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FROM THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: U.K. Chain Ends Warner Boycott

16 Oct, 2002 By: Sam Andrews


LONDON -- The battle between Warner Home Video U.K. and several of Britain's biggest rental dealers over its controversial new rental trading platform saw a victory for the distributor Tuesday when Glasgow-based rental video chain Global Video ended its boycott of WHV product.

The 265-store Global chain, which covers Scotland and the north of England, was one of the high-profile rental retailers to boycott Warner product since the strategy bowed with the July release of Training Day, followed by We Were Soldiers in September.

It now joins Choices, the 193-store rental dealer in the Midlands and south of England, which ended its boycott in August, in stocking WHV titles like the recently released Ocean's Eleven. Calls to Global Video head Mac Rasul were not returned.

Warner has faced an unofficial boycott of its products since it bowed a trading platform that removes the rental-to-sell-through video window and, at the same time, charges rental dealers a premium for the right to rent its titles on DVD and VHS. To date, no distributor has followed WHV's lead, but sources suggested that others may follow if more chains go along with the system.

WHV U.K. managing director Neil McEwan said of the Global decision that the distributor is "delighted that more consumers will have the opportunity to rent or buy," adding that he hopes more retailers will soon follow Global's lead.

The United Kingdom's top rental chain, Blockbuster, has remained firm in its refusal to stock Warner product, and its stance has been matched by such chains as Apollo, Primetime, independent buying group MovieZone and, until Tuesday, Global. All retailers emphasized that they are acting independently of one another.

While Blockbuster declined comment Tuesday, managing director Alex Sparks told BBC radio Monday: "We have no issue with selling films if people choose to purchase them. We're just looking for a fair pricing structure, meaning that we can rent them at the same time as well."

Primetime owner Chris Simpson said he will continue his ban on Warner titles as long as Blockbuster does.

"All our stores have got signs up explaining our policy; our staff and customers are all 100 percent behind it; and, in fact, our revenues are up," he said. "We haven't missed a beat because nobody comes in and doesn't take a film. I will stick to it as long as Blockbuster does."

Choices chairman Iain Muspratt said Tuesday that while he remains strongly in favor of a rental window, he accepts that the situation has changed and that "the deal you have to come to has to recognize that. Other people are capable of doing the same, but for whatever reason, they don't want to."

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