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Box Office Slump Hurts Video Sales in May

23 Jun, 2005 By: Judith McCourt

A maturing DVD market and a protracted slump at the box office is hitting home entertainment where it hurts. Consumer spending on DVD and VHS slipped for the second consecutive month, coming in at an estimated $937.9 million, 0.2 percent less than in the same four-week period last year, according to Home Media Research.

DVD sales rang up $912.46 million, 3.2 percent more than in May 2004. But those gains weren't enough to offset a 54.5 percent decline in videocassette sales.

The hits weren't pulling their weight. Total sales for the month's top 50 DVD sellers was down 9.3 percent from the comparable bundle last May. Unit sales for the top five sellers was off a staggering 28 percent from the top five DVDs in May 2004. Aggregate sales for the top 10 was down 20 percent, according to Nielsen VideoScan data.

The culprit: a weak slate of theatricals. The collective box office clout of the May 2005 home video releases was down 20.7 percent from the May 2004 slate. The month's top seller was Buena Vista Home Entertainment's National Treasure, which grossed $173 million in theaters.

The film sold 22 percent fewer units than the May 2004 top seller, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, which came to video after earning $377 million at the box office but arrived in stores near the end of the month, on May 25, unlike National Treasure, which was released May 3 and, thus, was available for sale for nearly the entire tracking period.

Warner Home Video's Phantom of the Opera snagged the No. 2 spot in combined sales of both the regular and the special DVD editions. Phantom, which grossed $51.2 in theaters, sold 34 percent fewer copies on DVD than the No. 2 finisher in May 2004, The Last Samurai, also from Warner, which earned $111.1 million in theaters.

While sales of high-profile theatricals are down, TV DVD sales are up. Through May 2005, unit sales of TV DVD packages were up 23 percent from the first five months of 2004, according to Nielsen VideoScan data.

Six of the 50 top-selling DVDs in May were TV DVD titles. Paramount Home Entertainment's Chappelle's Show — Season 2 Uncensored finished the month at No. 3, with the studio claiming first-day sales of nearly 500,000 units and first-week sales of 1.2 million copies.

Also on the chart: season 4 of “Seinfeld,” from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, at No. 17; season three of “The Gilmore Girls,” from Warner, at No. 31; season one of “Chappelle's Show,” from Paramount, at No. 36; season one of “Scrubs,” from Buena Vista, at No. 37; and Bart Wars, from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, at No. 50.

Warner was tops in market share for the month, with an estimated 22.5 percent of the nearly $1 billion consumer spent on video during May. Buena Vista was close behind at 20 percent, while Paramount came in third at 12.5 percent.

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