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Consumers Snare 11 Million Units of <I>Spider-Man</i>

3 Nov, 2002 By: Holly J. Wagner

Spider-Man swung a projected 11 million units in sales in its first weekend of release, with 80 percent of sales and 75 percent of rentals on the title on DVD, Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment (CTHE) executives said today.

The preliminary announcement based on day-one reporting of 7 million units sold Friday, Spidey's first day of release, projects the web-slinger will net more than $190 million in retail revenue in North America during its first three days in the marketplace, assuring CTHE the best quarter in its history.

"No question, we will easily exceed a billion in the quarter," said CTHE president Benjamin Feingold. And North American sales are only the beginning, he said -- "Overseas people are much more comfortable with the discs. Europe has gone gangbusters for DVD."

Feingold projects double-digit growth for DVD sales this year and next as the format retains its near-hypnotic grip on entertainment consumers.

"Hollywood is producing better movies, but also the power of the DVD format really showcases film well. In many cases the DVDs have things to make them even more exciting than the film itself," Feingold said.

CTHE shipped 26 million combined units in VHS and 2-disc sets, in wide and full screen special editions on DVD. The set features a web of interactive elements, special Spider-Man factoids and a look at comic book-to-film comparisons. Also released day-and-date was a specially packaged limited edition collector's DVD gift set with collectible memorabilia.

"Our shipments on Spider-Man were 75 percent DVD and 25 percent VHS," Feingold said, noting that sellthrough was running at about 80 percent DVD over the weekend. "Spider-Man is such a great visual movie, if you have a machine you'd rather have it on DVD than VHS. I think we get an extra kick because of the emotional content. He's really a good guy and he's more three-dimensional than two-dimensional. In our times it's great to have that message. Also I think it's just a great movie to have on DVD because of the power of special effects."

Demand appears to be following that trend through the quarter, with the exception of family titles.

"We're seeing a similar percentage on Men In Black II [11/26], Feingold said; "on Stuart Little 2 [12/10], probably more like 40 percent VHS and 60 percent DVD."

The marketing campaign behind Spider-Man included not only the flashy promotions like Blockbuster's 3,000 life-sized replicas and an appearance atop the United Nations building; but some strategic moves behind the scenes as well.

"We did a couple of things that were unique. We went to a Friday street date. We wanted to capitalize on a great Halloween with Spider-Man as the number one costume. Also by going on Friday we had a few extra days before the next big release," Feingold said. "We had more cross-promotion partners."

The push was evident in some surprising places -- like on some supermarket circulars that featured the title front and center last week.

"We worked very hard with the grocery and drug channel, which has been supportive of video but not to the same extent as a mass merchant," Feingold said. "As you go into the holiday season you will start to see more traffic in grocery stores."

For all the careful planning, Feingold still got opening night jitters.

"I had my usual Saturday evening, which is dinner with my wife," he said, then admitted, "Then I visited three mass merchants to see how we were doing."

The title will set an industry record for the most revenue ever generated by a studio in a single weekend on a single title, a CTHE spokesperson said, putting it on track to become the top-selling home entertainment release ever.

"With more than a billion dollars in worldwide revenues to date on this single title, the success of Spider-Man is simply staggering," said John Calley, chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment. "It took a true superhero to accomplish this phenomenal fete and the dividend for Sony Pictures Entertainment will be the most successful year in the studio's history."

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