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Q4 Off to a Strong Start

19 Sep, 2013 By: Thomas K. Arnold

'World War Z'

It’s still September, and yet for home entertainment marketers the fourth-quarter selling season is already well under way.

Lionsgate scored remarkably well with Now You See Me, which was released Sept. 3. A week later came the first of the big tentpoles, Paramount’s Star Trek Into Darkness, which was seen as something of a harbinger for how the rest of the quarter would go.

All eyes were on that title, and by the time the week was over, I honestly couldn’t tell who was more excited: the folks at Paramount or everyone else. The consensus is that Star Trek Into Darkness has been a runaway hit — and like the groundhog who pops his head out of the ground in February and doesn’t see his shadow, studio executives are almost giddy at the prospect of an imminent warming trend in the disc business.

Taking a look at what happened this summer in theaters, it’s easy to see why. The summer was front-loaded with hits, and while the second half of the summer was a disappointment to our friends over in theatrical distribution, the first half was strong enough for Hollywood to chalk up yet another record year at the box office — and those early hits bring good tidings to the home entertainment crew because their theatrical runs are decidedly over and they’re all primed for home video release.

What the Hollywood Reporter aptly called “a schizophrenic summer at the U.S. box office” ended with ticket sales of $4.75 billion — a new record and tidy 7% more than the previous summer record of $4.4 billion, set in 2011. And, according to the Reporter, admissions reached about 560 million, “the best in four summers.”

This all bodes well for home video. The tentpoles came early: Iron Man 3, released in May, topped the domestic summer chart with $409 million (and $1.2 billion worldwide). Man of Steel (June) brought in a cool  $291 million ($657.3 million, worldwide) for Warner, while Paramount's clever zombie hit World War Z (another June release) fared much better than most anyone expected, grossing more than $200 million ($530 million worldwide). And then there’s Star Trek Into Darkness, a May theatrical release, which turned its $229 million domestic showing into what by all accounts was a bang-up start to the video-selling season.

Add to that what the Hollywood Reporter calls “a healthy crop of midrange and smaller films,” like Now You See Me, and you’ve got all the makings of a strong fourth quarter for our business.

Let’s just hope the momentum continues.

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