Same-name videos -- Movies with titles identical to big-screen hits, like ''Dracula,'' piggyback on the film's publicity blitz

By Nisid Hajari
Updated December 11, 1992 at 05:00 AM EST

With Francis Ford Coppola’s epic still packing theaters, video renters may be surprised to see Bram Stoker’s Dracula already in stores this week. Watch out, though: The $59.98 tape, from MPI Home Video, is actually a 1973 TV movie (starring Jack Palance) whose original title happens to be identical to the one on multiplex marquees everywhere.

Though video companies have been piggybacking on the blitz of publicity surrounding blockbuster movies for a while now, the trend has reached a peak this holiday season. In addition to Palance’s Dracula, documentary videos about Malcolm X and Jimmy Hoffa are being released concurrently with Spike Lee’s Malcolm X and Danny DeVito’s Hoffa. In fact, one video label, Starmaker Entertainment, has made this marketing ploy a specialty: One of the company’s releases — an animated, non-Disney version of The Little Mermaid — sold more than a million copies, and Starmaker recently released its own, under-$10 tapes of The Last of the Mohicans (a 1977 TV movie) and Aladdin (a 1992 animated feature).

How does Starmaker manage to release the right titles at the right time? According to a spokesman, the company keeps a telescopic eye on future theatrical projects and acquires the rights to related productions early on. When the movies hit theaters, the company moves its version into stores quickly.

”I don’t feel guilty,” admits Starmaker president Ken Palmer. He is, of course, not the first to say that.