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The Incredible Shrinking Theatrical-to-DVD Window

30 Dec, 2004 By: Melinda Saccone

Studios drive shorter theatrical-to-DVD windows in order to capitalize on consumers' insatiable appetite to own a little piece of Hollywood on disc.

In the past five years, the theatrical-to-DVD window has decreased by 16.9 percent, according to Video Store Magazine Market Research. Consumers can now buy theatrical releases on disc in less than five months from their box office debut.

In 2004, titles earning more than $10 million in theaters were available to buy on DVD on average 138 days (four and a half months) from their box office debut.

By comparison, just five years ago it took on average six months for box office hits to reach the home video market.

The greatest decline in windows has been for titles earning $51 million to $75 million in theaters. The theatrical-to-DVD window for this group has dropped 25 percent in the past five years. In 2004, it took these films an average of 132 days to hit retail shelves from their theatrical debut, compared to 176 days in 2000.

Low box office earners are quick to market. In 2004, the quickest to market were titles that grossed between $10 million and $25 million in theaters. This lot averages just 128 days from their theatrical debut to arrive on DVD.

DreamWorks Home Entertainment's Surviving Christmas has so far been this year's fastest DVD debut. After earning a paltry $11.2 million in theaters, Surviving Christmas arrived on retail shelves just 60 days after its box office debut — just in time for holiday gift giving.

Windows for the biggest hits — box office blockbusters earning $100 million or more in theaters — have not changed much. On average, the window for the DVD debut has dropped 5.6 percent in the past five years, averaging 152 days in 2004. However, Fahrenheit 9/11 released theatrically by Lions Gate and on DVD by Sony Pictures, took just 102 days to arrive on DVD, nearly two months sooner than the average.

For the past five years, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (formerly Columbia TriStar) has been the quickest to market on DVD.

In 2004, the studio's theatrical slate took on average just 121 days from box office debut to land on retail shelves.

DreamWorks Home Entertainment has dialed into the strategy. Its 2004 theatrical releases averaged 129 days to debut on disc.

Paramount Home Entertainment lags in the overall average. In 2004, its theatrical releases earning more than $10 million at the box office arrived on disc about 148 days after they debuted in theaters. However, they too have dramatically shortened their theatrical-to-DVD window. In the past five years, Paramount has reduced its theatrical-to-DVD window by one month.

The studios' strategy of pushing theatrical releases onto DVD at a much faster pace appears to be working. DVD buy rates have remained strong despite mainstream hardware penetration. It is in the studios' best interest to push the product out to market as they can piggyback DVD advertising and marketing with theatrical advertising. The better theatrical recall a consumer has, the less studios have to spend on DVD marketing and advertising.

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