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<I>Lord</I> Rules August Sales, But <I>Potter</I> Casts First-Month Magic

10 Oct, 2002 By: Judith McCourt

New Line Home Entertainment's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, released Aug. 6, dominated retail sales in August, propelling Warner Home Video, which distributes New Line, HBO and PBS product, to an easy victory in the August sales market-share sweeps.

Fellowship outsold the next-closest finisher, Paramount Home Entertainment's We Were Soldiers, released at sellthrough only on DVD Aug. 20, by a margin of more than 7-to-1. Hobbit-philes demonstrated an overwhelming preference for owning Fellowship on DVD over VHS, with almost three-quarters of the title's first-month sales coming from the disc.

However, Fellowship's first-month sales performance failed to beat Warner's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, which debuted May 28 and ranked as the top-selling video for the first half of 2002. Potter sold 38 percent more units in its first month of release than Fellowship. The little wizard still holds the No. 6 spot on the VHS sellers chart and the No. 18 spot on the DVD chart.

Sales for Harry Potter were lighter on the DVD side compared to Fellowship. Potter's first-month sales were 60 percent DVD, compared to Fellowship's 73 percent DVD in its first month.

Buena Vista Home Entertainment's family fare scored well with consumers in August. Return to Never Land, a direct-to-video sequel to Peter Pan, placed third in overall sales for the month. With strong kid appeal, sales rang up in favor of cassettes, with two-thirds the overall unit sales coming from VHS. The Rookie, another Buena Vista release, finished fourth in overall sales in August. In contrast to Return to Never Land, the baseball flick pulled two-thirds of its unit sales from discs.

Rounding out the top five sales performers for the month was New Line's All About the Benjamins, pulling almost 90 percent of its unit sales from discs. Four of the five top sellers grabbed more than two-thirds their unit sales from DVD. For the first month since DVD unit sales tracking began, discs crossed the two-thirds mark in the overall product mix and accounted for 68.6 percent of the videos sold in August.

Warner was the runaway winner in August market share. The supplier's releases accounted for 34.1 percent of all units sold in the month; 71 percent of Warner's total unit sales came from DVD. Warner had eight titles among the Top 25 DVD sellers and nine among the top 25 VHS sellers.

Buena Vista Home Entertainment, which claimed two of the top five sellers for the month, was a second-place finisher, with 15.1 percent of the overall unit tally for the month. It was the second-place finisher in both disc and cassette sales, with 12.7 percent and 20.3 percent of the unit sales of the formats, respectively.

Rounding out the top five suppliers in August were Paramount (7.9 percent), 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (7.6 percent) and Columbia TriStar (7.5 percent).

DVD sales were the mainstay of the product mix for most genres in August. Foreign films and horror took the top DVD spots, with 85 percent and 84.4 percent of those genres' unit sales coming from DVD, respectively. Just three genres -- family (56.7 percent), children's nontheatrical (75.2 percent) and fitness (84.1 percent) -- were more heavily weighted to cassette sales.

The action/adventure genre was consumers' top choice at the sales counter, with 29.5 percent of unit sales. The top seller in the category was Paramount's We Were Soldiers. This genre was one of the first dominated by DVD, thanks to its appeal to males ages 18-34, who embraced the DVD technology early. In August, three-quarters of all action/adventure titles were sold as discs. Comedies finished second, with 18.3 percent of the overall units sold for the month.

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