‘Phantom’ on video: $100 mil in 2 days

VHS still 'Menace' to DVD

Never mind DVD and scary movies about dead people.

Consumers forked over an estimated $100 million in just two days for VHS copies of “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace.” Sales are easily expected to reach 10 million copies by the end of the week, which would represent about $200 million in consumer spending.

It’s estimated the pic will eventually sell close to 20 million copies in the U.S., which would represent more than $350 million.

That would put “Phantom” ahead of Fox’s own “Independence Day” (17.5 million copies) as the second biggest-selling live-action video title of all time, after “Titanic.”

The galactic-type spending comes on the heels of an estimated $50 million spent by consumers last week on the purchase of DVDs and the rental of DVD and VHS copies of “The Sixth Sense.”

The video tally also dwarfs the film’s box office. Last May, “Phantom” set a B.O. record of $102.7 million in the first five days of theatrical release. The video version surely surpassed that mark in its third day in vid stores on Thursday, according to Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Alive and kicking

“VHS is alive and well, despite reports from others to the contrary,” said Fox spokesman Steve Feldstein.

Tuesday and Wednesday sales figures on “Phantom,” provided by Fox, indicate that 5 million VHS copies of the title were sold, representing about one-third the number shipped. About 4.5 million of those copies were the standard edition, which is selling for $17 to $20, and the other 500,000 were the collector’s editions, selling for about $30.

Fox has limited the collector’s editions — featuring a widescreen edition of the film and behind-the-scenes footage — to just 1.5 million copies, which at this rate will be sold out by the end of the week.

Mike Dunn, executive veep of marketing and sales, said that a record number of units of “Phantom” were sold online: about 4% of overall sales, or about 200,000 copies.

No price breaks

Unlike online sales of “Titanic,” copies of which were being sold below cost as a loss-leader, Dunn said there has been no price-slashing with “Phantom.”

Fox has sold more than 70 million copies worldwide of various versions of the three previous “Star Wars” movies, about 46 million in the U.S. alone.

VHS versions of “The Sixth Sense” are priced to be rented and not purchased, while most VHS editions of “Phantom” are being sold at an average price of about $17, allowing the title to generate far more revenue.

But while Disney’s Buena Vista Home Entertainment shipped a record number of DVD versions of “The Sixth Sense,” Fox has no plans at this time for a DVD version of “Phantom,” even though it would undoubtedly be one of the best-selling DVD titles ever.

Paramount Home Video sold about 20 million VHS copies of “Titanic” in the U.S. in its first two weeks of release. That made “Titanic” — the only movie to gross more at the boxoffice in its initial release than “Phantom” — the biggest-selling live-action homevideo title of all time.

The studio eventually shipped about 30 million copies of “Titanic,” at least 25 million of which were purchased by consumers. Fox sold about 32 million VHS copies of “Titanic” overseas.

Although “Titanic” became the biggest-selling video title of any kind worldwide, Disney’s “The Lion King” still wears the crown of the top-selling title in the U.S. with more than 30 million units.

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