Sales of Fox film leave 'Dark Knight' in the dust

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Earth Day turned into Christmas for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment last week as consumers clamored to re-visit Pandora.

To no one’s surprise, Hollywood’s top earning movie at the box office with a $2.7 billion global haul, shattered records around the world with the release of its DVD and Blu-ray over the weekend.

As of Sunday afternoon, the film had sold 6.7 million copies in four days in North America alone, according to retailers and sources close to the studio. Of that, 2.7 million were on Blu-ray, shattering the record that previous best-seller “The Dark Knight” had reached. That pic took 18 months to sell 2.5 million Blu-rays.

In the U.S., first-day sales of the no-frills release had already toppled “The Dark Knight,” when it bowed on Thursday to coincide with Earth Day. “Avatar” moved 3.2 million DVDs and Blu-rays that day, compared to 2.7 million discs overall for the Batman pic. “Avatar” sold another 2 million discs on Friday.

First-day sales were especially significant because 1.5 million of the copies sold were for the Blu-ray disc, a major boost for the high-def format, considering “Dark Knight” had sold 600,000 units on Blu-ray in its launch.

Of course, “Dark Knight” hit homevideo in 2008, when Blu-ray’s penetration was still at an early stage. But the home-video biz has been looking for any signs of growth for Blu-ray since then as more consumers switch to digital downloads or rentals, rather than buying the pricier discs. “Avatar” is helping that, with the cultural phenomenon that the film has become — and James Cameron’s push to see it with the best possible visuals — contributing to Blu-ray accounting for more than half of the sales of the film.

Yet at the same time, Fox has released a no-frills version of the “Avatar” disc, which major retailers like Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Amazon have priced at $16 for the DVD and $20 for the DVD and Blu-ray combo pack, boosting business. A pricier feature-filled disc will bow in November, while a 3D version of the film will also eventually hit homevideo next year.

Overseas, Blu-ray’s numbers were equally impressive.

  • “Avatar” became the biggest pic to launch on DVD and Blu-ray in France with 400,000 discs selling on its first day there. It moved 557,000 discs in two days, besting previous record-holders, “The Chorus” and “Welcome to the Sticks.” Fox sold 136,000 Blu-ray discs for the movie in two days there, more than “Dark Knight” has sold in 15 months.

  • In Germany, the film sold 450,000 discs on its first day, beating out the fifth “Harry Potter” pic, which had dominated the charts in the country.

  • The pic became the biggest pre-order of all time for a studio overseas, with 136,000 copies ordered in Germany, 143,000 in Japan and 74,000 in France. Roughly 60% of those were for the Blu-ray.

  • And in Mexico, the release was unfortunately hot on the black market, with 3,409 copies of the discs stolen at gunpoint from a delivery truck owned by Technicolor Home Entertainment Services of Mexico.

“Avatar” bowed on homevid in France, Spain and the Benelux on Wednesday, Brazil and Russia on Thursday and Germany, Japan and Mexico on Friday. It will be released today in the U.K. and Australia on April 29.

“The phenomenal theatrical success of ‘Avatar’ resonated across different cultures all around the globe and that is now translating into record-breaking results for the Blu-ray and DVD release of the film,” said Keith Feldman, general manager and exec VP of international for Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. “The overwhelming day one sales in key international markets — such as France and Germany — confirm the strength and vibrancy of the market, as well as the overseas appetite for high-definition product in the home.”

Overall, “Avatar” continues a strong year for homevideo sales. In March, Summit was able to sell 4 million units of “Twilight: New Moon” in its first two days. Sales of “The Blind Side” have also been brisk, with Warner Bros. moving close to 4 million copies of the drama in three weeks.

But 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is already touting “Avatar” as the film that will drive up sales numbers for the entire biz this year even more.

The studio threw out several stats over the weekend, including that “Avatar” sold more copies in a single day in grocery and drug stores than “The Dark Knight” moved over its entire lifetime in those outlets, and that it’s driving the sale of Blu-ray players at Best Buy.

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