Pic's perf continues franchise's stong run

“Saw II” slashed its way past the DVD competish last week in a bow underscoring horror’s vitality on homevid.

Lionsgate said it sold 3.9 million total units — rental and sell-through — in the slasher sequel’s first week, compared with the original’s 3 million total units for the same period. Studio declined to provide a further breakdown, but rivals place rental units above 1 million.

Regardless of the breakdown, the perf reps another impressive gain for the horror franchise, which found its legs during the original’s homevid release last year. That success helped pave the way for the sequel’s greater B.O. success — $85 million compared to $55 million — which in turn begat a stronger DVD bow.

“We knew it was going to do really well, but like every thing else, we were really nervous until we saw it,” said Lionsgate prexy Steve Beeks.

The title bowed on Valentine’s Day against “Proof” and the first season of “Grey’s Anatomy,” selling 2.5 million units the first day, compared with “Saw’s” 1.9 million units.

Beeks projects more than 4.5 million units of “Saw II” sales in the next six months. The original has sold about 4 million units, including a special edition released with “Saw II’s” theatrical bow.

It’s not clear how much revenue Lionsgate will see on the rental side, however, since “Saw II” is available under revenue sharing, which allows retailers to bring in maximum copies for split rental revenue.

In any case, the “Saw” franchise is the latest to gain ground upon homevid release. Horror, with its dedicated 18-25 demo, is considered an especially ripe genre for this type of franchise. Homevid success of pics like “Blade” and “Underworld” helped spawn sequels.

And the franchise stays fresh due to a steady influx of new characters, according to New Line homevid marketing veep Laura Abele.

“The nature of the film is to kill off characters, so with each new ‘Final Destination’ you have new actors, which keeps freshening it up,” she said.

Beeks admits DVD-fueled franchises are not new, but cautions you can’t really plan on them. “It’s not often that a sequel outperforms the original,” he said.

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