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THE MORNING BUZZ: 'Potter' Set A Rental Record, Are There More?

6 Jun, 2002 By: Kurt Indvik

Warner Home Video held off with its sales figures for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone until late this week, when it could announce a tidy worldwide figure for the first week of sales.

Harry sold 20.86 million DVD and VHS units worldwide in its first seven days on sale (debuting first in the U.K. May 11), including 9.86 million units in the United States and Canada, according to Warner. Harry came up short against The Lion King, which Disney says sold 20 million units in the United States in its first week out in 1995. Disney claims Aladdin sold 10.8 million in 1993. And more recently, DreamWorks reported Shrek sold 9.6 million in its first week last November.

Harry Potter did pull in an additional $19.1 million in the United States at the rental counter in the same first week, according to Video Store Magazine market research. That combined DVD/VHS tally is, in fact, a record, beating Universal Studios Home Video's The Fast and the Furious, which surprised the industry in January with $18.65 million in rental revenue in its first week.

Will Harry have the legs to catch The Lion King's 31.5 million units sold, according to Disney, to take the all-time leadership spot for North American video sellthrough? It has some extra gas Lion King did not, notably a sequel coming out this fall, along with a new Harry Potter novel this summer — all of which will keep the brand lively for the first Potter video. We will just have to wait and see.

Meanwhile this week another “event” film throws its hat into the DVD ring, with the announcement by Universal Studios Home Video that it will bring E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial to disc Oct. 22.

Universal will take the Disney approach with this very special title for the studio, arguably its most valuable, and place it on moratorium after Dec. 31. No decision has been made on how long the title will remain in the vaults at Universal after Dec. 31, but I would hazard a guess it won't be the typical 10-year period Disney has employed in the past.

With DVD player home penetration growing exponentially each year for the next several years, one would find it hard to expect that Universal, or Disney for that matter, could resist offering a family classic to what could amount to another 20 percent to 40 percent of the homes in the United States that acquire a DVD player in the next several years.

Especially in the family arena, DVD's hardware growth is creating a brand-new market every couple of years, which will allow studios and retailers an opportunity to reintroduce some of the classic (and lots of the not-so-classic) movies to a new generation of DVD adopters.

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