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'Madagascar' Joins Increasingly Crowded<br> Fourth-Quarter Title Derby

11 Aug, 2005 By: Thomas K. Arnold


The landscape of the fourth-quarter DVD selling season is rapidly taking shape as summer starts to wind down and studios seek to snag prime dates for hit theatricals before the competition does.

In stores, November will see a clash of the DVD titans, with four $100 million-plus theatricals already slotted and a fifth deemed likely.

DreamWorks Home Entertainment today announced a Nov. 15 release date for Madagascar, the animated feature that grossed $189.3 million theatrically. That gives it a one-week jump on another animated feature geared toward the same family demographic, Warner Home Video's The Polar Express, one of the first titles to drop into the fourth quarter.

“We are excited to kick off our fourth-quarter slate with Madagascar,” said Kelley Avery, head of worldwide home entertainment for DreamWorks. She noted the film is the No. 1 family comedy of the year.

Just last week, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment reserved Nov. 29 for Mr. & Mrs. Smith, which has pulled in $181.3 million in theaters and is one of the summer's top-grossing live-action theatricals.

Fox also is releasing the year's No. 1 movie, Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith ($378 million domestic gross), Nov. 1.

That leaves only Nov. 8 untapped, although industry sources peg that as a likely date for Warner's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which since its mid-July theatrical opening has grossed nearly $175 million.

“It's going to be a hell of a month,” said Steve Feldstein, SVP of marketing communications for Fox. “We're looking at more than $500 million box office, just between our two movies.”

October also is almost fully loaded, but with more moderate theatricals. Universal Studios Home Entertainment's The Interpreter ($72.6 million) and MGM's The Amityville Horror ($65.2 million) both will be out Oct. 4, while Universal's Kicking & Screaming ($52.7 million) and Fox's Kingdom of Heaven ($47.4 million) share Oct. 11.

Oct. 25 will find Buena Vista releasing Herbie: Fully Loaded ($63.5 million), Sony streeting Bewitched ($61.3 million) and Warner issuing House of Wax ($32.1 million). Industry sources expect Warner to drop Batman Begins ($199.6 million) Oct. 18, the month's only open date, noting that the studio already has slotted for that date a series of two-disc special editions of the four original “Batman” movies from the late 1980s and '90s: Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever and Batman & Robin.

The only true wild card in the fourth quarter is December. Universal will street Cinderella Man ($60.7 million) Dec. 6, but no other releases have been confirmed. Traditionally, December has been a weak month, with studios preferring more eyeball time for their prime releases among holiday shoppers. But in the past few years, the power of the impulse buyer has made megahits out of such December DVD releases as Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and Seabiscuit.

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