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DVD Release Pace Slows

5 Jul, 2006 By: Thomas K. Arnold

With the number of active DVD releases in the market expected to pass the 60,000-unit mark by the end of this year, studios are finally slowing their release pace, perhaps in recognition of the worsening shelf-space crunch at retail.

The first six months of this year saw 9.2% fewer DVDs come to market than in the first six months of 2005, according to preliminary estimates from The DVD Release Report, an industry tip sheet. The Report pegs the number of first-half 2006 titles at 5,758, down from 6,392 in the first half of last year.

“Call it the 2005 product bulge,” editor Ralph Tribbey writes in The DVD Release Report. “Call it maturity. Call it a creative response to space limitations.”

The first-half 2006 results are virtually identical to the first half of 2004, when 5,749 DVDs came to market, Tribbey said.

Some genres posted significant gains in the first six months of 2006, countering similarly steep declines in other categories.

Music DVD releases shot up 15.3%, to 974 releases, while “new theatrical” releases, defined as films made after 1997, are up 16.4%, to 320. The single biggest gain, however, came in documentaries, with 94 docs arriving in stores in the first six months of this year — compared to just 27 in the first six months of 2005.

On the loser side, single-disc TV DVDs are down 26.6%, to 113, reflecting the continued dominance of multidisc “complete season” sets.

The number of theatrical catalog releases slipped 24.5%, to 563, which bolsters Tribbey's contention that the studios have mostly already mined their vaults for marketable titles.

Also down significantly are foreign-language films (a 23.1% drop, to 457), direct-to-video features (down 22.3%, to 502), and such niche categories as theatrical serials (down 33.3%), miniseries (23.9%), cartoon collections (36.4%), anime (18.9%) and silent movies (47.1%).

“The DVD space crunch at retail has put the breaks on single-disc public-domain releases appearing in the new release mix over and over again, forced the TV DVD release sector to ‘slim down' and pushed suppliers to rethink dumping marginal new-to-DVD titles into the market,” Tribbey said.

“ Competition for space at retail is Darwinian — the strong survive, and alternative sources to test the market are developed, especially for special-interest niche releases that have no hope of seeing the light of day at your neighborhood big box retailer.”

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