26 July 1997


Hercules And Xena Add Muscle To VSDA Confab


STRONG ARMS: If anyone attending the Video Software Dealers Assn. (VSDA) Convention July 9-12 hadn't heard of Kevin Sabo and Lucy Lawless, aka Hercules and Xena, their appearance at the show spoke volumes.

Prior to being crushed by photographers while opening the convention, Sabo and Lawless put in an appearance at Universal Studios Home Video's announcement of the marketing plans for the direct-to-video feature "Hercules & Xena--The Animated Movie: The Battle For Mount Olympus," due in stores Oct. 14 for $ 19.98.

So many flashbulbs were going off while the pair praised the animated feature that it was like being in the middle of a lightning storm.

Universal has already released television episodes of "Hercules: The Legendary Journey" and "Xena: Warrior Princess" on video, and it looks like the supplier is counting on "Hercules & Xena" to be its next big franchise following "The Land Before Time" series. Each show reaches both an adult and a kid audience, and in syndication they outscore "Baywatch" and "Deep Space Nine."

"Among males, the popularity of 'Hercules' compares to that of 'Star Trek,' " said Universal president Louis Feola. "And 'Star Trek' is a 30-year franchise, compared to the 3-year-old 'Hercules.' "

Universal is sparing no expense to make sure the "Hercules & Xena" direct-to-video title gets its fair shot at retail. Executive VP Andrew Kairey says the marketing campaign will focus on children and teens, beginning this month with a Cool Combos for Kids promotion at 650 Carl's Jr. fast-food restaurants. The chain will hand out 1.2 million Hercules and Xena premium items and advertise the title on bags through August.

In more than 15 states across the country, Tropicana will offer a $ 3 rebate when consumers purchase the title and two Tropicana Bursters, a new brand the company is testing this fall. More than 2 million juice packages will advertise the offer.

From August to October, Universal is putting a Hercules and Xena museum on a customized truck, which will stop at stores in 10 cities. It will feature models and storyboards used to make the feature.

At each stop, local radio will do live remotes, and consumers will get a chance to win a trip to Universal Studios Florida, which just opened a "Hercules & Xena" show. The tour stops in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Los
Angeles, and San Francisco.

Sorbo and Lawless will also appear at Hercules and Xena conventions, scheduled for Oct. 4-5 in Valley Forge, Pa., and Oct. 18 in San Francisco.

Among the other marketing activities are two cross-promotions. Topps Comics will debut a Xena comic book this fall, offering a $ 3.50 rebate from Universal when consumers purchase "Liar Liar" and the title. Sound Source, which distributes the CD-ROM game
"Hercules & Xena Learning Adventure," will offer a $ 5 rebate when consumers purchase the game. A redeemable certificate is being packed inside each "Hercules & Xena."