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May Rental Spending Rebounds, But Year-to-Date Total Still Down

25 Jun, 2004 By: Melinda Saccone

Consumer spending at the rental counter produced a strong showing in May, thanks to the heftiest video release slate so far this year.

For the first time since February, rentals increased compared to the same month last year. However, it wasn't enough to bring rental spending out of the red. At the end of May, year-to-date rental spending was still off 10.9 percent from the comparable 22-week period last year, registering $3.55 billion.

Still, May releases generated nearly $1 billion in theaters ($929.3 million) prior to their video debut, giving many rentailers something to cheer about for the first time in awhile. Three new May video releases grossed more than $100 million in theaters compared with just one release last year.

Boosted by the strong slate, consumer spending at the rental counter registered $833.9 million in the five-week period ended May 30, an increase of 7 percent from spending in the same month last year.

While New Line Home Entertainment's Academy Award-winner The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King accounted for 40 percent of the box office strength of all May releases, if you take the 10-time Oscar winner out of the mix, the remaining May slate still outscored its 2003 counterparts by nearly 10 percent.

The top 25 rentals generated nearly two-thirds (60 percent) of all monthly rental revenue.

Consumer awareness of late April and May new releases ran high as three of the top five rentals for the month were Oscar contenders.

Leading the newbies was Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment's Big Fish. Released April 27, the Oscar-nominated drama earned $47.9 million at the rental counter during the five-week period ended May 30 and was the top rental debut for the month, earning $13.5 million in its first week of release.

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment's Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, which grabbed two Oscars (cinematography and sound editing), placed second, earning $38.4 million for the month.

Lions Gate Home Entertainment's The Cooler, which received one Oscar nod, placed fifth for the month, generating $32.5 million in its first five weeks of release.

Meanwhile, Buena Vista Home Entertainment took top honors in the market-share sweepstakes for the first time this year with 18.5 percent of May transactions. The studio had three of the top five rentals for the month. Leading for the studio was Miramax's Kill Bill Vol. 1 (No. 7, $26.9 million), which was released three days prior to the theatrical release of Kill Bill Vol. 2, driving many consumers to either rent or purchase the first volume prior to seeing Vol. 2 in theaters.

It was a close race for second, with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment narrowly surpassing Warner Home Video in market share. Fox, which has held on solid at No. 5 in market share for the year, moved into the No. 2 spot for the month with the studio's releases generating 17.6 percent of all rental transactions in May.

Warner Home Video placed third with a 17.4 percent market share.

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