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Black Friday Marks Uptick in DVD Sales

29 Nov, 2007 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Studio executives' hopes for a late-blooming fourth quarter received a big boost when Thanksgiving week DVD sales took a sudden and significant upturn.

Nielsen VideoScan First Alert sales data reports the number of DVD units that sold through to consumers was up 6% from Thanksgiving Week 2006 and a whopping 175% from the previous week. VideoScan data includes point-of-sale purchase data from such key national chains as Best Buy, Target and Circuit City, but not Wal-Mart, which generally represents about 40% of the DVD sales market.

Industry sources say DVD sales at two key discount chains were up 16% and 18%, respectively, over last year. Sales were lifted not just by the usual Black Friday deep-discounting — recent hits like Warner Home Video's 300 were readily available for less than $6 — but also surprisingly strong initial sales for new releases.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment's Live Free or Die Hard, released the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, generated first-week sales that were 20% ahead of projections, in addition to nearly 100,000 Blu-ray Disc copies, noted Steve Feldstein, the division's SVP of corporate and marketing communications.

“The entire category was up significantly over last year, with growth of 15% and more, in many cases, on Black Friday alone,” Feldstein said.

Two other marquee new theatrical releases, New Line Home Entertainment's Hairspray and Walt Disney Home Entertainment's The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, also sold well, while two big animated theatrical releases, Paramount Home Entertainment and DreamWorks' Shrek the Third and Disney's Ratatouille, remained in high demand their second and third week in stores.

Studios without new theatrical hits in stores also saw a lift across all category lines. Warner Home Video “had a great weekend with a very healthy market share,” said president Ron Sanders.

He said Warner did particularly well with new TV DVD releases, such as the “Full House” and “Gilmore Girls” complete-series sets, as well as theatrical and TV DVD catalog items. Children's movies like Happy Feet and the holiday-themed Polar Express experienced a surge in sales, as did Training Day, 300 and the “Lethal Weapon” films. “Planet Earth,” the BBC series distributed by Warner, also saw an uptick in sales, seven months after its initial release.

The high-definition format war tilted even more heavily in favor of Blu-ray Disc, despite a rash of cheap HD DVD players sold through Wal-Mart and other discount retailers in recent weeks. Nielsen VideoScan data for the week shows 72.6% of HD discs purchased by consumers were Blu-ray, and just 27.4% were HD DVD. HD DVD players have been selling for as little as $98, one-fourth the lowest street price for a Blu-ray player.

Despite the sales frenzy, the rental business managed to hold its own Thanksgiving Week, with Home Media Magazine market research estimating consumers spent $176 million on renting DVDs, a 7.6% gain from the previous week.

The home video sales lift was part of a national upswing for retail in general. The National Federation of Retailers reported Black Friday weekend sales were up a healthy 4.8% from last year, with more than 147 million shoppers hitting stores.

Smaller-ticket items were most in demand, with average expenditures of $347.44, down 3.5% from last year.

“While last year showed a greater emphasis on high-definition televisions, this year consumers were focused on lower-priced doorbusters like digital photo frames, laptops and cashmere sweaters,” said Tracy Mullin, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation.

Mullin noted that while the Black Friday weekend “was a complete success for many retailers, the results of the holiday season [as a whole] won't be determined until the last two weeks of December.”

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