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Studios Hopeful For Black Friday Surge

23 Nov, 2005 By: Thomas K. Arnold

War of the Worlds

Going into the Thanksgiving holiday, DVD marketers are cautiously optimistic about their prospects for Black Friday — the biggest retail day of the year — and for the four-day holiday overall.

Two high-powered films are new in stores this week: DreamWorks Home Entertainment's War of the Worlds, at $234.3 million the year's No. 2 theatrical grosser, and Warner Home Video's The Polar Express, last year's big holiday theatrical.

Industry sources predict those two titles alone could sell upwards of 10 million units, combined, which translates into $200 million in gross consumer spending.

“It should kick off a tremendous last surge to close the year,” said Universal Studios Home Entertainment president Craig Kornblau. “You've already had some tremendous successes, starting with ‘Star Wars,' and this Friday we're seeing the big retailers becoming very aggressive in the category.”

Retailers have not yet released Black Friday ads, but those that have leaked onto the Web show very aggressive pricing, sources say. Wal-Mart is selling recent hit theatricals like Minority Report, Entrapment and Road to Perdition for just $3.44 each, while Best Buy is not far behind with Shark Tale, A Beautiful Mind and The Cat in the Hat at $3.99. Shrek and Meet the Fockers are $5.99, and Chappelle's Show: Season 2 Uncensored is $14.99.

The three big theatricals that streeted Tuesday, meanwhile, will likely sell for pennies below $15, standard practice at mass merchants, at least for the first week the titles are out. To beef up Black Friday sales, retailers are continuing to sell recent releases at that price, including DreamWorks' Madagascar, which according to an upcoming circular will be available at Target Stores for $14.88 for the second consecutive week.

Target also is selling a batch of Disney titles for $13.88, including National Treasure and special editions of Bambi and Cinderella.

Studio executives are reluctant to predict how the fourth quarter ultimately will turn out, although previously most said they expected sales to be sufficiently strong for an overall 5 percent lift for the year.

Whether that gain will materialize is uncertain. Privately, studio executives said they have noticed a decided softening of sales on the top-tiered theatricals, although some blockbusters, most notably Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith, have managed to escape the slide.

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