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A Green Monster Hit

Box Office Blockbuster 'Shrek 2' Proves Indomitable on DVD, Too

By Jen Chaney
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, January 23, 2005; Page N03

Shrek and Donkey did double duty in 2004.

In addition to taking the No. 1 spot at the box office, the hugely popular "Shrek 2" also was the year's top DVD release. The family-friendly blockbuster earned $377 million in overall U.S. sales and rentals, moving 18.2 million copies on DVD alone, according to figures released by DVD Exclusive magazine.

DreamWorks, the studio behind "Shrek 2," touts even higher numbers of $458 million in total home video revenue, an amount that exceeds the $437 million the movie amassed during its theatrical release. (Like most studios, DreamWorks includes all of North America in its earnings data, hence the bigger figure.)

Fans of Shrek, Princess Fiona and Donkey shelled out $377 million for "Shrek 2" DVDs. (Dreamworks Via AP)

DreamWorks attributes the franchise's success to its status as more than just a kids' film. "When you have a movie that appeals to families and everyone else, you've got a home run on your hands," says Kelley Avery, worldwide head of DreamWorks Home Entertainment.

Of course the DVD green didn't come only in ogre form. Other high-profile movies that cashed in include "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" ($310 million in total U.S. home video spending), "The Passion of the Christ" ($245 million), the "Star Wars" Trilogy ($215 million) and "Seinfeld." The sitcom really is the master of its domain: Its first volume made $87 million and is now the highest and fastest-selling TV show on DVD.

Television on DVD enjoyed a profitable 2004 overall, generating $3 billion in business. That's almost double the amount earned in 2003, thanks to other lucrative titles, including the first season of "Chappelle's Show," which before "Seinfeld" briefly held the title of TV's bestseller.

"Consumers are now much more engaged in buying TV shows on DVD, which is a pretty new thing since last year," explains Scott Hettrick, editor in chief of DVD Exclusive, a Variety sister publication that covers the industry.

None of 2004's DVDs has yet caught up to the all-time top seller, "Finding Nemo," which has reeled in about $358.4 million in DVD sales since its November '03 release. (The overall best seller in both DVD and VHS sales, according to Hettrick, is 1994's "The Lion King," which has made more than $700 million.)

Last year, Americans bought roughly $15.8 billion worth of DVDs, a 31 percent increase over 2003, according to Adams Media Research, which tracks industry data. The number of average DVD purchases per household also increased from 15.5 per year to 16.9, which Tom Adams, president of AMR, cites as a significant trend.

"That's a pretty unprecedented thing to see in media consumers," he says. "What's driving that is the fact that people who have owned DVD players for a long time are stepping up their buying. Typically that number comes down as a platform ages, but it's going the other way with DVDs."

The number of homes with DVD players also continues to surge. The Digital Entertainment Group, an industry-funded nonprofit organization, projects that more than 80 percent of U.S. households will own at least one DVD player by the end of the year.

Is that the death knell for the VCR we hear? "It's essentially dead," Hettrick says. "It's only taken a few years for VHS revenue to drop from $8 billion to less than $1 billion . . . In the next 18 months, you're probably not going to see [videotapes] in Blockbuster anymore."

At year's end, couch potatoes still trumped moviegoers, at least as far as revenue was concerned.

Hollywood made $9.2 billion at the box office in 2004. Meanwhile, home video, in keeping with a trend that started in the 1990s, outdid the cineplexes, sparking $24.1 billion in consumer spending -- more than twice the amount spent on movie tickets.

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