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Supermarkets a Major Potter Target

Backed by $320 million in box office sales and a legion of worldwide fans, just putting "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" into mass release this spring on DVD and VHS would be enough to create a major retail event. Warner Home Video, which announced the May 28 release date for the first in the Harry Potter movie series based on the popular J.K. Rowling books, is creating even more magic, throwing some innovative special effects into the DVD release.

A major target of the retail effort will be in the supermarket channel, which has traditionally been weak in video sales. "What's great for the grocery channel is that Coca-Cola is our worldwide partner," says Ewa Martinoff, vice president of family entertainment for Warner Home Video. "We're working with the key chains to maximize this event."

The two-DVD set (MSRP $26.99) will include the obligatory never-before seen footage section, but will also include interactive tours of Hogwart Castle, a DVD-ROM that will allow users to trade electronic Harry Potter cards and receive special owl e-mails on-line and a lesson in the ancient wizard game of Quiddich. The VHS package (MSRP $24.99) will also include additional scenes that were not part of the theatrical release.

Warner Bros. is banking on record sales that may eclipse the $420 million in sales pulled in by DreamWorks' release of "Shrek" last fall. If Shrek is the new benchmark for video sales, then "Harry Potter" could be even bigger. Shrek did more than $250 million in box office sales, and followed that up with even larger DVD and VHS sales. The Harry Potter box office was 28 percent higher, which puts Harry Potter on track to become the first half-billion dollar video release.

"Family titles have a strong position for the supermarket," says Martinoff. "This isn't a one-time release. This is going to be quite a long franchise. It's in the beginning stages of its life cycle. We're looking at a lot of strategies, discussing how to make this an effective product."

One idea that parallels Harry Potter book releases is a midnight release of the video to anxiously waiting Potter fans. "A lot of our 24-hour retailers are thinking of this kind of thing," Martinoff says. "The idea is creating a rush to the stores on May 28."
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