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'Avatar' breaks record on small screen, too

May 17, 2010 |  6:00 am

Twentieth Century Fox's 3-D blockbuster "Avatar," which set a box-office record with $2.7 billion in worldwide ticket purchases, has performed a similar feat in the living room, surpassing "The Dark Knight" as the top seller of Blu-ray discs, according to researcher Screen Digest Inc.

James Cameron's sci-fi adventure film overtook the past record holder, "The Dark Knight," just two weeks after "Avatar's" April 22 release on home video, Screen Digest found.

U.S. retailers sold an estimated 2.41 million copies of Avatar on Blu-ray by May 2, edging out the cumulative 2.40 million Blu-ray copies of Warner Bros.' "The Dark Knight" that sold over 73 weeks, according to Screen Digest's analysis of Nielsen VideoScan data.

Based on VideoScan sales to date, and sales of other recent blockbusters, Screen Digest projects that 13-week sales for "Avatar" on disc could reach 14 million copies, with 3.9 million copies on Blu-ray and 10.1 DVDs. That would put it ahead of "The Dark Knight’s" 13-week total of 13.4 million units.

Record Blu-ray disc sales of "Avatar" are further evidence that high-definition home video is catching on with consumers, after a bruising yearlong format war paralyzed sales until early 2008 and the recession further damped sales.

The number of homes with Blu-ray players nearly doubled from 2008 to 2009, and hardware sales this year are on pace to reach more than 32 million households. Sales of movies are on a similar trajectory, with the number of discs sold increasing 94% from 2008 to 2009, and poised to more than double this year, compared with a year ago.

 “The growing percentage of major hits now selling on the Blu-ray Disc format can be attributed to the huge growth in the number of households that own a Blu-ray Disc player," said Tom Adams, founder of Adams Media Research, which was acquired in 2007 by Screen Digest.

-- Dawn C. Chmielewski

Photo: James Cameron at the premiere of "Avatar" at Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Credit: Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images