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'Fast & Furious' moves 3 million DVDs in first week

August 5, 2009 |  3:18 pm

FandF The DVD business may be down, but it's not out yet for the biggest titles.

Universal Pictures' "Fast & Furious," the first big-budget event movie, the first to sell more than $150 million of movie tickets domestically and the first big release to hit DVD this year sold and rented a combined total of more than 3 million units its first week, the studio said.

That's less than 2001's "The Fast and the Furious" and 2003's "2Fast 2Furious," which earned $146 million and $127 million, respectively, at the box office. Both moved about 3.5 million DVD units in their first week. 2006's "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift," which grossed only $62.5 million at the box office, sold and rented 2 million units its first week.

Though Universal surely isn't ecstatic to see the latest "Furious" movie move fewer DVD units than its two predecessors that performed similarly at the box office, 3 million is a solid number given overall industry trends. Total DVD sales were down 13.5% in the first half of the year, even accounting for the fast-growing Blu-ray segment, while rentals were up 8%.

The studio declined to break down how many of the 3 million units were rentals and how many were sold to customers. Given the market data, however, it's likely the rental portion has risen compared with previous films in the series. That would depress overall revenue for Universal, given that the profit margins on rentals are significantly lower than for sales.

Studios are typically protective about what DVD sales data they share publicly, especially if the numbers don't make them look too good. Warner Bros., for instance, declined to share any information on the performance of "Watchmen," which launched on DVD on July 21.

Though retailers are cutting down on the amount of shelf space they devote to DVDs, many Los Angeles-area stores featured "Fast & Furious" and sold it at or below wholesale cost. At the Best Buy in West Hollywood, the movie was in the front of the store on the morning it debuted, July 28, and cost $15 for the standard disc and $25 for Blu-ray. Typical wholesale prices for new movies are $18 for standard and $25 in Blu-ray. Target in West Hollywood sold the movie for $16 and $26, while at Fry's in Glendale, the regular disc was $15 and the Blu-ray was only $20.29.

Joy Papa of Silver Lake picked up "Fast & Furious" on impulse at Fry's, saying that unlike the increasing number of consumers defecting from purchases to rentals, she liked having movies available to watch whenever she wished. "Every time a new movie comes out that I like, I buy it even if I saw it in theaters," she said.

But Papa, who owns a Blu-ray player, was still being a bit budget-conscious, choosing the less expensive standard-definition version. "I decided this one was cheaper, plus I can play this one in my van," she said.

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: Paul Walker and Vin Diesel in "Fast & Furious." Credit: Jaimie Trueblood / Universal Pictures