I realize that this thread is a few months old, but since I just ran into the same problem and had to spend about an hour trying to figure it out, with no luck finding a solution online, I though I'd post my results for anyone who may be faced with this in the future.
My main computer just died so I had to take my motherboard back for warranty. Meanwhile I pulled out my old toshiba laptop, and since its video card can't handle running gnome and a movie at the same time, I was looking for how to do just that: play a movie in terminal without needing gnome...
I ended up installing mplayer with
and through terminal I run
sudo apt-get install mplayer
which seems to work just fine.
sudo mplayer -vo svga -ao sdl movie.avi