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Lightweight Slate Can't Lift August Rental Tallies

16 Sep, 2004 By: Melinda Saccone

Consumer spending at the rental counter in August trailed comparable 2003 tallies due to lighter-weight releases, as the year-to-date rental total remained behind last year's.

The box office strength of August releases was off 16.4 percent from the August 2003 slate, which translated into a double-digit decline at the rental counter.

Consumer spending at the rental counter registered $705.8 million for the five-week period ended Aug. 29, down 34 percent from the $1 billion spent during the comparable period in 2003.

However, while overall monthly spending continues to slump, average weekly rental spending in August was up 22 percent over July tallies. Consumers spent an average of $192 million per week at the rental counter in August, compared to just $156.8 million per week in July.

With 17 weeks left in 2004, year-to-date rental spending remains well below comparable 2003 tallies. So far this year, consumers have spent $5.4 billion at the rental counter, down 18.4 percent from the $6.7 billion spent in the first 35 weeks of 2003.

Meanwhile, it was a dead-heat finish in the race for rental market- share dominance in August.

Buena Vista Home Entertainment and Warner Home Video ended the month in a tie. Collectively, the two studios garnered nearly half of all August rental transactions, each generating 23.1 percent of the monthly take.

At the end of August, year-to-date market share remains very tight between the two rivals, with less than half of a percentage point separating the two in the race for No. 2 for the year behind Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment. Fourth-quarter performance figures to be a deciding factor in the 2004 market-share sweeps.

Warner and Buena Vista, top performers at the rental counter, also ran neck-and-neck. Leading for Buena Vista was Kill Bill Vol. 2 (No. 3, $32.6 million), which was also the top rental debut for the month. Warner's big winner for August was The Whole Ten Yards (No. 4, $29.7 million).

Columbia TriStar placed third for the month with 21.6 percent of all August rental transactions and leads in year-to-date market share, but only by a few percentage points.

While Columbia had only three new releases debut on the top 25 rentals for the month, the studio grabbed the No. 1 and No. 2 spots with Hellboy and 13 Going on 30, respectively. Consumers spent $42.4 million renting Hellboy — generating an amount equal to more than two-thirds of its theatrical take in its first four weeks on rental shelves. 13 Going on 30 placed at No. 2 for the month, with consumers doling out $42.2 million renting the Jennifer Garner starrer.

Comedies continue to dominate the rental arena, with 42.7 percent of all rentals falling into the genre.

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