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Spidey Ships 26M Units

1 Nov, 2002 By: Joan Villa

Spider-Man swung into action today and set new sales records for Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment, shipping 26 million copies in North America prior to last Friday's release date, including nearly 20 million units on DVD alone.

Spider-Man was released on a Friday to give retailers a weekend “event” as was Shrek last year. Accordingly, many retailers worked with the studio to devise individual promotions, ranging from midnight store openings to exclusive give-aways and rental tie-ins.

“I knew we had a huge hit on our hands, but in my wildest dreams I never thought 26-million-units-plus would be an achievable number,” said Marshall Forster, Columbia TriStar's EVP of North American sales. “What happens when you have a title of this magnitude is retailers who don't traditionally bring in video will step up.”

Spider-Man is expected to ship another 14 million units internationally, Columbia reported. The objective is to push total home entertainment sales beyond the film's $400 million U.S. box office tally, said Columbia TriStar president Benjamin Feingold. “The principal objective we had with the Friday street date was in a very big way to kick off the fourth quarter,” Feingold said. “We thought having the weekend, having our huge campaign, having Spider-Man as the No. 1-selling costume for Halloween, it all dovetails together.”

Retailers are clearly anticipating DVD will smartly outpace VHS this holiday, but VHS sales were not ignored, Forster added. “We basically sold to demand,” he noted. “But the sales percentage did come out 75:25 [DVD-to-VHS].”

The studio also has nearly a two-week window before the next big sellthrough title, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment's Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones, swoops in Nov. 12. Plus, Columbia is planning to continue advertising the title through Dec. 29 to keep Spider-Man fresh for consumers.

Spidey himself made a spectacular appearance Halloween in New York at the United Nations' “Be a Hero: Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF.”

Despite the heady enthusiasm coming from the studio, some retailers and distributors worried that street-date violations would be rampant, since Spider-Man was shipped with last week's regular Tuesday releases even though it had a later Friday street date. Street-date violations will be taken seriously, with a 24-hour hotline prepared to take immediate action to pull any copies displayed early, Forster said.

Another concern: Some chains pre-advertised availability but not price, so retailers were in the dark about how low competitors would go.

Blockbuster Video put an aggressive campaign in place befitting its pledge to beef up retail sales. The chain will give away a free Spider-Man DVD or VHS with the purchase of a 10-week rental card, run a sweepstakes awarding a life-size Spider-Man replica and open select stories at midnight on street date.

Both Movie Gallery and Hollywood Video advertised the DVD at $19.99 and the VHS at about $15.

Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Target Stores, Costco, Hastings Entertainment, Kmart, Toys “R” Us and Circuit City are all participating in tailored promotions, with some hosting “midnight madness” sales at select locations. Kmart was offering a free Spider-Man “Sticky Dart” with every advance sale on its Web site.

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