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Customer evaluations for the new millennium

Let's face it: today's hurried consumers are about as eager to answer a store questionnaire as they are about the proposition of standing in a check-out line. And even when the brave few do respond, either by phone or in person,...
June 1, 1999

Let’s face it: today’s hurried consumers are about as eager to answer a store questionnaire as they are about the proposition of standing in a check-out line. And even when the brave few do respond, either by phone or in person, there’s still no effective method available to retailers for evaluating the candor of their answers. Thanks to Dragon Systems, these could soon be problems of the past. The Newton, Massachusetts-based tech company is currently refining AudioMining technology, an application that uses speech recognition technology to convert audio data (such as tapes of customer phone calls) into searchable text accessible by a keyword search. If you want to check the quality of your store’s customer service, or the frequency with which a category or product is mentioned, you need only type in the correct word. According to DS spokesperson Renee Blodgett, this less intrusive and more effective way of taking the pulse of your company will be available in Q4’99.

Lyrick goes high-tech with the prehistoric purple one

Parents who are frustrated with having to continuously pony up the cash for an endless array of licensed merchandise based on their child’s favorite TV star will be getting some much-needed economic relief from Lyrick Studios. The Richardson, Texas-based company’s newest DVD-plus title Let’s Play School!, starring Barney, offers parents five different products for the price of one. In addition to a full-length video, Let’s Play School! contains a Barney sing-along, an electronic book, songs from a new music album and five DVD-ROM games. The title also features a special section for parents, highlighting the educational elements of the product, a Spanish-language track and subtitles for hearing-impaired viewers. The prebook date for Let’s Play School! (US$24.99, SRP) is June 27. Both the DVD and a VHS (US$14.95) versions will street on July 27.

Wizards of the Coast ups retail holdings

Collectible card game producer Wizards of the Coast (Pokémon, Magic: The Gathering) has purchased California-based game and hobby retailer Game Keeper. Terms of the deal were not disclosed by either of the privately held companies. According to WOC spokesperson Kristine Szarkowitz, the company will absorb the existing 50 Game Keeper stores into its own chain, changing their product offerings to bring in more WOC product. Among other items, the revamped lineup will include licensed, role playing paper games based on Blizzard Interactive titles Diablo and StarCraft, which WOC is producing for delivery in 2000. Wizards of the Coast currently operates six of its own stores in the U.S., and plans to open 10 more locations this year. The first WOC store opened in Seattle, Washington last May.

New Releases

Baby Geniuses

Prebook Date: June 24

Release Date: July 27

Price: US$23.95

Studio: Sony

Distributor: Columbia TriStar Home Video

Synopsis: CTHV is hoping parents will find the home video version much more adorable. During its three-month crawl through theaters, Baby Geniuses did US$24 million in box office.

Advertising: National TV spots

Beauty and the Beast: Tales of Friendship

Prebook: July 6

Release Date: August 17

Price: US$19.99

Studio: Disney

Distributor: Buena Vista Home Entertainment

Synopsis: This latest DTV release in the Beast franchise, which has already spawned a hit Broadway show and numerous soundtracks, contains three animated stories.

Advertising: National TV spots, trailering on select BHVE titles, signage in all Disney theme parks

Promotions: US$3 rebate with proof of purchase of Beauty and Hercules: Zero to Hero

Displays: 24-, 48- and 96-count prepack merchandisers, related posters, shelftalkers and activity sheets

Hercules: Zero to Hero

Prebook: July 6

Release Date: August 17

Price: US$19.99

Studio: Disney

Distributor: Buena Vista Home Entertainment

Synopsis: With more Hercules TV shows, movies and videos in the marketplace than you can wave a loin cloth at, BHVE gets into the action with this animated DTV release examining the childhood years of this mythic hero.

Advertising: National TV spots, trailering on BHVE kidvids Madeline: Lost in Paris and Doug’s 1st Movie, signage in all Disney theme parks

Promotions: US$3 rebate with proof-of-purchase of Hercules and Beauty and the Beast: Tales of Friendship

Displays: 24-, 48- and 96-count prepack merchandisers, related shelftalkers and activity sheets

Little Witch

Prebook Date: July 22

Release Date: August 10

Price: US$12.98

Studio: Sony Wonder

Distributor: Sony Wonder

Synopsis: The latest addition to SW’s Doors of Wonder video series, The Little Witch is based on Deborah Hautzig’s book series about a young girl with unearthly powers. Sony Wonder is currently producing an animated Little Witch show, and A Little Witch Halloween special has also been confirmed to air on Fox Family Channel this fall.

Advertising: TV (spots will run around syndicated talk shows Oprah, The Rosie O’Donnell Show and Entertainment Tonight), print (ads will appear in Parenting and Parents)

Promotional Partners: Commodore Cruise Line

Retail: POP 24- and 36-count displays

Famous Fred

Prebook Date: July 22

Release Date: August 10

Price: US$12.98

Studio: Sony Wonder

Distributor: Sony Wonder

Synopsis: Another title in the Doors of Wonder series, Famous Fred was adapted from a book series by author Posy Simmonds and will star in his own TV special on Disney Channel this fall.

Advertising: TV (spots will run around syndicated talk shows Oprah, The Rosie O’Donnell Show and Entertainment Tonight), print (ads will appear in Parenting and Parents)

Promotional Partners: Commodore Cruise Line

Retail: POP 24- and 36-count displays

My Favorite Martian

Prebook: August 17

Release Date: September 28

Price: US$22.99

Studio: Disney

Distributor: Buena Vista Home Video

Synopsis: Theatrical remake of this `50s sitcom did rather earthly box office business when it was released last February, grossing US$35 million.

Advertising: National TV, radio, print advertising and Internet; trailering on BHVE kidvids Doug’s 1st Movie, Adventures of Ichabod & Mr. Toad, Alice in Wonderland and Robin Hood

Promotions: US$5 rebate with proof of purchase of one of the following BHVE titles: A Bug’s Life, Mulan or Mighty Joe Young

Displays: 12-, 48- and 96-count prepack merchandisers

Price Check…

Price does matter. On July 6, CTHV will re-release the live-action, CGI-heavy film Godzilla on home video for the reduced price of US$14.95. The prebook date for Godzilla is June 3. In other reptilian-related news, this month CTHV will release home video episodes of Godzilla: The Series, which currently airs in the U.S. on weekdays on Fox Kids Network. Monster War and Trouble Hatches (both US$9.99) hit retail on June 27.

Coming Soon…

* In October, Warner Home Video will release the Halloween-themed Scooby Doo and the Witches Ghost. It marks the second full-length feature for the Scooby Doo franchise; the first, Scooby Doo on Zombie Island, was released 1998. No SRP has been set.

* Disney’s Doug’s 1st Movie, which was originally slated as a direct-to-video release, will hit retail in October. At press time, BHVE had yet to sign off on a prebook date, street date or SRP.

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