Walmart, Target, Amazon battle for supremacy

Walmart.com, Target.com and Amazon.com are aggressively discounting a number of upcoming fourth-quarter DVD releases, including Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Star Trek and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, to just $10.

On Thursday, Walmart.com announced a $10 sale on its top 10 pre-order DVD movies. Other featured hits include Angels & Demons, Julie & Julia, Four Christmases, G-Force, My Sister’s Keeper, Santa Buddies and Terminator: Salvation. It appears the basement pricing is guaranteed only online and up until the movies street in November and December.

Walmart.com’s bold sale quickly ignited a pricing war with rivals Target and Amazon.com. Hours after Walmart.com laid out its promotion, Target.com presented nearly an identical deal. By Friday, Amazon.com had dropped its own pricing on many of these featured titles, including Harry Potter, Night at the Museum, and Star Trek, to $10 as well.

Additionally, both Walmart.com and Target.com are offering free shipping on the $10 titles. The promotions are further explained at Walmart.com section http://www.walmart.com/movies and this Target link.

Amazon.com deal titles weren’t highly advertised as of Friday morning, but are apparent to site visitors searching through its top DVD sellers list.

Walmart.com said it is slashing prices on new release DVDs, which typically retail for four to five dollars more, to help families holiday shop during this difficult economic environment. The retailer earlier announced ultra low pricing on hot new release book titles.

“This will be a challenging holiday season for our customers, and we recognize that more of them are choosing Walmart.com every day as the Web site with the lowest prices,” said Raul Vazquez, Walmart.com’s CEO. “We’re excited to offer our top 10 pre-order DVD movies for just $10 as well as free home delivery on our entire assortment of DVD and Blu-ray titles. This is yet another example of how we continue to help our customers save money online at Walmart.com during the holidays and beyond.”

Studios seem to be downplaying the pricing deals, perceiving it as simple Web site turf wars rather than severe devaluation of the DVD category. Walmart and Target are most likely trying to drum up buzz for their Web sites, which represent a small fraction of their overall sales, according to studio sources.

Also comforting to studios, the  extreme low price tags are expected to disappear at the chains by the time the titles street.

“This is a straight pre-order promotion, and online reprsents a small part of their business,” said one studio executive. “They’re trying to get more people to shop at the [sites].”

The executive added that the $10 pre-order campaign may help retail estimate consumer demand early to avoid the nuisance of heavy stock returns.

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