BURBANK, Calif. -- If Disney executives here had rubbed their magic lamps, they couldn't have wished for better sell-through results on their new direct-to-video release, "The Return of Jafar."
As of June 7, Disney reported the movie had sold over 7 million copies. "Jafar," inspired by Disney's theatrical blockbuster "Aladdin," is Disney's first made-for-video animated movie. It was made available nationally on May 20 for a suggested retail of $22.99.
Supermarket video buyers confirmed "Jafar" is a hot sell-through item, but most said the new movie's polished success does have a hint of tarnish, as both rental and sell-through customers have been disappointed with the film's quality.
"Initially, the sales for 'Jafar' were fantastic. We sold out at two of our stores. It took us by surprise," said Steve Gretzinger, video coordinator for Angeli Foods, Iron River, Mich., which has three video departments. "I think people started buying it just because of the Disney name. But when people bring back their rentals on 'Jafar,' they're not too happy with it. I don't know what it will do now. The sales may not continue."
However, customer satisfaction or not, "Jafar's" sales are hot, and Gretzinger admitted that when he went to observe the sell-through situation at his local Kmart, that retailer had also run out of its copies of "Jafar." "They didn't have one left," he said.
"It's been selling really well," said Dick Sizemore, nonfood buyer-merchandiser for Pay Less Supermarkets, Anderson, Ind., whose store has worked hard to promote the sell-through. "We've had it in a floor display in a prominent location in each of our stores with a discount price on it [$16.99].
"['Jafar' has] probably done well because it wasn't released on the big screen and the only way people are going to watch it is if they buy it or rent it," Sizemore explained.
But Karen Welch, video buyer for the three video departments at SuperValu/Clyde Evans Markets, Lima, Ohio, was not as enthusiastic about "Jafar" sales at her stores.
"Sales on 'Return of Jafar' haven't been quite as great as I though they might be," she said. "I thought since it hadn't been released in theaters and it was the sequel to 'Aladdin,' it might do really well, but it's just been sort of mediocre. A lot of people have rented it but they said they didn't like it as well as 'Aladdin.' There's not as much action to it and it's just not really sold all that well.
"We've sold quite a few but not like as if it were a big theatrical title," continued Welch. "People want to rent it first and if they like it they'll buy it. People aren't just jumping on it because it's a Disney title or it's the sequel to 'Aladdin.' "
Barry Streetman, president of Streetman's IGA, a one-store retailer in Konawa, Okla., said he "ordered quite a bit of depth of copy for our rental, and after four weeks when it starts to taper off, we'll sell off all but a couple copies as previewed movies." Though they have not begun their sell-through process, Streetman said he is hopeful 'Jafar' will sell well.