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Superheroes to the Rescue?

28 Sep, 2012 By: Chris Tribbey

The Dark Knight Rises


Call Q4 2012 the quarter of superheroes.

Disney should enjoy solid returns on its Sept. 25 release of Marvel's The Avengers, long past 2012. Sony drafted off that Avengers release date, starting preorders for its box office hit The Amazing Spider-Man ($752 million worldwide; Nov. 9 street) the same day.

Warner? It releases Christopher Nolan’s Batman swan song The Dark Knight Rises (more than $1 billion worldwide in box office receipts) Dec. 4.

“It’s definitely our most important time of the year,” Walmart spokeswoman Sarah Spencer said of the fourth quarter, pointing specifically to those three superhero flicks as the top titles for Walmart in the next few months.

Best Buy says much of the same, singling out The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises as its Q4 thoroughbreds. Consumers who pre-ordered The Avengers Blu-ray from the retailer got a collectible case and a $10 Sideshow Collectibles gift card. For The Dark Knight Rises, Best Buy has waiting an exclusive 45-minute documentary titled “The Dark Knight Reborn.”

“We have unique and creative marketing campaigns for all of our key new releases,” said Chris Koller, merchant VP of the home business group for Best Buy. “From opening our stores at midnight on select releases to offering exclusive content to showcasing titles on our TVs and computers throughout the store.”

There’s more to this 2012 home media fourth quarter than just three superhero movies, of course. But the theatrical numbers for these films should be a reassuring barometer for home entertainment: Avengers ranks No. 3 all-time in worldwide theatrical gross, at more than $1.5 billion. The Dark Knight Rises is at No. 7. The Amazing Spider-Man challenged all three of its Tobey Maguire-starring predecessors, and currently ranks in the top 50 of all-time box office grossing films worldwide.

Consider that when Warner Home Video released The Dark Knight on disc (Dec. 9, 2008) it destroyed all-time, first-week global disc sales records and totaled 13.5 million units. The previous record-holder? Paramount Home Media Distribution’s Iron Man, with about 7.2 million discs sold during its first week of release in November 2008.

Superhero discs sell, often better than anything else, and according to data from The NPD Group, Q4 2012 will be no different: buyer intent numbers for fourth-quarter releases The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-Man are overwhelmingly positive. In a recent NPD survey of home video buyers and renters regarding fourth-quarter releases, 33.5% said they intended to buy The Dark Knight Rises (that’s purchase, not rental). At 23.4%, The Amazing Spider-Man ranked third only behind fellow SPHE release Men in Black 3 (25.4%; Nov. 30 street; $624 million worldwide box office).

“[The Amazing Spider-Man] is our biggest title of the fourth quarter, it’s our major release, highly anticipated, big box office, a fresh new reimagining of Spider-Man,” said Lexine Wong, senior EVP of worldwide marketing for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (SPHE), pointing to home media promotional tie-ins with Carl’s Jr. and Hardees, “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune.” SPHE will also be doing gift sets for the release, a rarity for the studio.

Russ Crupnick, SVP of industry analysis at The NPD Group, noted while a third of home video customers have interest in buying Dark Knight, not all of them will actually buy. “[But] it is an indicator that there is interest in collecting these titles,” he said.

That’s a superhero savior for disc, if reality matches the survey.

Crupnick said this quarter will be especially important in terms of stabilizing the number of disc buyers. In March 2011, 46% of consumers reported buying a disc in the prior three months, which includes the tail end — the all-important Christmas season — of the fourth quarter, he said. That number was 42% in March 2012. If the industry can hold in the low 40s again — or better — it’ll be a good sign.

“We saw some declines in the number of buying consumers as DVD entered the latter part of its lifecycle,” Crupnick said. “Blu-ray has made up for some but not all of that decline, which is not surprising. But the goal obviously is to keep as many people as possible buying physical.”

Retailers and studios alike are doing everything possible to do just that. For the release of The Avengers, Walmart offered an "Avengers" comic book, Best Buy offered a special collector’s set of the film (with a slew of exclusives) and Target offered a bonus disc with a 90-minute documentary about how Marvel Studios created the cinematic universe of The Avengers and the films that led into it.

Target spokeswoman Erica Julkowski called this fourth quarter “an important season for Target and movies and we continue to invest significant resources into driving sales during this timeframe.”

