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Blu-ray sales boom in September

'Star Wars' was the biggest seller

September turned out to be a big month for Blu-ray sales, with the release of high-profile titles getting Hollywood excited for a strong holiday for the format.

Blu-ray sales surged 156% over last year in the U.S. during the week of Sept. 18 driven by the releases of Paramount’s “Thor” and 20th Century Fox’s “Star Wars” collection, according to an IHS analysis of Nielsen’s VideoScan data.

During the prior Sept. 11 week, sales were up 131% with Fox’s “X-Men: First Class” Blu-ray bow and another 60% during the week of Sept. 4, with Lionsgate’s “Tyler Perry’s Big Happy Family,” FX’s “Sons of Anarchy: Season 3,” and continuing success of Fox’s “Rio,” which hit store shelves Aug. 2 but remained the top-selling Blu-ray title during the frame.

Universal also saw strong sales of “Bridesmaids,” out Sept. 20, which is significant, considering male-skewing titles, like the company’s “Fast Five,” out Oct. 4, typically perform better on Blu-ray. Nearly 30% of the R-rated comedy’s overall home entertainment sales to date have been generated on Blu-ray.

The Blu-ray sales propped up the declining DVD biz during the month, which continues to drag down overall results.

Combined, sales of DVD and Blu-ray discs in the U.S. rose 1% during the week of Sept 18. The previous weeks were flat or lower compared to the same weeks a year ago.

“Studios are starting to bring the crown jewels out of the vault for BD release,” said Jan Saxton, senior U.S. video analyst for IHS. “That, coupled with the first releases from a very strong summer box office, has the potential to turn the movie disc market around. Weak DVD sales have continually dragged the market down in 2011, but with the strong showing of ‘X-Men: First Class,’ ‘Thor’ and ‘Star Wars,’ the overall market may have hit an inflection point.”

“X-Men: First Class” moved an estimated 350,000 Blu-ray units in its first three days at retail and more than 600,000 by the end of its first full week, according to Nielsen VideoScan.

“Thor” and “Thor 3D” together sold 500,000 Blu-rays in their first week, with the 3-D Blu-ray representing 14% of sales and combo packs generating 86%.

But it was “Star Wars” that was the biggest seller with 400,000 units moving out retailers’ doors in the

U.S. in the first three days. Although priced at $140, retailers heavily discounted the six-pic set, with Amazon selling it for $82.99, while Walmart priced it at $79.99.

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