For the first time in history, a battle is shaping up this weekend between a movie in theatrical release and one in DVD and VHS release, and the outcome is not at all certain.  The contest is between two of the bitterest rivals in the movie business -- Disney, whose Pixar-created Monsters Inc. opens this weekend in theaters, and Dreamworks, whose hit movie Shrek is being released on DVD and VHS this Friday.  At stake is the title as top animation studio, and both companies want that desperately.  What's unique about this situation is that Dreamworks is releasing the Shrek DVD on a Friday (most videos are released on Tuesdays) in an apparent effort to make a more direct comparison between the two releases and to take some of the froth off the Monsters Inc. box office tally.


Although the animosity between the two companies dates to Dreamworks principal Jeffrey Katzenberg's departure from Disney, the rancor reached a new level this summer when Shrek was released in theaters and Disney refused to air radio ads on its stations (see 'Mouse Takes on Shrek').  Shrek did huge numbers anyway (see 'Shrek Doing Lion King Numbers'), and the battle for animation king was joined.


Both companies are pulling out all the stops to make their releases a success.  As we've previously reported here, the Shrek DVD and VHS will both carry a new ending for the movie (see 'Shrek DVD Raises the Bar') and the DVD will have a host of other special features.  Now Disney has announced that Monsters Inc. will be preceded by an exclusive teaser trailer for Star Wars:  Episode II -- Attack of the Clones that will appear only at the head of the film.


The amazing thing is that it's entirely possible that the Shrek video release will generate more dollars than Monsters Inc. in theaters.  The recently released Phantom Menace DVD generated $45 million in its first week in stores, and Shrek is expected by some to top that (see 'Phantom Menace Breaks Records').   It's going to take a huge first weekend by Monsters Inc. to keep from being beaten by a video, which would be an embarrassing comedown for Disney -- the company that's been at the top of theatrical animation for decades. 


For pop culture stores, there's plenty of Monsters Inc. merchandise to sell.  Dark Horse has the comic (see 'Dark Horse Licenses Monsters Inc.'), Topps has the cards (see 'Topps Gets Monsters Inc.'), and Hasbro has the toys, among others.  The Shrek DVD is going to be everywhere at a discount, and the property didn't do that well in pop culture stores when the movie was released (see 'Shrek Sales Slow in Specialty Stores') due to chain competition, so for pop culture retailers, Monsters Inc. will probably be the more successful property this weekend.  Regardless, it's going to be a fun contest to watch, and the posturing by the winner and loser will be almost as entertaining as the movies themselves.