“Movies have always been an important part of Target’s brand so we keep a close, ongoing pulse on the industry,” she said.

It’s not just superheroes …

Studio and retail success this fourth quarter doesn’t revolve entirely around three films: In NPD’s poll, Fox’s Ice Age: Continental Drift (no announced street date) scored at 21.7% in surveyed purchase intent, and Universal’s The Bourne Legacy (Dec. 11) hit 20.7%. Even films that scored lower, such as Universal’s successful Ted, should do very well at retail, Crupnick said.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment also has Men in Black 3 (Nov. 30), Total Recall (Dec. 18) and Arthur Christmas (Nov. 6) slated for the quarter. Universal Studios Home Entertainment also has Moonrise Kingdom (Oct. 2), Savages (Nov. 13) and ParaNorman (yet to be announced). Warner Home Video will also look to Dark Shadows (Oct. 2), Rock of Ages (Oct. 9) and Magic Mike (Oct. 23).

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment will be looking to Prometheus on Oct. 9 (with Best Buy’s CinemaNow offering instant streaming of the film now with preorders) and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter on Oct. 23 for fourth-quarter success, while Paramount Home Media Distribution sends DreamWorks’ Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted to disc Oct. 16, as well as Kung Fu Panda Holiday and SpongeBob SquarePants: It's A SpongeBob Christmas! on Nov. 6.

Lionsgate has yet to announce a street date for The Expendables 2, though a fourth-quarter release should be expected. Lionsgate will also be looking at Step Up Revolution (Nov. 27), Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection (Oct. 23), Mad Men: Season Five (Oct. 16) and Tyler Perry’s I Don’t Want to Do Wrong (Oct. 23) to carry its fourth quarter.

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment’s latest Pixar hit, Brave, gets a multiple SKU release Nov. 13, and The Odd Life of Timothy Green should also see a fourth quarter release.

“We have an impressive slate of new releases and catalog titles this quarter,” said Gabrielle Chamberlin, SVP of global product management for Walt Disney Studios Distribution. “It all kicks off with the highly anticipated release of Marvel’s The Avengers … [continues] with Pixar’s smash hit Brave, and the direct-to-video release of Secret of the Wings (Oct. 23) starring Tinker Bell.”

And there’s catalog too

Chamberlin noted that Disney would also be looking at catalog for fourth quarter success.

“Some of our strongest catalog titles are making their Blu-ray debuts, including Disney’s beloved Cinderella (Oct. 2), which has truly received the Diamond treatment, and Disney-Pixar’s audience favorite Finding Nemo (Dec. 4),” she said.

She added that Blu-ray would be important for the studio in the fourth quarter, as Disney promotes combo packs, bundling and 3D. Cinderella will kick off a continuity program where buyers get a charm bracelet, with further charms for buyers of Secret of the Wings and Cinderella 2&3.

Warner catalog regularly takes home the No. 1 sales spot for Black Fridays, according to Jeff Baker, EVP and GM of theatrical catalog for Warner Home Video, and this year should be no different, with “Harry Potter” single discs back in stores and “The Lord of the Rings” single extended edition Blu-ray Discs out for the Dec. 14 theatrical release of The Hobbit.

“Black Friday is going to be a major opportunity for us,” Baker said.

Crupnick also remarked on the strong line-up of catalog, including Universal’s E.T. — The Extra-Terrestrial 30th anniversary Blu-ray edition (Oct. 9), Paramount’s “Indiana Jones” Blu-ray collection (out now), and Paramount’s second Blu-ray Disc season of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (Dec. 4).

“I think that adds to rekindling interest in disc, and having people in the section at retail very often leads to buying more than one item,” he said. And while TV is increasingly moving to VOD services, “there are some great titles releasing beginning this week: ‘Downton Abbey,’ ‘Homeland,’ ‘Modern Family.’ I don’t think we’re going to see a revival of those TV DVD days [when TV series sold at high prices on strong demand] but again, I’m looking to get eyeballs in the section.”

Sony also is getting in on the catalog push, with a 50th anniversary Blu-ray set of Lawrence of Arabia out Nov. 13, boosted by an Oct. 4 re-release of the film in more than 800 theaters nationwide. Sony will promote the set at the screenings.

On the catalog side, Lionsgate has one of the most impressive box sets, the 10-disc, eight-film Blu-ray collection of Tarantino XX (Nov. 20).

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