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2006 Titles: Less Films, More Box Office Punch

11 Jan, 2007 By: Thomas K. Arnold

For the first year since DVD's 1997 launch, fewer discs were released last year than in the year before.

According to figures compiled by The DVD Release Report, 12,524 DVD titles came to market in calendar 2006, 8.2% less than the record 13,640 released in 2005.

Tip sheet editor Ralph Tribbey attributes the decline mostly to a sharp drop in the number of theatrical catalog titles released to DVD — 1,119 in 2006, compared to 1,458 in 2005, a difference of 23.3%.

Why the drop? A worsening shelf-space crunch at big retailers, as well as the fact that, with DVD approaching its 10th birthday, most marketable movies are already out.

“But it was a bit more complicated than just running out of films to release,” Tribbey said. “There were also a lot fewer public domain releases — after 20 versions of Night of the Living Dead, does the market really need another one?”

Another reason for the drop, Tribbey said, is that a number of studios in 2006 packaged older movies in collections instead of issuing them individually. Factoring in multi-film sets, however, the number of theatrical catalog titles released in 2006 is still down 9.3%.

Various niche categories also registered steep DVD release declines in 2006, including foreign-language feature films (down 20.5%), films from the silent era (down 44.7%), anime (down 20%), cartoon collections (down 51.6%), TV miniseries (down 23.3%) and TV movies (down 13.4%).

On the up side, the number of new feature films released on DVD immediately after their theatrical runs was up 11.1% to 620, from 558 in 2005. That's a new record. The year also saw a record 106 films released to DVD after grossing $25 million or more at the box office, eclipsing the previous high of 101 set in 2002 and repeated in 2004.

The significant increase in new theatrical features coming to DVD is a product of the up box office, and also accounts for the bump in overall home entertainment spending in 2006.

Tribbey notes that the 105 hit movies arrived on DVD an average of 129.2 days after their box office bows, signaling a shorter window than ever. The average window for films with a theatrical gross of at least $25 million was 141.8 days in 2005 and 145.8 days in 2004.

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