Nobody's saying much about it in public, but sales of the first Lord of the Rings DVD are disappointing, especially when compared with those of Shrek, which has already moved an estimated 24 million units. The Fellowship of the Ring did over $50 million more at the box office than Shrek, but if current trends hold, the first installment of the LOTR trilogy will end up with sales of around 15 million units on DVD and VHS. Certainly animated films have dominated the top end of the video sales chart, which might explain some of the discrepancy. The Lion King is still the all time video sales champion, while second place Shrek has sold many more VHS tapes and DVDs than The Titanic, in spite of the fact that the Titanic is the all-time box office champion by a large margin.
So, why hasn't the Fellowship of the Ring lived up to its cult film status in terms of video sales? A good portion of the answer lies in the fact that New Line has been very up front with fans and let it be known right from the beginning that an extended version of The Fellowship of the Ring DVD with lots of extra footage would be available in November, some three months after the debut of the 'regular' edition DVD (see 'New Line Announces 4 LotR DVDs'). Evidently many collectors are waiting for the 'extended' edition -- so the grand total of LOTR videos may end up well in excess of the predicted 15 million units.
Another potential reason for the less than stellar performance of the first video edition of The Fellowship of the Ring could be a dark warning cloud on the horizon -- the Internet nightmare that has Hollywood executives sweating at night over the future of Tinseltown's DVD cash cow. A recent article in The Washington Post quoted a report issued by Viant Media and Entertainment to the effect that 'somewhere between 400,000 to 600,000 films were being downloaded by Internet users per day.' The studios are headed for the same position in which the major music labels find themselves today, with sales declining and piracy rampant, unless they begin to price their products more realistically.