'Avatar' sets first-day Blu-ray sales record

5:36 PM PST 04/22/2010 by Carl DiOrio, AP

THR EXCLUSIVE

Featuring a 2D version of the theatrical blockbuster for now, DVDs and Blu-ray discs of James Cameron's "Avatar" were flying off store shelves Thursday, the movie's first day in stores.

Recent market momentum for Blu-ray enthusiasm was apparent, as Blu-ray sales of "Avatar" -- at 1.5 million copies -- well outpaced first-day sales of previous high-def top dog "The Dark Knight." An early industry estimate set overall disc sales of the title comfortably north of 4 million units, putting it well on track to become the year's top-selling release to date.

Retailers sold out of 60% of their Blu-ray inventory on average, a Fox rep said. He declined to specify unit shipments.

Mass merchants moved out roughly 50% of their "Avatar" DVDs, the spokesman added.

Due to the epic's ecological theme, Fox Home Entertainment broke with the industry's Tuesday release date norm and scheduled the title's disc releases to coincide with Earth Day. Cameron and others connected to the film have been participating in a host of green-themed events as part of the movie's home-entertainment campaign.

Cameron and pic producer Jon Landau attended a symbolic tree-planting ceremony on the Fox lot Thursday.

"We're not focusing on sales," "Avatar" producer Jon Landau said. "We're focusing on the events. There were 300 kids there today. They're the future, so this is raising awareness, and that's a great thing."

A 3D version of the pic is expected to hit Blu-ray Disc early next year. Fox and the filmmakers wanted to wait until a greater number of homes were equipped with 3D Blu-ray players.

Though 3D-enabled players only recently became available, virtually all new Blu-ray players will boast that capability by year's end.

The first DVDs lack even special features of the sort typically included on disc releases. A special edition release is expected to hit stores in November and will include extensive bonus features.

"We could not have had the special material we wanted to have but will have it for the special edition," Landau said.

Despite the lean-and-mean nature of the release, Fox figures "Avatar" eventually will surpass Summit/Universal's "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" as the year's best-selling disc. "New Moon" moved 4 million units in its first two days -- after launching on a Friday, at midnight -- and has sold 6.5 million copies on DVD and Blu-ray to date.

Many Best Buy locations and other retailers stayed open until midnight Wednesday to allow witching-hour early birds to flock to stores and snatch the first "Avatar" discs.

"To me, about it's never about opening day," Landau insisted. "It's, where are you after your third weekend? I think we as an industry, and as consumers, have been putting too much emphasis on opening days."
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