Las Vegas Sun

October 18, 2019

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Video convention draws mixed bag

It's a mixed bag of people who are hanging out at the Video Software Dealers Association's 16th annual Home Entertainment Convention and Exhibition in Las Vegas.

In Hollywood terms, it's a gathering of the good, the bad and the ugly.

For this show, the stars don't just come out at night, although Saturday evening will be a highlight with the Home Entertainment Awards presentation spotlighting the top video releases in nine categories.

Comedian Louie Anderson is hosting this year's awards show, which will feature a tribute to prolific actor John Travolta, who will take the stage to accept VSDA's Video Star of the Year award. The career of Las Vegas favorite Debbie Reynolds also will be recognized with the industry's Legend Award, and country singer Randy Travis will perform.

Awards will be passed out in a variety of categories, from children's video to family video to adult video of the year. Other categories recognize limited releases, independents and sleepers -- releases that exceeded retailers' expectations.

The big prize is reserved for Best Video of the Year. The five nominees: "Independence Day," "The Nutty Professor," "Phenomenon," "Toy Story" and "Twister."

The association is promising some stars to be in attendance at the awards show, but if they don't come, it won't matter much to VSDA delegates -- they got to see several this week on the trade show floor, hawking new releases or products.

Appearances were put in at the show by spoofmeister Leslie Nielsen, who has a new golf video; "Star Trek's" James Doohan, who narrates "UFOs Above and Beyond"; Edward James Olmos, who is promoting the "Lonesome Dove" trilogy; and fan favorites Steve Allen, Tom Arnold, Donna D'Errico, Tisha Campbell and Mike Meyers, who have movies in the process of going to video.

Possibly the longest line at the show was the one filled with fans waiting to talk to and get autographs from Kevin Sorbo and Lucy Lawless. The stars of their own syndicated shows are providing the voices in an animated feature, "Hercules and Xena: The Battle for Mount Olympus."

Fast Forward to End Hunger, a humanitarian effort endorsed by VSDA, was represented at the show by veteran actor Jeff Bridges and rookie Alice Krige, whose portrayal of the Borg queen in "Star Trek: First Contact" developed her own legion of fans.

The sports world was represented by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young, Sacramento Kings guard Mitch Richmond and Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson endorsing products and videos.

Instant photos were a big hit at the convention. Delegates visiting booths could have their images superimposed with a contingent of Borg warriors, with Casper the friendly ghost or with "Men in Black" stars Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith.

While most delegates were pleased with the accessibility of the stars, there was some disappointment. The association promoted the opening of "Star Trek -- The Experience" at the Las Vegas Hilton, but Hilton officials recently announced a five-month delay in the project.

In a convention show guide, Hilton officials blamed Klingons for the delay and invited delegates to stop by for a free admission pass that can be used early next year.

Among the not-so-well-known characters at the show was Norman Scherer, who is waging a one-man war against studios that are offering their movies in the digital video disc format.

Scherer, who operates New York-based Video Oyster, a collection of 7,000 out-of-print tapes Hollywood no longer has the rights to, said he was forcefully evicted from the show for staging an on-site protest at the convention center.

His top target: Warner Home Video, which announced plans to make DVD titles available nationally by fall.

In his slogans, Scherer calls DVD "dubious video device" that "does virtually diddly." He opposes the new format because it is not geared to movie renters and he suspects studios are pushing it in order to sell features and kill the rental industry.

Scherer said he is a frequent visitor to VSDA shows, but this was the first time he had been roughed up by the association's staff when he was removed from the site.