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‘Avatar’ Launches Nationwide

22 Apr, 2010 By: Chris Tribbey

Kelvin Larkin (left) buys Avatar

As midnight marked the transition to April 22, Mike Lequieu, assistant manager at the Best Buy in West Hollywood, Calif., got on the store’s public address system and made the announcement everyone was waiting for: “The time is now midnight and you can get your copy of Avatar.”

Hundreds of retailers big and small kept their doors open late Wednesday night to accommodate the masses looking to get their hands on the DVD and Blu-ray Disc/DVD combo releases of the No. 1 film of all time.

Aiming to overtake New Moon as the top-selling title of 2010, Avatar may also have the legs to become the top-selling home entertainment title of all time. With more than $2.7 billion in box office receipts worldwide, its staying power was made even more apparent at some stores located mere miles from theaters still playing the movie more than four months after its initial release.

“I’m really excited,” said Kelvin Larkin, 42, of Los Angeles. He was the first at the West Hollywood store to get his hands on a home video copy of Avatar, choosing the Blu-ray/DVD combo that Best Buy sold for $22.99. “I don’t think I’m going to sleep at all tonight.”

Retailers went all out for the release, with storewide signage, giveaways and tie-ins to Blu-ray players and HDTVs. Wal-Mart, Hastings, Blockbuster and Meijer stores stayed open late to give consumers the opportunity to grab their copies before everyone else, and call in sick Thursday. And it wasn’t just the major chains that accommodated the release.

“Grocery and drug stores have embraced Avatar to an unprecedented degree in the DVD category,” said Simon Swart, EVP and GM of North America for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Select Blockbuster stores transformed into Avatar headquarters, featuring look-a-like contests, 7-foot-tall standee character posters, lenticular stickers and glow-in-the-dark movie window posters. The chain asked fans to visit a store dressed as their favorite Na'vi character and take a picture in front of the displays. Those who post their photos on Flickr at www.flickr.com/groups/bbavatar/ no later than midnight April 25 will be entered into the Blockbuster Avatar Photo Contest, judged on originality and creativity. The winner of the contest will receive a $250 Blockbuster prize package.

At the West Hollywood Best Buy, fans who attended the midnight release scored free posters and T-shirts. At Wal-Marts, the first 50 people to buy the release at each store earned a free 3D sticker.

“I love midnight releases for anything, and Avatar is big enough for me to be here,” said Alex Billington, 24, of Sherman Oaks, Calif. “I can’t wait to see it again.”

His friend, 29-year-old Peter Sciretta of West Hollywood, said he was disappointed that the initial releases from Fox wouldn’t offer 3D, which drove Avatar’s success at the box office. That didn’t stop him from grabbing a Blu-ray combo copy. “I know I’ll buy it again when it comes out on 3D,” he said. Fox has promised editions with special features in November, though a 3D home video release has not been announced.

Prior to the release, the Blu-ray/DVD combo accounted for 65% of preorders.

“Fox’s Blu-ray for Avatar is state-of-the-art,” Best Buy’s Lequieu said. “People are here tonight because Avatar is one of those films for the whole family, that you can watch over and over again.”

Clara Hidalgo, 20, of Los Angeles said she saw the film three times in theaters, and she’ll give the Blu-ray a good workout at home.

“Yes, I’ll watch it tonight,” she said. “I wanted 3D, but I won’t wait for that.”

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