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Q4 Titles Don't Open as Big, But Have Longer Legs, Execs Say

19 Nov, 2007 By: Thomas K. Arnold


With the exception of Transformers, studio press releases touting first-day and first-week sales numbers have been conspicuously absent so far this fourth quarter.

Studio marketing executives say that after several years of increasingly front-loaded DVD “openings,” consumers aren't necessarily rushing out on Tuesdays, the day new releases typically arrive in stores, and snatching up the hot new hit of the week.

Rather, they are waiting until later in the week — and, studio executives hope, maybe even later in the holiday season — to buy their DVDs, perhaps waiting until more big titles are available and then doing all their holiday shopping at once.

“Sales are accumulating over a full week or two, rather than the fanboy Tuesday frenzy,” said Steve Feldstein, SVP of marketing and corporate communications for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. “With uncertainty in the economy and gas prices creeping toward $4 a gallon, trips and purchases are more considered and consolidated.”

One additional factor for the delay in DVD purchases is that the December release schedule this year is particularly packed with big titles. And the feeling is that consumers might wait until Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (Dec. 4) and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Dec. 11) are in stores before they do their Christmas DVD shopping and also pick up titles such Spider-Man 3, which came out Oct. 30.

“It's going to be a late Christmas, all across retail, not just for DVD,” said one studio president, who asked not to be named. “But all indications are that we are going to have a great December.”

The first two Tuesdays in December alone will bring movies with nearly $1 billion in box office to the DVD counter, including such blockbusters as Pirates ($309.4 million), Harry Potter ($291.7 million) and The Bourne Ultimatum ($226.8 million and coming Dec. 11, the same day as Potter).

Then, on Dec. 18, come five titles that had wide theatrical distribution, led by 20th Century Fox's The Simpson's Movie ($182.9 million).

Most observers expect the big DVD rush to begin the day after Thanksgiving, on Black Friday, when several hot new hits will be in stores, including 20th Century Fox's Live Free or Die Hard, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment's The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause and New Line Home Entertainment's Hairspray.

An analysis of Nielsen VideoScan DVD sales numbers for titles released in August, September and early October shows no significant downtick in first-week sales. The top 20 sellers released in that time frame in 2006 realized an average of 62.3% of total sales in week one, while the top 20 sellers in the comparable period this year realized 62.2% of sales in week one.

There are indications, however, that the big hits may not be as front-loaded as they once were. Last year X-Men: The Last Stand sold 72% of its total sales tally within the first week of its release, with week two sales dipping to just 18%.

This year Transformers was at 64% in week one and 21% in week two.

“We're likely looking at a later shopping season,” Feldstein said.

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