Strong sales of "Thor" and the "Star Wars" saga on Blu-ray Disc (BD) prompted a 156 percent surge in U.S. sales of the format in the release week ending September 18, possibly pointing to brighter days ahead for the overall market for movies on disc, according to analysis provider IHS.
That triple-digit year-over-year-growth caps a period in which U.S. BD sales already were starting to post the kind of robust growth rates the new format's backers had hoped for following its 2006 launch. According to an IHS analysis of Nielsen's VideoScan data, U.S. BD sales posted a 131 percent increase for the week of September 11, supported by the release of "X-Men: First Class," and a 60 percent gain the week of September 4, supported by the release of "Tyler Perry's Big Happy Family," "Sons of Anarchy: Season 3," and the continued strong sales of "Rio" which released on August 2 but was still the number one BD title for the week.
The surge in sales propelled the growth of the overall market for physical movies in the United States into positive territory for the week of September 18. Combined U.S. DVD and BD sales rose 1 percent for the week, compared to flat growth during the week of September 11 and a 3 percent decline during the week of September 4.
"Studios are starting to bring the crown jewels out of the vault for BD release," observed Jan Saxton, senior U.S. video analyst for IHS. "That, coupled with the first releases from a very strong summer box office, has the potential to turn the movie disc market around. Weak DVD sales have continually dragged the market down in 2011, but with the strong showing of 'X-men: First Class,' 'Thor' and 'Star Wars,' the overall market may have hit an inflection point."
"X-men: First Class" kicked off the BD sales rally with a Friday release on September 9, selling an estimated 350,000 BD units in its first three days at retail and more than 600,000 by the end of its first full week on the market, according to an IHS analysis of Nielsen VideoScan data.
"Thor" and "Thor 3D" arrived on video September 13, and together sold half a million BDs during their first week of availability. 3-D Blu-ray (BD3D) represented 14 percent of the total units sold with BD/DVD combo packs making up the other 86 percent .
"Star Wars" fans greeted the Friday, September 16, arrival of the iconic series on BD enthusiastically, buying a total of 400,000 units in the U.S. in just its first three days of availability. The six-movie, nine-disc set represented 92 percent of total units sold, with the original and prequel trilogies making up the rest.
The $139.99 manufacturers' suggested retail price (MSRP) for "Star Wars: The Complete Saga" was heavily discounted: Amazon.com lists the BD set for $82.99 while Walmart has it set for sale online at $79.99. That suggests retail revenue was $30 million from its first three days of sales.