Many Factors Affect Early Video Window Release16 May, 2004 By: Kurt Indvik
As home video becomes the biggest percentage of a film's total revenue potential, it's clear that studios are moving video release dates up, in general, for all films and, in certain instances, dramatically forward.
Some industry watchers have suggested that an early release is due to a film's poor performance at the box office, but that's not always true. Timing is everything, and in the home video release game, it's a slippery slope, indeed.
We've been talking about the whole earlier windows issue for some time at Video Store Magazine, and it seems true that while there's a general trend toward earlier video releases, most studios are taking it on a title-by-title basis, likely factoring in such items as a film's box office momentum; the holidays or awards season; what else is hitting the market theatrically or in home video around the same time; and other factors.
One studio, Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment (CTHE), seems to have made a conscious decision to release films earlier (see the story on page 8 in this week's edition of VSM). Of the total number of DVDs released within 100 days of their theatrical debuts since the inception of the format, CTHE has about one-third of the titles, and the studio overall has had the shortest theatrical-to-video window average of all the major studios, according to the DVD Release Report.
One thing I was most curious about is whether box office disappointments tend to be released earlier. Recently, Video Store Magazine Market Research began listing projected theatrical-to-video windows in days in our monthly Theatrical Top 100. I took a recent sampling from that list of films that had already been released on video or had announced street dates and found the following:
• There were 12 films that did at least $25 million at the box office and were released in four months or less;
• And the average window was 105 days.
Sure enough, CTHE had six of the titles, but 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Universal Studios Home Video, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, MGM Home Entertainment and Warner Home Video were also on the list. Of the 32 titles earning $25 million or more with announced street dates, the average home video window was 138 days. Of the 33 titles with announced street dates earning less than $25 million, the average window was 146 days. Not much difference there.
On the high end, Fox's Cheaper by the Dozen ($138 million at the box office) had a 103-day window, and CTHE's Something's Gotta Give ($124 million) came in at 109 days. On the low end, CTHE's The Missing ($27 million) was out in 90 days, while Universal's Honey took 109 days.
Box office certainly doesn't seem to be the overwhelming factor in the early video window decision.