Ah-nold's Pumped-Up Video Sales

(L-r) NICK STAHL, ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER and CLAIRE DANES in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
WARNER BROS.
The Terminator's back in the new-release section, perhaps for Arnold Schwarzenegger's last hurrah at video stores if he sticks to politics.

"Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" debuts on home video Tuesday, a month after Schwarzenegger won a recall campaign to replace Gray Davis as California governor. Debuting on DVD the same day is "Pumping Iron," the 1977 bodybuilding documentary that helped establish the Austrian-born showman's likable screen persona.

Those video releases were in the works well before Schwarzenegger entered the campaign. But with the hoopla over his celebrity campaign and his inauguration just six days away, Schwarzenegger's new political career has heated up sales of his films on video.

"Anything to do with Arnold Schwarzenegger right now is going to benefit from this huge public prominence and surge in awareness," said Cynthia Rhea, senior vice president of marketing for HBO video, which is releasing "Pumping Iron." "I think that comes under the heading of serendipity, and we never look serendipity in the mouth."

Executives at Warner Bros. home video, which is releasing "Terminator 3," declined to comment.

Other studios have jumped on the Schwarzenegger bandwagon. Three weeks after Schwarzenegger announced his candidacy last August, 20th Century Fox dusted off its out-of-print "True Lies" DVD and put it back in stores.

The studio also revved up promotion of a four-DVD Schwarzenegger boxed set it already had planned to re-release in October, containing "Predator," "Commando," "The Running Man" and, appropriately, "Total Recall."

Sales of that boxed set are up about 30 percent over its previous release, said Steve Feldstein, senior vice president of marketing and communications for Fox home video.

"The timing just happened to work to our benefit," Feldstein said. "There's regular interest and popularity on sales of this stuff, but obviously, that has increased exponentially."

Likely padding Schwarzenegger's video sales during the campaign was the Federal Communications Commission equal-time provision, said Marc Rashba, vice president of catalog marketing for Columbia TriStar home video, which just reissued a DVD two-pack of two Schwarzenegger titles, "The Last Action Hero" and "The 6th Day."

TV networks avoided running Schwarzenegger movies during the campaign for fear of triggering the equal-time rule, which allows other candidates to demand comparable air time. Anyone interested in watching Schwarzenegger flicks during that time had to see them on video, Rashba said.

Columbia TriStar's Schwarzenegger reissue had been timed to the theatrical and video release of "Terminator 3," but it clearly benefited from the actor's political fame, Rashba said.

"The media circus and frenzy it created and how it renewed interest in a single human being, that's something I don't think anyone, all the studios combined, could have paid for," Rashba said. "It was ubiquitous."