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UPDATE: ‘Phantom Menace’ DVD Sets Record, Fox Reports

19 Oct, 2001 By: Thomas K. Arnold

The Phantom Menace is the third big fourth-quarter DVD release to get a studio press announcement touting its phenomenal sales, with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment claiming first-day consumer spending topped $17 million.

While citing no unit sales, Fox maintains the Star Wars prequel, which bowed on disc Oct. 16, is “the fastest-selling DVD of all time at traditional retail outlets nationwide.”

The previous week, both Universal Studios Home Video and Buena Vista Home Entertainment had issued press releases, a day apart, announcing “record” sales of their respective fourth-quarter DVD starters.Universal said consumers had purchased more than 2 million units of The Mummy Returns disc its first week in stores. A day later, Buena Vista claimed first-day sales of 1 million units for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs — a figure Disney concedes includes advance orders as well as online sales.

Previously, analyst Tom Adams of Adams Media Research had said The Phantom Menace could become the fastest-selling DVD of all time.

John Thrasher, v.p. of video purchasing at Tower Records and Video, a 100-store audio-video combo chain based in West Sacramento, Calif., says his strongest fourth-quarter DVD sellers to date have been The Phantom Menace, The Mummy Returns and Snow White, in that order.

The weekend before The Phantom Menace DVD was released, more than 150 fans posted messages on the Home Theater Forum Web site, looking for advance copies in the hope that someone knew of a store that had broken street date.

“If anyone has found The Phantom Menace somewhere in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago, please, please, pretty please e-mail me,” pleaded one poster.

Meanwhile, Web reviewers had the highest of praise for the two-disc set, which comes with more than six hours of special features, including the first-ever feature-length audio commentary from director George Lucas, a 66-minute “fly on the wall” documentary on the making of the film and seven deleted scenes.

“This is as good as it gets,” wrote Geoffrey Kleinman on the DVD Talk Web site.

“At long last, after more than four years of waiting…the day many of us have hoped for is here,” wrote Bill Hunt on The Digital Bits.

The Phantom Menace grossed $431 million in U.S. theaters alone. It was released on videocassette in April 2000, but no DVD date was announced. Fans launched an Internet campaign to get director George Lucas to issue the film on DVD. Hunt, who helped organize the drive, says backers received “30,000 signatures in a month.”

Jim Ward, v.p. of marketing at Lucasfilm and executive producer of the Phantom Menace DVD, denies reports blaming the delay on Lucas’ concerns that the DVD market wasn’t big enough at the time.

“It was never an issue of economics,” he says. “George wanted to put out the best possible product rather than just slap together a vanilla version. George supported the DVD platform from day one, but you have to understand, to do what we did on this DVD is not something you can do in two months.”

The Phantom Menace DVD, sound and visuals are “reference quality,” Ward says. Seven deleted scenes were completed with the special effects just for the disc.

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