'Pirates' payoff

Sequel sells 10.5 mil in Week 1

Talk about booty. Buena Vista Home Entertainment's "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" tallied first-week sales of 10.5 million units, according to the studio, marking the biggest debut of any new release this year.

The sequel, also the top theatrical earner of the year, shot to No. 1 on the Nielsen VideoScan First Alert sales chart for the week ending Dec. 10, and its draft pulled the first film, "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," back up to No. 9 three years after it was released.

On Home Media Retailing's video rental chart for the week, "Dead Man's Chest" also scored an easy victory, generating an estimated $12.9 million in its first week.

"Dead Man's Chest" is now poised to be the top-selling DVD of the year, beating another Walt Disney title, "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," which was released in April and has sold about 14 million copies.

The "Pirates" sequel also will likely become the No. 1 live-action DVD ever. That honor currently belongs to the original "Pirates," which sold 9.9 million DVDs in its first week (and 1.1 million VHS cassettes) and went on to sell more than 18 million units, discs and cassettes combined.

The strong sales debut of "Dead Man's Chest" sounded a vote of confidence among DVD boosters, many of who were cringing in the wake of an NBC "Today" broadcast this month in which an executive from file-sharing service BitTorrent predicted DVD's days were numbered because of digital downloading.

"With the incredible success of 'Pirates,' it is evident that the home entertainment industry continues to flourish," said Bob Chapek, president of Buena Vista Worldwide Home Entertainment, Disney's video distribution arm.

The success of the "Dead Man's Chest" DVD isn't limited to the U.S. In the U.K., the film sold nearly 1.5 million DVDs in its first week of release, a record. And in Japan, it sold nearly 1 million units to become the No. 1 live-action movie of all time in that country.

"Dead Man's Chest" also was available for download at Apple's iTunes store and other services like CinemaNow. Apple would not divulge sales figures, but industry sources said typical download sales for big theatrical titles number no more than 10,000.

Elsewhere on the First Alert DVD sales chart, Universal Studios' big-screen "Miami Vice" debuted at No. 2, while the previous week's best-seller, "Superman Returns," slipped to No. 3.

Two animated features that have been in stores for several weeks ? Buena Vista's "Cars" and 20th Century Fox's "Ice Age: The Meltdown" ? finished a respective fourth and fifth for the week, while Warner's "Beerfest" debuted at No. 6, one notch above Fox's "24: Season 5."

In rental stores, "Vice" debuted at No. 3 with estimated earnings of $7.9 million. "Beerfest" bowed at No. 6 with $6.1 million, more than 30% of its theatrical take.