LOS ANGELES -- Bill Mechanic, Walt Disney Co.'s key architect in its dominance of the home-video market, is expected to leave soon for a senior post at 20th Century Fox.
The studios have refused to comment on the reports and Mechanic was out of the area, but industry sources told United Press International that Mechanic has agreed to leave Disney, where he is the president of international theatrical and worldwide video.
Still to be decided is the issue of what title Mechanic will assume at Fox, where Strauss Zelnick departed in June to head up interactive software concern Crystal Dynamics. Zelnick held the titles of president and chief operating officer priopr to departing.
Mechanic, 43, is expected to be responsible for Fox's film production, video division, marketing and distribution, pay television and acquisitions.
Mechanic, a nine-year Disney veteran, is widely respected for having guided Disney's growth in home video through mass marketing deals with retailers such as KMart and Toys 'R Us and innovative promotional techniques.
The video operations, powered by successes such as 'Fantasia' and 'Beauty and the Beast,' currently generate more than $1 billion in annual revenues for Disney.
Earlier this year, Mechanic said 'Aladdin,' already a major success at the nation's movie theaters, could sell as many as 30 million home- video copies. The video will go on sale Friday at $24.99, so even a conservative figure of 25 million copies will translate to $750 million at retail.
That is far above the lofty figures served up by 'Beauty and the Beast,' which smashed records in selling 20 million copies and taking in $600 million in sales during this past holiday season.
Mechanic's optimism about the performance of 'Aladdin' in the home- video arena is well-founded. Disney will bring its usual marketing power to the campaign, with tie-ins involving PepsiCo Inc.'s Pizza Hut unit and a $5 rebate from Colgate-Palmolive's Colgate toothpaste for use with all Disney 'classic' animated films.
Disney has a leading 22.4 percent share of the $12 billion home-video market, which is expected to see double-digit revenue growth in the business this year with 70.4 million U.S. homes now owning videocassette recorders.
Disney, of Burbank, Calif., is the king of home-video sales because of its huge library of animated films. Its other successful home-video titles include 'Fantasia,' '101 Dalmatians,' 'Pinocchio,' 'Cinderella,' 'Bambi,' 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit,' 'The Little Mermaid,' 'The Jungle Book' and 'The Rescuers Down Under.'