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UPDATE: 'Harry Potter' Sells 9.86 Million Units In Its First Week

5 Jun, 2002 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Harry Potter proved himself quite the wizard at retail, with the much-ballyhooed North American video release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone posting the highest first-week sales since 1995's The Lion King and the highest rental-revenue debut of any video in history.

Warner Home Video confirms that consumers in the United States and Canada bought 9.86 million copies of Potter on DVD and VHS in the first week following its May 28 release.

Worldwide sales through June 4 stood at 20.86 million copies, according to Warner. The Harry Potter video was released May 11 in the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and Spain, to avoid conflicts with the World Cup finals.

The North American out-of-the-gate sales tally is slightly ahead of the previous non-Walt Disney recordholder, DreamWorks Home Entertainment's Shrek, which last November moved an estimated 9.6 million units in its first seven days in stores. Back in the middle 1990s, several Disney titles scored higher first-week sales, including Aladdin (10.8 million units in 1993) and The Lion King (20 million units in 1995).

Based on studio reports that a high-profile sellthrough release typically generates 40 percent of its total sales its first week out, Harry Potter sales in North America could hit 25 million units, slightly more than Shrek's 24 million units but still short of the 31.5 million units Disney says consumers bought of The Lion King (Adams Media Research puts The Lion King's sellthrough tally at 28.8 million units).

Tina Castellanos, 31, of Carlsbad, Calif., said she bought the videocassette a day after it came out for her 6-year-old daughter, Isabella.

“She didn't want to see the movie in theaters because she thought she would be scared,” Castellanos said. “Then we read the book together and she liked it so well we'll buy the movie.”

Internationally, hot spots for Harry included Britain and Japan. First-day sales in Britain came in at 1.25 million units, beating the previous record of 1.1 million units Titanic set several years ago. In Japan, consumers bought more than 1 million DVDs during week one (no VHS breakout was available, although Warner Japan reports that in the title's first 12 days of release consumers bought 1.1 million DVDs and 575,000 videocassettes).

Harry's top-selling week one performance in North America translates to nearly $200 million in consumer spending, or more than twice what the film generated theatrically its opening weekend.

That marks a continuation of a trend that peaked in the fourth quarter of last year, when surging interest in DVD and post-Sept. 11 cocooning spurred consumers to buy record quantities of new video releases, with first-week video “openings” rivaling theatrical debuts.

When the dust settled, it appeared that Shrek was the top first-week seller, with consumer sales revenue estimated at $170 million. At the time, DreamWorks did not provide a unit breakdown, other than to note 7 million video units were sold to consumers in the title's first three days of release.

Insiders now say first-week sales of Shrek totaled 9.6 million units.

In second place was Universal Studios Home Video's Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which sold an estimated 8.5 million units, domestically, its first week in stores.

Meanwhile, exclusive Video Store Magazine market research shows Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone< generated an estimated $19.1 million in combined DVD and VHS consumer rental spending its first five days in rental stores.

The previous champ, The Fast and the Furious, was released in January 2002 and generated $18.65 million its first five days out.

Sales of Harry Potter were fueled by deep-discounting and huge shipments to mass merchants, most of which were selling the two-disc DVD for less than $16 and the videocassette for around $15.

Fry's, a consumer electronics chain, was selling copies of the DVD for $14.99, “limit one per customer,” prompting nearby Best Buy stores to match that price.

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