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Walt Disney Co. plans to release a made-for-video sequel to ``Beauty and the Beast' during the Christmas season as the first project from its Canadian animation operation, reflecting the surge in movies aimed at the home video market.

Disney will debut ``Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas' on Nov. 11 at a suggested price of $26.99 with four new songs and all the voices from the original 1991 hit. The Burbank-based entertainment giant also will introduce new character merchandise and a record for the sequel as part of what it is calling a ``major entertainment event.'``Beauty and the Beast' has become an impressive revenue generator for Disney with a strong performance in theatrical release, 22 million copies sold in video and live-theater grosses of $310 million.

The release will be the third direct-to-video movie from Disney this year, following ``Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves' and ``Pooh's Grand Adventure,' which is due in August.

Analyst Mike Yocco of Paul Kagan Associates of Carmel, Calif., said such films make sense because they have a built-in audience and costs that are far lower than a wide-release movie.

``With direct-to-video, you save on prints and advertising and go after the really creamy portion of potential video revenues,' Yocco said. ``The long-term strategy for the studios is to further develop the collector mentality among consumers.'

Sales of home video increased 14 percent last year to $7.3 billion domestically and are expected to surpass revenues from rentals, which were at $9.2 billion in 1996, by the end of the decade. With tapes costing from $4 to $7 each to produce, home video is one of the most profitable parts of studio operations.


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