‘Sense’-sational

DVD, vid rentals & sales spook records

“The Sixth Sense” had a mind of its own on video last week, generating staggering homevideo rentals and sales.

Consumer spending on the purchase of DVD versions and the rental of VHS and DVD versions in the first five days is estimated to be as high as $50 million.

The video spending spree may just be beginning. “Star Wars: Episode One — The Phantom Menace” has been released at a sell-through price on VHS this week and is expected to eventually sell as many as 18 million copies. Retailers are reporting very strong sales since the title was introduced on Tuesday.

Disney’s Buena Vista Home Video shipped a record 2.2 million DVD copies of “Sixth Sense” and saw a stunning 1 million or more of those sold in the first weekend, according to industry sources. VSDA VidTrac is reporting that nearly 1 million more were rented last week — meaning that nearly one out of every two people who own a DVD player rented or purchased “The Sixth Sense” on DVD last week.

DVD sales alone were so strong that the number of units sold in the first five days would have ranked the DVD version ahead of all but the top 20-25 bestselling VHS titles for all of 1999.

Buena Vista also shipped a record number of rental-priced copies of the VHS version into the market — well over 1.5 million, according to sources. The extra shipments are not only a reflection of the strength of the 10th top-grossing move of all time, but also the increased use of copy-depth programs by studios and retailers that allow more copies of hit titles to be delivered to video stores in order to satisfy consumer demand.

National guarantee

“The Sixth Sense” is the first DVD title for which Blockbuster offered a national guarantee on the availability of the title in all its stores.

VSDA VidTrac reported first-week rental revenue on the title of $22.55 million, nearly 60% more than the VHS revenue generated by the previous best-renting title priced for the rental market, “Double Jeopardy.” Nearly 7 million customers rented a VHS copy of that movie.

Add to that DVD rental revenue of $3.31 million, which ranked the DVD version alone as the seventh best-renting title of the week among VHS and DVD.

Inflated rev?

But some industry observers and studio executives are wondering if the VidTrac revenue numbers of the past few weeks have been slightly inflated.

While there is little doubt that “Sixth Sense” generated more revenue in its first week than any other rental-priced title, some find it hard to believe it garnered more than twice the revenue of “Saving Private Ryan” or “There’s Something About Mary” — the top rental-priced titles prior to this year — or that “Double Jeopardy” generated 50% more revenue than those titles.

A spokeswoman for VidTrac said the numbers are accurate and that there have been no changes in the methodology in the past few weeks.

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