Sunday, July 17, 2005

Opening Weekend Bookstore

I was one of the estimated 5 million people who bought a copy of the new Harry Potter book yesterday. This latest (sixth) installment in the series has been a publishing phenomenon. There are reportedly 1.4 million pre-orders from and another 1 million from Barnes & Noble (both online sellers discounting the book to $17.99), and there will be at least as many people who will buy the book in a brick-and-mortar bookstore this weekend, starting with those who stood in lines to be the first ones at midnight on Friday (with many stores having special extended hours just to accommodate the eager fans). (I bought the book on Saturday evening at Virgin Records, when many of the large bookstores had already sold out their initial allocations, and I paid $19.99.) The fifth Harry Potter book (released June 2003) sold 5 million copies in its first day, so it's not at all unreasonable to expect to at least match that this year. The pre-orders for book 6 are about 7% greater than the 1.3 million they had for book 5, and Scholastic (the US publisher) is printing a record-setting 10.8 million copy print run, based on its consensus estimates from booksellers, compared to the 6.8 million copy print run it did for book 5. So the evidence predicts that the Harry Potter magic is still growing even 6 books into the series. (As far as total US book sales for the franchise, it appears to be past its peak of $200 million in 2001, and is representing a diminishing share of Scholastic's business, but that's another story.)

While movies are often measured by their opening weekend box office take, these may be the only books that have "opening weekend bookstore" takes that rival that of movies (including their own). Given the 2.4 million pre-orders at $17.99, and guessing that the other 2.6 million sales estimated this weekend might be at a slightly higher price (the $19.99 I paid is still a good discount), one can safely predict that Harry Potter's "opening weekend bookstore" should be in the $90 to 100 million range. That would mean that it grossed more than all but the top three opening weekend box office record holders (Spiderman at $114.8M, and the latest Star Wars and Shrek 2 both at $108M). That also means that the book could conceiveably have a better opening weekend than the movie (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was #4 on the box office opening weekend chart at $93.6M, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was #6 at $90.3M, and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was #7 at $88.4M). Has a book ever beat its own movie in opening weekend receipts? Harry Potter revenues are also more movie-like than book-like, in that the opening weekend may represent more than 50% of the book's lifetime revenue. (The fifth Harry Potter book sold 5 million on the first day two years ago, and has sold 8.3 million hardcovers and another 550,000 soft covers in total.)

By the way, expecting blogging to be spotty this coming week or so until I finish the book.

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