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Saturday, November 12, 2011
Blu-ray Sales Continues To Grow As Q4 Begins

Year-over-year unit sales comparisons for physical video discs continued to improve through the month of September as a selection of popular catalog titles debuted on the Blu-ray Disc (BD) format, boost­ing sales of the first major summer tentpoles to arrive on home video, according to IHS Screen Digest insights.

Based on Nielsen VideoScan data on total year-to­date video sales to U.S. consumers, August figures this year trailed those from the same month last year by negative 10.3 percent, but September finished by being down just negative 9.4 percent compared to year-over levels.

"Transformers: The Dark of the Moon" shot to the top of the sales charts on the strength of its initial release week, selling well over a million units in just the first three days following its debut on Friday, Sept. 30. By the end of its first full week, the title had sold through 1.6 million units, generating more than $30 million for distributor Paramount. Another movie, "Star Wars," sold an estimated first-week total of 520,000 units after moving 400,000 units in its initial three days at retail. For comparison purposes, so-called "first week sales" for Friday releases combine units sold during the initial weekend plus the first full week of sales.

In the case of "Stars Wars: The Complete Saga," its higher price point made the release the top Sep­tember title in dollar terms, with estimated first-week revenue to Fox of $40 million. Universal's "Brides­maids" was a break-out hit, selling an estimated 430,000 BD units in its first week at retail, an exceptionally strong performance for a character-based comedy that primarily targeted a female demographic. When DVD sales are added for "Bridesmaids," it was actually the No. 2 title for the month.

While overall U.S. disc sales are still dominated by DVD, more than 50 percent are in the form of BD sales in their first week at retail, especially for major hit-feature films. Most major titles now have BD versions that include a DVD in the box, often including digital copy as well, and video consumers are showing a willingness to pay a little more for what they perceive as significant extra value. A few titles are still being offered with the option of a BD/DVD combo or a BD-only SKU; the BD-only version is often offered at a lower price point.

A handful of titles have released with two BD SKUs at the same price, each of which contains a DVD in the package, the only difference being the packaging: one is sold in DVD-style packing but includes a BD as well, the other is sold as a BD with a DVD copy. Older catalog titles are achieving healthy sales by putting a BD, DVD and digital copy in one box, and then priced for impulse buys at $14.99 and below. As the practice of including a BD in most video SKUs takes hold, a significant shift in the BD-to-DVD sales ratios can be expected, as IHS Screen Digest counts any SKU with a BD copy as a BD sale.

The combination of Universal's "Fast Five" video debut with the BD release of Disney's "The Lion King" and "The Lion King 3D," as well as the first full week of sales for "Transformers: The Dark of the Moon," all helped to drive sales gains in the first week of the fourth quarter, pushing the year-to-date comparison of discs sold for the week ending October 9 to negative 9.2 percent.

After roaring back to life in its theatrical 3-D release, earning more than $90 million at the box office through Oct. 19 (according to Box Office Mojo), the combined BD and BD3D releases of "The Lion King" and "The Lion King 3D," along with the 3-D "Lion King Trilogy," sold more than 1 million units in their first week at retail. In comparison, "Fast Five" sold an estimated 790,000 BD units - 52 percent of its total first-week disc sales.

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