'Dark Knight' tally to 4.4 million by second day

Batman’s latest cinematic adventures set an impressive new benchmark for Blu-ray this week, when Warners sold 600,000 copies of the pic on Tuesday alone.

But the overall picture isn’t nearly as rosy when DVD sales are factored into the equation.

Warners sold 3 million copies of “The Dark Knight” on both formats in the pic’s first day on shelves, and that tally rose to 4.4 million by its second day. While strong by current homevid standards, the overall tally speaks volumes about how far the “hits” biz has fallen since the heyday of DVD.

“Finding Nemo” set the all-time first day record of 8 million units, rental copies included, five years ago, but bows have been getting progressively lower ever since. Warners is believed to have sold a larger than usual amount into rental stores — as much as 2.5 million copies — but even adding that amount in, “The Dark Knight” won’t approach “Nemo” for biggest homevid bow.

As the sales of biggest movies have declined, the pressure to convert consumers to Blu-ray has heated up. The vid biz has been holding its breath over “The Dark Knight,” viewing it as a key test of the format in this economy.

The pic, biggest this year at the box office, didn’t disappoint Blu-ray proponents: “The Dark Knight” sold more copies in one day than previous record holder “Iron Man” sold in a week, and is expected to cross the 1 million threshold before week’s end. “Iron Man” sold 260,000 Blu-ray discs its first day and 500,000 discs its first week. Its first week, consumers snapped up around 5.2 million units in the U.S.; that tally grew to 7.2 million units with rental copies and Canadian sales added into the mix.

“The Dark Knight,” the biggest homevid release of the season, is expected to keep selling on disc through the holidays. Even its rivals cheered the perf.

However, no one really expects it, or subsequent releases such as “Mamma Mia!,” to lift the homevid biz, now about 6% down from a year ago, out of its sales hole for the year.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” one homevid exec said. “Is it two years ago? No. But it’s clear people want Blu-ray.”

(This story was updated on Dec. 12, 2008 at 2:52 p.m.)

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