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May Rental Flowers on Broad Strength of Releases

12 Jun, 2003 By: Melinda Saccone

A strong slate of product lured consumers to the rental counter in May. Nine new releases debuted on the top 25 rentals chart for the month as the strength of existing product pushed rental spending to $587.3 million for the four-week period ended May 25. Monthly rental revenue posted a 1.6 percent increase from the comparable four-week period in 2002.

While monthly tallies posted gains from last year, May rental spending dipped 10.4 percent below April tallies. Historically, April has had a higher rental take than May. In the past five years, consumer spending on video rentals have averaged $167.8 million per week in April, compared with $165.3 million in May.

While the box office strength of May releases was stronger than their 2002 counterparts, it didn't translate into more rental dollars for these top performers.

Collectively, this year's top 25 May rentals earned $1.45 billion in theaters prior to their video debut, or 20.8 percent more than their 2002 counterparts. However, most of the box office gain can be attributed to Warner Home Video's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, which earned $262 million in theaters. If Potter is taken out of the mix, the box office punch of May's top 25 performers dips 1.7 percent below their 2002 counterparts.

Video Store Magazine market research estimates the top 25 rentals in May shipped nearly 21 million units into the rental pipeline, or 12.1 percent more than their 2002 counterparts.

While there were more copies available for rent, there were also more releases priced to sell on cassette. Eight of the top 25 May rentals were available for consumer purchase day and date on VHS and DVD compared with just five of last year's counterparts.

Increased copies in the marketplace (satisfying demand more quickly), sellthrough pricing on nearly double the number of titles, and a lower box office punch (taking Potter out of the mix) worked against rental demand of this month's top 25 performers. The top 25 rentals in May collectively earned $324.9 million in rental revenue, down 20.6 percent from the $409.2 generated by their 2002 counterparts.

However, overall May rentals outpaced their 2002 counterparts as titles falling below the top 25 rentals for the month generated a greater portion of monthly revenue. The top 25 May rentals generated 55.3 percent of monthly revenue, down from 62.5 percent during the comparable period last year.

Meanwhile, in the rental market- share sweepstakes, Warner, which distributes New Line and HBO product, took top honors for the first time this year, with its releases accounting for 24.4 percent of all May rental transactions.

Warner barely nosed out Universal Studios Home Video, which also distributes DreamWorks Home Entertainment and has dominated at the rental counter for three out of five months this year. Universal grabbed 23.6 percent of May transactions. Leading for the studio was DreamWorks' Catch Me If You Can, which earned $42.9 million in its first 19 days of release.

Comedies continued to rule the rental counter with one-third of all monthly rentals falling into the genre.

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