'Avatar' primed to give boost to sales of Blu-ray

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The Independent Culture

It has already smashed box office records, now Avatar is expecting to break sales records and provide a boost to the makers of Blu-ray machines who hope the film could give their format a "Matrix moment".

The 3D sci-fi film went on sale today, with some stores opening their doors just after midnight to cope with the expected demand.

The film has been released in Blu-ray – the high-definition format designed to supercede DVDs – and stores are hoping the film could do for Blu-ray what The Matrix did for DVD. The Keanu Reeves film became the first DVD to sell more than three million copies on its release in 1999 and led to a jump in DVD player sales.

The release of Avatar, which is the highest-grossing movie ever and took £86m at the UK box office alone, is expected to similarly boost sales of the high-definition format.

Supermarket giant Tesco opened 180 of its stores at midnight to meet demand and said it expects to sell 20,000 copies on Blu-ray – making it the fastest-ever selling film in the new format.

But Blu-ray discs are still being outsold massively by DVD, with 200,000 DVD copies expected to be sold. Blu-ray sales increased by 167 per cent last year and the introduction of 3D TV is expected to give it another boost.

Keith Metcalfe, Tesco's home movie buying manager, said: "The release of Avatar is being seen by the industry as a historic moment in the development of the Blu-ray format – potentially the tipping point that many people have waited for to get their first Blu-ray player. We think it could replicate what happened when The Matrix was released on DVD in 1999."

Avatar is set on the moon of Pandora, an alien planet which mankind is pillaging for natural resources. The HMV flagship store in London's Oxford Street will be transformed into Pandora to host the official launch.

Asda is also transforming some of its stores and staff at its store in Pudsey, West Yorkshire, have even been taught phrases in Na'vi – the language used by the film's blue-skinned heroes – to greet customers.