACKS VAMPIRES, GHOSTS AND APES

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Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment will launch an estimated $150 million marketing blitz in the third quarter behind a slew of products, rental titles and brand building for its "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Casper," and "Planet of the Apes" franchises.

Included in the effort is the marketing program for "Casper Meets Wendy," a direct-to-video sequel to last year's best selling "Casper, a Spirited Beginning."

Fox's $6 million multimedia ad push is complemented by promotions from partners General Mills, Hershey Foods Corp. and CKE Restaurants' Carl's Jr. and Hardee's, among others.

SPOOKY STATE OF MIND

Fox's slate has a rather dark edge, with the studio trying to capitalize on the spooky state of mind Halloween brings. In addition to "Casper Meets Wendy," the studio is relaunching a new edition of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" with two musical numbers -- "Once in a While" and "Superheroes" -- cut from the original.

Fox's pushes for "Buffy" and "Apes" will help pave the way for further franchising. Feature films are in store for both properties, as is an interactive game for "Buffy," the Fox-produced TV series for the WB Network. A growing cult hit with strong critical support, Fox feels "Buffy" can evolve in a fashion similar to "The X-Files."

The "Buffy" plan will put the best TV episodes on tape. For "Apes," all five movies are being bundled with a sixth video that goes behind the scenes to celebrate the franchise's 30th anniversary this fall.

Fox's blitz comes as home video marketers, and video retailers such as Hollywood Entertainment, West Coast Entertainment and Blockbuster Video ramp up spending, especially to support rentals.

RENTALS MATTER MORE

Many studios are adopting revenue-sharing models with distributors and retailers, so a studio's take now depends on how many times a video is rented.

"Studios now have more of a vested interest in keeping those tapes churning," said Marcy Magiera, editor of Video Business.

Fox's third-quarter plan includes larger-than-usual ad campaigns promoting rentals of new titles.

"The Object of My Affection," a meager entry at the box office, is getting $1 million in ad spending, large for any rental push.

Other studios are doing the same. MGM Home Entertainment plans a $1 million push, plus a promotion with Teen People, for the August home video debut of "The Man in the Iron Mask," starring teen fave Leonard DiCaprio.

VIDEO SALES SLUGGISH

Buena Vista Home Entertainment, the home video division of Walt Disney Co., has tapped creatives at VH1's "Pop Up Video" for a third-quarter effort. Releases will be flagged with "shelf-talkers" in the form of "Pop Up Video's" trademark word balloons using irreverent trivia. Buena Vista will tout the August/September promotion with in-house developed radio and print ads.

Video sales also have been sluggish, another reason to ramp up marketing. New Line Home Video has rolled a $20 million program for the Oct. 6 "Lost in Space" release. New Line's $7 million ad push is supplemented by promotions from General Mills, First Brands Corp., JVC Co. of America and Uniden America Corp.

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