ORLANDO, Fla. -- The video release of "Monsters, Inc." lived up to its name: It was a monster.
Selling some 11 million video units in its first week -- 7 million were a two-disc DVD set -- the title was second to 1995's "The Lion King," which sold 20 million units in its first week, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Burbank, Calif., confirmed. The title reportedly sold 5 million units in its first day of release. But unlike "Lion King," the success of "Monsters, Inc." caught many retailers by surprise.
In doing store checks in this metropolitan area the Sunday after the title's Sept. 17 release, SN found numerous stores out of stock, or very short of inventory. The DVD copies appeared to be moving more rapidly than the VHS, validating industry experts who said that the DVD market has finally swung to children's and family titles.
"We have had tremendous consumer and retailer response -- even greater than forecasted," said Pat Fitzgerald, senior vice president, sales and distribution, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Burbank, Calif. "Product is being replicated around the clock to be shipped where needed."
At Ingram Entertainment, La Vergne, Tenn., Bill Bryant, vice president, sales, noted that any store that ran out and requested replenishment, received it within a couple of days. "'Monsters, Inc.' experienced tremendous sales on its street date and surpassed projections," he said.
One retailer contacted by SN after touring the Orlando stores said he had anticipated that "Monster's, Inc." would sell better than most were expecting. Craig Hill, video specialist, Harp's Food Stores, Springdale, Ark., brought in about 300 extra copies into his office just in case they were needed, and they were. About two-thirds of them had been shipped to stores within a week of the video release. "If I hadn't bought those, we probably would have run out," Hill said.
In Orlando, as is true in most markets the retailer is in, Albertsons, Boise, Idaho, was the leader among supermarkets in merchandising and promoting the video title, SN found. As a result, this meant a nearly out-of-stock situation when SN arrived at the Albertsons store at 1560 E. Silver Star Road in suburban Ocoee, Fla., on Sunday night. The store had three large shippers, and just two VHS copies left among all of them. Like many retailers, Albertsons was selling "Monsters, Inc." at $15.99 for VHS and $19.99 for DVD, the minimum advertised price for the title.
Other Albertsons stores visited had some DVD inventory, but that was probably more the result of security precautions than lack of sales. The Albertsons at 1100 N. John Young Parkway in Kissimmee, Fla., had about a dozen copies behind a locked glass case.
Only one of three Winn-Dixie stores visited by SN had inventory, but the store at 1531 E. Silver Star Road in Ocoee was selling the title at a price above that of its competitors, $16.95 for VHS and $21.95 for DVD.
Two of three Publix stores visited had "Monsters, Inc." in stock. Publix had advertised the title for $15.99 for VHS and $19.99 for DVD. A three-month old store at 8145 Vineland Ave. in Orlando devoted 16 linear feet to video displays, but did not have "Monsters, Inc." A store at 1050 E. Highway 50 in suburban Clermont, Fla., had a small shipper with some inventory, while a store at 7653 S. Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando had the title in both VHS and DVD, with an attractive display on the front of the customer service counter. However, one reason it had DVD in stock was probably because it not only kept the disc version behind the counter, but out of sight in a back room. A small sign instructed customers to ask for it.
Among the mass merchandisers, there were very few copies of "Monsters, Inc." to be found in the Orlando area stores visited by SN that weekend. Of the two large four-sided displays in a Wal-Mart Supercenter at 10500 W. Colonial Drive in Ocoee, the unit in the front of the store was very depleted and the one in the back by the electronics department was empty. That Wal-Mart was selling the title for the lowest price found in the area, $14.76 for either VHS or DVD, which was probably a reaction to Kmart advertising it for $14.87 for either format earlier in the week.
A Big Kmart store at 7825 S. Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando was completely out of the title, which on the Sunday after the street date would have sold for $15.99 for VHS and $19.99 for DVD, said a store employee. Kmart employees had the least knowledge about their store's out-of-stock situation. The disinterested greeter in the front sent SN to the electronics department in the back, where another employee told SN the video could be found at the front, and after a phone call, learned it had sold out.
A Super Target employee at the 7501 W. Colonial Drive store in Orlando was better informed. He told SN the store had sold out its initial shipment of 240 units on Wednesday, the day after street date, and expected another shipment of 120 on the Monday following. Target was selling the VHS for $15.99 and the DVD for $16.99.
The major electronics chains also were short of "Monster's Inc." A Best Buy at 8350 Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando had a limited number of copies of the title on a permanent rack facing the entrance to the store. Best Buy was selling both VHS and DVD for $19.99, with an offer promising "over $450 in savings at Best Buy." A Circuit City at 7915 S. Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando was out of the title, which it had been selling for $18.99 for the DVD -- Circuit City no longer sells VHS.
The two warehouse clubs visited by SN had the best in-stock position on "Monster's Inc." A Costco at 2101 Water Bridge Road in Orlando had ample inventory displayed on pallets in the video and book area deep in the club. The DVDs were contained in shrink-wrapped, paperboard longboxes to deter pilferage. Pricing was $14.49 for VHS and $18.49 for DVD.
The Sam's Club at 9498 S. Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando had plenty of inventory and a creative display near the front entrance to the club. The video was displayed next to a pallet of Act II popcorn, with an adjacent sampling table for the popcorn, and a monitor set up to play the movie. Sam's priced the title at $14.38 for VHS and $18.48 for DVD. The other Disney-Pixar films -- "A Bug's Life," "Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2" -- also were displayed in the area, priced at $10.79 for VHS and $12.48 for DVD.