For the first year since DVDs came on the market a decade ago, studios and retailers are expected to report a sales decline in the format this year. The New York Postreported today (Tuesday) that sales for the year are expected to come in at around $23 billion, down from $24 billion last year. The deficit could be erased if a few of the blockbuster titles being released this month perform beyond expectations. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End is being released today (Tuesday) and is expected to become the year's biggest seller. Also due out this month are the latest Bourneand Harry Pottersequels and The Simpsons Movie. Analysts are not optimistic, pointing out that the DVD versions of the latest Spider-Manand Shrekmovies failed to live up to expectations. Alan Gould, an analyst with Natixis Bleichroeder, was quoted by the Postas saying, "Blockbuster films are generating fewer DVD unit sales than in previous cycles. ... Where a big picture used to sell 20 million units, top movies now struggle to reach 10 million units."


Twentieth Century Fox has apparently been successful in persuading Apple to increase the wholesale fee it pays for movies on its iTunes Music Store. Several industry-related websites on Monday reported that Apple CEO had relented in his insistence on keeping the price of movie downloads significantly below the price charged for DVDs in retail stores. Currently, only Disney, in which Jobs is the largest shareholder, makes its movies available on the iTunes store at the same time they are released on DVD, although some other studios have made older titles available on the iTunes website. The studios have come under pressure from large retailers like Wal-Mart who have reportedly threatened to shut down their DVD sections if their pricing is undercut by Apple.


While ordinarily the "extras" that are included on DVD packages are not available for downloading, studios releasing films in the HD DVD high-definition format have begun providing additional extras online that they are not on the physical disc. A news release from the HD DVD Promotional Group said today (Tuesday) that 80,000 unique online users have recently accessed a Transformerswebsite created by Paramount using Microsoft's HDi technology built into every HD DVD player. Chris Saito, vice president of worldwide HD DVD marketing, Paramount Home Entertainment, said in the statement that he was impressed with the number of visitors to the Transformerswebsite and claimed that it represented "validation that there's an interest in extending the movie watching experience."


On the weekend following the Thanksgiving holiday, when the box office ordinarily takes a dip, attendance reached its lowest point in over a decade, box office analysts observed Monday. The top film, Disney's Enchanted, held the top spot for the second straight week with just $16.4 million. In its third week, Paramount's Beowulftook second place with only half that amount. The only new film to be released over the weekend, Awake, from MGM and the Weinstein Co., took in a paltry $5.9 million.

The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Media by Numbers (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):

1. Enchanted, Disney, $16,403,316, 2 Wks. ($70,000,316); 2. Beowulf, Paramount, $8,208,565, 3 Wks. ($68,939,986); 3. This Christmas, Sony, $7,941,068, 2 Wks. ($36,431,987); 4. Hitman, 20th Century Fox, $6,021,927, 2 Wks. ($30,426,328); 5. Awake, MGM, $5,856,872, 1 Wks. ($5,856,872); 6.Fred Claus, Warner Bros., $5,501,437, 4 Wks. ($59,784,054); 7. August Rush, Warner Bros., $5,021,435, 2 Wks. ($20,225,907); 8. The Mist, MGM, $4,553,008, 2 Wks. ($19,563,276); 9. Bee Movie, Paramount, $4,444,798, 5 Wks. ($117,616,494); 10. No Country for Old Men, Miramax, $4,385,290, 3 Wks. ($22,914,851)