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Dark Knight Stands Up to Pressure

15 Dec, 2008 By: Thomas K. Arnold

That was a heavy weight the Wall Street Journal placed on Batman last week, proclaiming that the very future of home entertainment hinged on the sales performance of the Caped Crusader’s latest DVD appearance.

But in the end, Warner Home Video appears to have struck one of the holiday season’s few home runs with The Dark Knight, and from what I hear, all of Hollywood is breathing a little easier now.

Ah, the power of the press — particularly in a town such as Hollywood, where a famous saying is, “Perception is reality.” And the perception, created by a Wall Street Journal story headlined “Dark Knight DVD Promises to be a Bellwether,” sent a huge cloud of hysterical suspense over our little corner of the universe.

“When the Warner Bros. film The Dark Knight shattered box office records this summer, it was hailed as a sign that Hollywood can repel an economic downturn,” it read. “But as that latest Batman installment is released on DVD Tuesday, it could show that Hollywood’s defenses against a recession are crumbling.”

The article noted that with all the problems facing the studios — including the drying up of production capital sources due to the poor economy and a threatened Screen Actors Guild strike — the fact that DVD sales are tracking 6% behind last year is sounding alarm bells all over the place. That’s why so many eyes are watching the sales performance of The Dark Knight, the year’s No. 1 movie.

“Executives at Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. are mounting one of the largest marketing campaigns in the company’s history to sell the movie,” the article noted. “Adams Media Research forecasts that the movie will make about $282 million during its first three months of DVD and Blu-ray Disc release. Sales far below that figure could indicate that even the industry’s biggest hits are vulnerable to the recession.”

How’s that for a little pressure? Even I was starting to bite my nails Tuesday when I hadn’t heard from Warner Home Video president Ron Sanders, who’s quick to call when the news is good.

While final sales figures won’t be out until this week, reliable sources peg first-day sales of The Dark Knight at somewhere around 3 million units.

“I saw Ron today, and he had this big smile on his face,” said one studio president. “And I’m even getting e-mails from some of my top customers, telling me Dark Knight was on fire.”

“So we can all sleep well tonight,” he continued, only half-jokingly. “Our business has been saved.”



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