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<I>Harry Potter</I> Puts Magic in April&#39;s DVD Sales for Warner

29 May, 2003 By: Judith McCourt

While analysts and pundits are pondering the question of when DVD sales will start to slow down, consumers are busy buying more DVDs than they did in the previous year.

According to Nielsen VideoScan data, DVD unit sales in April were 87 percent higher than in April 2002, more than offsetting declining cassette sales. Combined unit sales for 2003 are tracking 23 percent ahead of the same four-month period in 2002.

The DVD Entertainment Group (DEG) estimates that more than 22,000 titles are available on DVD and that in 2002 suppliers shipped as many DVD units (700 million) as they shipped of VHS in 1998 during the halcyon days of VHS.

DVD household penetration continues to grow. According to the DEG, there were more than 43 million DVD households in the United States at the end of the first quarter. Although household penetration is poised to break the 50 million mark in the second quarter, the lion's share of software sales are already DVD. Year-to-date, 78 percent of all videos sold were in the DVD format. At the same time last year, 61 percent of video sales were in the disc format.

With plenty of choices available, consumers purchased DVD in record numbers in April. The special magic behind April's tally was Warner Home Video's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. The second release in the anticipated seven-part series flew off the shelves, with 7.9 million DVD units bought since its April 11 debut, according to Video Store Magazine market research.

Both “Harry Potter” releases now have spots in the top 10 best-selling DVDs of all time. Sorcerer's Stone holds the No. 4 spot, with 10.1 million units, and Chamber of Secrets is already 10th after just one month on retail shelves.

While the number of theatrical releases that made their way to video in April 2003 was the same as April 2002, this year's 34 releases were box office superstars. The entire crop generated $708.5 million on the big screen, 52.7 percent more than last year's bunch. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets grossed $262 million, while Universal Studios Home Video's Red Dragon and Warner's Two Weeks Notice made $92.9 million and $93.3 million, respectively.

By comparison, in April 2002 the month's biggest hits at the box office were Universal's Spy Game ($62.2 million) and Warner's Behind Enemy Lines ($58.9 million).

The “Harry Potter” sequel was the No. 1 overall seller in April, outselling the next-closest finisher, Fox's Drumline, by more than a 5-to-1 margin.

A comparative look at the family and children's nontheatrical genres reflects the mainstreaming of the DVD player. In April 2002, just 40 percent of releases in the family genre were sold as DVDs. By April 2003, 74 percent of family titles were sold on disc. Children's nontheatrical releases also have made significant gains in the DVD format. In April 2002, 19 percent of the releases were sold on cassette, compared with 37 percent in April 2003.

Fitness sales continue to lag in the adoption rate, although they are gaining ground. In April 2002, just 11 percent of all sales in this genre were in DVD. The percentage of overall fitness sales in the DVD format registers 26 percent.

April sales data shows that several genres' sales are almost exclusively DVD. Horror tops the list, with 93 percent of the consumer purchases being made in the DVD format. Documentaries are a close second, with 91 percent of the units being sold in the DVD format, while foreign films are at 90 percent. Two other genres are approaching the 90 percent mark: Sci-fi stands at 89 percent, adult product at 87 percent.

Year-to-date cassette sales continue to sag, with volume down 30 percent. April sales, however, were boosted by Chamber of Secrets. For April, VHS unit totals were down 13.6 percent from the same four-week period in 2002. To put VHS sales in perspective, the top 25 VHS sellers sold were outsold by a margin of almost 2-to-1 by the No.1 selling DVD alone.

Warner claimed an easy win in April's market-share sweeps. The supplier grabbed 29.2 percent of all units sold in the month, more than twice the second-place finisher, Buena Vista Home Entertainment.

Buena Vista finished in the overall No. 2 spot, with 12.5 percent of the units sold in April. The supplier claimed five spots on the top 25 DVD chart and eight on the top 25 VHS sellers for the month. Buena Vista's Spirited Away was the studio's overall best performer for the month.

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