Amid a chaotic weekend of street-date violations at retail, Eminem's "Encore" (Aftermath/Interscope) is emerging with huge sales. Industry observers estimate that the set -- which was originally sched

Amid a chaotic weekend of street-date violations at retail, Eminem's "Encore" (Aftermath/Interscope) is emerging with huge sales. Industry observers estimate that the set -- which was originally scheduled for a Nov. 16 release but was moved up to Friday -- has sold more than 700,000 units in the United States. The figure is said to include sales from retailers who put the album out for sale on Thursday.

"Encore" is already at the top of this week's U.K. album chart, released yesterday (Nov. 14). The album overtook Britney Spears' "Greatest Hits -- My Prerogative" (Jive) after just two days of sales, for a total of 122,459 units in the territory.

Carl Mello, a buyer for Massachussetts-based chain Newbury Comics, says Eminem "did great" over the weekend. "We're absolutely delighted with the sales."

He adds that the chain was "a little bit more prepared" for the rush-release of "Encore" than it was in 2002 for the rapper's last album, "The Eminem Show." That set was also moved up in an effort to thwart online piracy, and was issued nine days ahead of its original release date. "The Eminem Show" debuted at No. 1 on The Billboard 200 after sales of 285,000 units in one weekend.

"'Encore' started off significantly quicker than his last album, because the release of that one was weirder," Mello says. "Not everybody had all the stock they needed, so the sales were spread out over a greater number of days. I think for this one, the first few days are heavier, but I don't think it's going to continue to trend this way. He should easily be No. 1 this week and probably next week too, but I bet U2 will debut at No. 1."

U2's "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb," also on Interscope, is due Nov. 23.

Meanwhile, Eminem was only one of numerous street-date violations in the past several days.

On Friday, Destiny’s Child “Destiny Fulfilled” debuted in many stores ahead of its Nov. 15 street date.

Meanwhile, the major distributors were scrambling to shore up the crumbling Nov. 16 release schedule. Albums by Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz and Chingy were said to hit stores over the weekend, and unconfirmed isolated reports indicate that Snoop Dogg’s "R&G Rhythm & Gangsta: the Masterpice," the Beatles boxed set and albums by Clay Aiken and Pearl Jam started showing up in stores today.

The Universal Music & Video Distribution sales team worked the phones all day today trying to prevent Snoop Dogg's set from mushrooming into widespread availability like the other albums.
“It was utter choas, and there is no other word for it,” says one senior retail executive. “This is the wild and wooly days of 1985 all over again. The majors really shot themselves in the foot.”

The executive wonders what will happen to the Nov. 23 street date, which in addition to U2, includes sets by Gwen Stefani and Nirvana.