'PASSION' FIRES UP VIDEO SALES

"The Passion of the Christ" is experiencing the same attention-getting level of sales in its video release as it did in its theatrical run.The title hit store shelves Aug. 31 and immediately started to sell well, according to reports from across the country. Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Century City, Calif., reported sales of 2.4 million units by the middle of its first day of release,

"The Passion of the Christ" is experiencing the same attention-getting level of sales in its video release as it did in its theatrical run.

The title hit store shelves Aug. 31 and immediately started to sell well, according to reports from across the country. Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Century City, Calif., reported sales of 2.4 million units by the middle of its first day of release, with consumers purchasing an average 1.8 copies per transaction.

The Associated Press later reported Fox sold 4.1 million units on its street date. The controversial religious film directed by Mel Gibson is R-rated and subtitled, but grossed over $370 million in its theatrical run.

"'Passion' has been a very successful title for the grocery class of trade," said Leslie Baker, vice president of sales, grocery and drug, Ingram Entertainment, La Vergne, Tenn.

Despite a difference in subject matter, the excitement for this title has been very similar to that for the "Titanic" release, she said.

Depending on regional and competitive issues, "Passion" sold through roughly 17% to 30% according to sales data from the first two days of its release, she said. Price points in some areas of the country are as low as $13.99 for the release. Most mass merchants are selling it for about $15.99, Baker said.

In store checks in the San Diego market, SN found Albertsons has priced "Passion" at $19.99. In one store, Albertsons merchandised seven facings of the movie on DVD and VHS with other new releases in a section running the length of the front-end register area. However, other supermarket chains visited by SN on the street date of "Passion," such as Ralphs, Vons and Stater Bros., either did not have it in stock, or did not prominently display it. It was the same in major drug chains, including Rite Aid, Longs and SavOn.

Other types of retailers in that market, such as electronics chains, placed shippers of "Passion" in multiple locations throughout their stores, at the front-end and in the video sell-through sections.

So far, the title's performance is in line with retailer expectations.

"I predict it to be an extremely strong renter, as well as a strong sell-through title. I've got orders in some stores for 30 or 40 copies," said Ray Wolsieffer, video specialist, Bashas', Chandler, Ariz., prior to the title's release date.

"Passion" did not break the one-day DVD sales record. The record is still held by"Finding Nemo," which sold 8 million units its first day of sales. "Spider-Man" became the top live-action movie with 7 million units sold in its first day on shelves, according to media reports.