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Waiting For Harry's Other Shoe To Drop

3 Jun, 2002 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone may or may not be headed for the record books. There was no official word from Warner Home Video executives, but the Hollywood Reporter May 30 cited an “informal survey” of retailers as indicating first-week domestic sales would likely top 4 million units, beating such previous record-holders Pearl Harbor and Shrek.

At Tower Records and Video, sales of the much-ballyhooed video release since its May 28 release were neck-in-neck with those of Shrek, the West Sacramento, Calif.-based chain's all-time top seller.

“It's running fairly close to Shrek, maybe a little bigger,” said John Thrasher, VP of video purchasing.

Meanwhile, executives at DreamWorks, the studio behind Shrek, announced new numbers that showed total sales of the animated blockbuster, released in November, at 24 million units, nearly 9 million of them on DVD.

Thrasher said if Harry Potter does beat Shrek, “candidly, it's only going to be for a short time. You've got Lord of the Rings and Spider Man that are going to pass it.”

Insiders say Warner has its eye on the top prize: beating the all-time video sales record of around 30 million units set in the late 1990s by Buena Vista Home Entertainment's The Lion King.

Based on initial sales, “it looks like it will for us,” said Larry Gaines, president of Wherehouse Music, a national audio-video combo chain based in Torrance, Calif. “We expect by the end of the [first] week it will be our No. 1 title of all time.”

Analyst Tom Adams says his numbers put The Lion King, which came out on video in March 1995, at 28.8 million units sold.

“Harry certainly has a chance,” Adams said. “It did slightly more at the box office, hence it would have a shot at topping it, especially because DVD has whipped the consumer into an acquisition frenzy, with the average DVD household buying three times as many videos as the average VHS household.”

Also working in Harry Potter's favor was the big buzz prior to street date – with many big chains opening at midnight –

and rampant deep-discounting, particularly of the DVD. Mass merchants like Wal-Mart and Target Stores are selling Harry Potter videos for pennies below $16, and at Target, the two-disc, extras-laden DVD is priced at $15.99, just four cents more than the videocassette.

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.”

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