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Straight-to-vid toon ‘Buzz’-ing to No. 1

4 mil shipped; title may be year's third best seller

“Buzz Lightyear of the Star Command: The Adventure Begins” has become the top-selling title on homevideo, just two months before “Toy Story 2” will be released on homevideo Oct. 17.

The first-place opening for the feature-length version of the TV cartoon on which the Buzz Lightyear character is based is unusual for a title premiering on video.

Based on shipments of more than 4 million units, the straight-to-video title could become the third best-selling title of the year, surpassing sales of theatrical hits like “The World Is Not Enough,” “Galaxy Quest” and another Disney title that premiered on video, “An Extremely Goofy Movie,” according to industry sources. Disney’s “Tarzan” and Fox’s “Star Wars: Episode One — The Phantom Menace” have each sold an estimated 11 million to 14 million units.

The movie, which serves as a pilot of sorts for the weekly Saturday morning cartoon series “Disney Pixar’s Buzz Lightyear of Star Command” premiering on ABC Oct. 14, debuted as the top-selling title in video stores last week, according to the exclusive weekly VHS and DVD sales charts of Daily Variety sister publication Video Business.

Allen voice

Featuring the voices of Tim Allen (who will not do the same for the TV series) and Tom Hanks’ brother Jim in a brief opening computer-animated segment, it was the top-selling VHS title at retailers such as Amazon.com, Best Buy, Tower Records, Hollywood Video and Buy.com, where it was also among the top-selling DVD titles.

Noting that August is traditionally a very strong month for video sales, Mitch Koch, general manager of Buena Vista Home Entertainment, said the sales show the vibrancy of the category for video premieres and the “Toy Story” franchise, in general. He also said it shows that the family market is starting to step up to support the DVD format.

Koch expects sales to remain strong for “Buzz” throughout the fourth quarter, with cross-promotions for the movie on “Toy Story 2.”

The strong debut of “Buzz” also bodes well for the Sept. 19 release of another video premiere title from Disney, “The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea.”

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