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Web hero storms homes

Los Angeles, Nov. 4 (Reuters): Spider-Man, the biggest movie of the year at the box office, is also shaping up to be a monster hit on home video, smashing sales records in its first weekend, Sony Pictures Entertainment has said.

The superhero saga sold an estimated 11 million DVD and videocassette copies worth $190 million in its first three days after going on sale across North America on November 1. By contrast, the movie opened in theatres last May with $114.8 million, setting a new record for three-day sales.

Sony Pictures is a unit of Sony Corp.

Some seven million copies were snapped up on the first day alone, with DVDs accounting for about 80 per cent or 5.6 million copies, according to Benjamin Feingold, president of Sony’s Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment unit.

The previous one-day record was set in September when the animated comedy, Monsters, Inc. sold five million DVD and videocassette copies.

Weekend comparisons are trickier, since Sony broke with industry tradition and released Spider-Man on a Friday instead of a Tuesday. But Monsters, Inc. sold 11 million copies in its first week.

The cartoon, produced by Walt Disney Co. and Pixar Animation Studios Inc., is the top-selling DVD title, with sales of between seven million and eight million copies, according to industry sources.

A Sony spokesman said the studio released Spider-Man on a Friday in order to have two weekends to itself, correctly forecasting that no major videos would bow the following Tuesday. The icing on the cake was that Friday was preceded by Halloween, and many stores started selling Spider-Man to revellers on the stroke of midnight.

The DVD carries a minimum advertised price of $19.95, and the videocassette was priced for sale at $15.95. Anecdotal evidence showed large retailers were selling the DVD in the $15 range for the first few days.

All told, Sony has shipped a record 26 million video copies and expects Spider-Man to become the biggest selling video title in history, at least until the next big hit.

Spider-Man, which starred Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, has grossed more than $800 million at the worldwide box office. A sequel, The Amazing Spider-Man, is scheduled for release in May 2004. Sam Raimi is returning as director.

The DVD is available as a two-disc set in both wide and full screen editions. A collector’s edition, with extra gimmicks, is priced at $39.95.

DVD players can currently be found in about 43 per cent of US households, and that number is expected to reach 50 per cent by the New Year, according to industry sources. Colour televisions took 20 years to reach the 50 per cent mark; DVD players will have taken five years.

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