LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - DVD sales are giving Hollywood something to cheer about this recession-hit holiday season with blockbusters like “The Dark Knight” raking in an estimated $175 million in first-week sales.
Sales of the DVD, starring Christian Bale as Batman and the late Heath Ledger as the villainous Joker, totaled more than 10 million units worldwide since its December 9 release and are expected to remain strong throughout the holiday season, Time Warner Inc’s Warner Bros movie studio said.
Ten million units translate into an estimated $175 million in revenues, according to Home Media Magazine Market Research.
Elsewhere, Universal Studios Home Entertainment said on Wednesday that the musical “Mamma Mia! The Movie” sold more than 2.25 million units on its first day of sales. That figure would translate into just under $40 million in gross revenues.
Other profitable fourth-quarter DVDs include: the Walt Disney Co’s “Wall-E,” Viacom’s Paramount Pictures’ “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” and DreamWorks Animation’s “Kung Fu Panda.”
Hollywood’s film and TV studios expect DVD sales to help buffer the industry in the slumping economy. The studios are counting too on high-definition Blu-ray DVDs, which offer more features and sharper picture quality, to spur a fresh round of growth in the maturing category.
Warner Bros said it sold more than 1.7 million “Dark Knight” units in Blu-ray, making it the best selling Blu-ray title.
Thomas Arnold, publisher of Home Media Magazine, said consumers spent about $300 million on Blu-ray discs in 2007.
“My prediction is that we’ll come in at about $800 million for Blu-ray,” he said of 2008, adding that Hollywood’s studios originally hoped such sales could top $1 billion in 2008.
“By the third quarter, they were looking more like $600 million to $700 million,” he said.
While some studio executives concede not all individual DVD titles have seen their quarterly sales live up to expectations, many expect overall fourth-quarter revenues to match last year‘s. Total U.S. sales are seen declining by 2 percent to 3 percent in 2008, a tad better than the 4.8 percent drop in 2007.
Media companies are feeling the pinch from advertising declines. Hollywood has seen layoffs at Paramount and General Electric Inc’s NBC Universal.
More job cuts are expected at other studios in 2009, according to studio executives and analysts.
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte, Leslie Gevirtz