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May Sales Jump as Monthly Slate Packs Box Office Punch

1 Jul, 2004 By: Judith McCourt

May was a great month for DVD sales, thanks to an infusion of hot releases that consumers were quick to add to their expanding DVD collections. Consumers spent $940 million buying videos in May, up 29.2 percent from the comparable four-week period in 2003.

A new king rules. The sales driver for the month was The Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King, the much-awaited final release in the Tolkien trilogy. Released May 25, New Line Home Entertainment's Return of the King sold 6.6 million units in its first complete week of sales, according to Video Store Magazine Market Research estimates. Of those 6.6 million total units, 6.2 million were DVD, unseating The Lion King 1-1/2 (5.7 million units sold) as the No. 1 DVD seller of 2004.

A strong cast of performers supported Return of the King. May video releases generated $929.3 million in box office receipts, compared to $499.7 million for last year's May lineup. This year's top 10 May video performers followed suit, outselling the top 10 sellers for May 2003 by a margin of more than 2-to-1.

Warner Home Video's The Last Samurai sold an estimated 3.3 million units in its first month out, to finish at No.2 in May.

Rounding out the top three sellers in May was Buena Vista Home Entertainment's Miracle, about the 1980 U.S. Olympic Gold Medal hockey team. Released mid-month, Miracle was a winner with consumers, who bought 1.88 million units. By comparison, in May 2003, the top seller for the month, Buena Vista's Treasure Planet, sold 1.85 million units.

DVD unit volume continues to grow as buy rates for DVD hold strong. The average DVD household purchased 19.5 DVDs in the past year, according to Video Store Magazine's 2004 Consumer Home Entertainment survey, suggesting that even the latest wave of DVD owners are eager to collect discs. May 2004 DVD unit volume, adjusted for the four-week period, was up 51 percent from the comparable four-week period in 2003, which more than offset the decline in cassette sales. DVD sales for the same four-week window tallied $884.25 million, up from $613.73 million a year earlier.

DVD sales accounted for 94 percent of the video revenue generated at retail in May, according to Video Store Magazine Market Research estimates.

VHS sales continued to freefall, with just $55.79 million, or 6 percent of May's sales receipts. By comparison, in May of 2003, cassette sales generated 16 percent of the monthly revenue.

The 2004 Consumer Home Entertainment Study found that DVD owners' top reason for continuing to buy VHS was for kids. According to Nielsen VideoScan data, children's nontheatrical fare is the top-selling cassette category, accounting for 23 percent of all VHS sales. However, even this bastion of support is eroding, with 65 percent of the total children's nontheatrical product now being sold in the DVD format.

Warner Home Video, which includes New Line and HBO, grabbed 30.9 percent of the overall market share for the month to take the top spot. The Warner family owned three of the Top 10 sellers for the month. Also faring well for the supplier was the Friends series finale, which sold more than half a million units in May, underscoring the strength that TV fodder wields when released to DVD.

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