Although not yet in the top 25, Disney’s “Pinocchio” managed to muscle its way into the Daily Variety/VideoScan sell-through data even before its March 23 official release date. The animated classic finished as the 49th biggest seller for the week ended March 21, with under 10,000 units sold.

The early bow means stores are either jumping the gun on the official street date (a persistent problem with high-profile sell-through vids) or — less likely — selling off inventory stockpiled the last time “Pinocchio” made the vid rounds in 1987.

In either case, the Wooden One’s premature appearance portends the demand sparked by Disney’s marketing pitch. It also underscores VideoScan’s unique advantage in corralling sales data.

The chart, which bowed last month, is compiled from data collected by point-of-purchase computers as opposed to the more traditional method of surveying dealers by phone. This direct link enables the chart to track sales of titles that aren’t even supposed to be on the shelves yet. The sales info is also something of a smoking gun for vid specialty dealers who gripe that larger stores routinely ignore street dates on big titles.

Overall sales for the week reflected in the chart totaled just over the 3 million mark, a dip from the previous week’s 3.2 million vids moved. The total for the year stands at 31.5 million tapes sold, including 1.7 million feature films, 6.7 million kidvids and 3.2 million sweatcassettes.

The six Disney vids that appeared in the top 25 a few weeks ago the week ended March 14 MDSDhe said feb, but I’m nearly certain he’s talking about two weeks ago; I have a call in to him to confirm are already sliding south. In particular, the three vids in the “Sing Along” series “Be Our Guest,””Under the Sea” and “Disneyland,” which debuted at 16, 21 and 22, respectively were not among the top 50. In each case unit volume was hushed by more than two-thirds.

The three vids based on “The Little Mermaid”–“Whale of a Tale,””Stormy, the Wild Seahorse” and “Double Bubble”– also dipped from 30,000 units each a week earlier to around 20,000. It’s worth noting that the vids were rolled out during a week that turned out to be a bonanza for the vid biz.

Foul weather on the East Coast around March 13 kept people out of the theaters, but the winter storm prompted a run on vids that accounts for the abrupt fluctuations in the chart lately. Vid specialty dealers say biz was up by more than 50% as the storm approached.

With no ill wind inflating sales, 12 of the top 25 vids — including the four top-selling titles — saw unit volume slip. Because of the downward trend, “Beauty and the Beast” kept its claws in the No. 1 spot despite shedding nearly 14,000 units off its total the previous week.

The sales data this week also shows several vids growing legs after languishing at the bottom of the heap for weeks.

After more than two months in stores, Family Home Entertainment’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie” kicked into fast forward with the sell-through release of the sequel “Secret of the Ooze.”

The original, which has previously not been in the top 50, popped its head into the No. 28 spot with sales of close to 15,000 units, more than double the previous week. Meanwhile, the second “Turtle” movie showed up as vid No. 36 for the week.

Also picking up the pace, “The Rescuers Down Under” moved from No. 31 (34 two weeks ago) to No. 14 as sales during the course of the week nearly doubled to more than 25,000. The other two vids to rejoin the top 25 after a hiatus were CBS/Fox’s “Michael Jordan: Air Time” which sold just under 20,000 tapes and rebounded from 27 to 23 after it debuted two weeks ago at No. 16, and “Beethoven ,” which pawed its way from 26 to 24 and sold about 15,000 vids during its 11th week on the chart.

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