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Ready for an Overheated Holiday?

8 Aug, 2003 By: Kurt Indvik

According to Video Store Magazine market research, we're going to see upwards of $2.5 billion in major theatrical box office power hitting the video shelves this fourth quarter.

To heck with holding anything back for the so-called “fifth quarter” post-holiday sales period when new owners of shiny DVD players are looking for something exciting to watch. Last year's early first quarter releases included such hits as Signs ($228 million), The Bourne Identity ($121 million), Sweet Home Alabama ($127 million), and My Big Fat Greek Wedding ($241 million), and totaled about $1.4 billion in box office punch.

To date for Q1 2004 we have about $246 million lined up so far in box office hits in January (based on receipts as of Aug. 3), including Bad Boys 2, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, and Johnny English, to name some which have either announced dates, or which are VSM estimated release dates. Certainly that list will grow, but it's apparent it isn't going to come close to last year's line up.

What's changed in a year? Well, check out the cover article in this week's VSM, penned by Thomas K. Arnold for some studio and retailer exec insights. There is also a chart showing what's on the way for fourth quarter.

The bottom line is that home video is becoming such a major component of studios revenues, and the audience for DVD has reached such proportions, that studios are simply not going to pass up the holiday season to release their major 2003 hits, no matter how crowded the slate might be. Theatrical runs are getting shorter, theatrical marketing is getting more expensive, and its becoming incumbent on home video to deliver the goods to ensure a films overall financial success.

It's going to be a wild and wooly Christmas at the sellthrough counters, no doubt. But studio execs had best be very careful in their shipments numbers, even as they battle for shelf space and consumer attention in this overheated holiday, lest they suffer from a serious dose of holiday hangover as those returns start to mount in Q1, 2004.

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