'Sherlock Holmes' DVDs benefit from film

MPI Media has been overnighting discs to key retailers

You don't have to be a world-renowned detective to deduce that a big theatrical hit with a well-known fictional character can prompt robust sales of back-catalog DVDs related to the same subject.

But for independent disc suppliers, drawing off of such big-screen hits can have outsized benefits. To wit: Sales of MPI Media's collection of "Sherlock Holmes" DVDs jumped by nearly one-third in the first week after Warner Bros.' Dec. 25 release of the famed sleuth's latest theatrical adventure.

Suburban Chicago-based MPI holds the exclusive licenses for 10 television programs based on the famed character first created by 19th century novelist Arthur Conan Doyle.

Directed by Guy Ritchie, "Holmes" has rung up $84 million domestically since unspooling on Christmas. But even a less successful rendering of a well-known tale can prompt dusty DVDs to start flying off of store shelves.

"Remakes have proven that consumers are driven to the original versions, regardless of whether critical response is positive or negative," MPI Media exec vp Greg Newman said. "The deep exposure at retail certainly helps to make our Sherlock Holmes product a compelling purchase in the wake of the promotional blitz for the feature film."

Speaking of Ritchie, Koch Lorber Films saw exactly such a consumer response to its DVDs of the original 1979 version of "Swept Away" after the director's critically panned remake hit theaters in 2002. Starring Richie's then-wide Madonna, "Swept Away" fetched less than $1 million, but discs of the original were in high demand for weeks after the remake hit theaters.

"Sales of 'Swept Away' -- a film that had always been a top seller -- more than doubled when the remake began to hit the market," estimated Dan Gurlitz, senior vp video at Koch parent E1 Entertainment.

Meanwhile, it can keep execs hopping when a big-screen hit translates dramatically into increased DVD sales. MPI has been overnighting "Holmes" discs to key retailers to keep up with a flood of reorders.

The indie supplier's "Holmes" discs have been selling best at Costco, Sam's Club, Best Buy and Barnes & Noble, with the classic British series starring Jeremy Brett as the caped detective a particularly hot seller. But a collection of Basil Rathbone-toplined "Holmes" films have been outselling MPI's Brett collection, perhaps as the former is considerably more affordable at a suggested retail price of $129 compared to a $229 SRP for the Granada Television-produced small-screen series.