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New Year Rings In With Increasing DVD Domination

2 Feb, 2004 By: Melinda Saccone

Consumers sustained their DVD buying spree in the first few weeks of the year, while cassette sales continued to slide and rentals posted losses over last year.

While the box office strength of January releases was down 21.3 percent from the comparable 2003 slate, it didn't slow consumers' desires to own the titles on disc.

A review of the top 50 DVD sellers in the first three weeks of 2004 showed consumer disc purchases were up 13.5 percent from the comparable period last year, according to Nielsen VideoScan data. DVD buy rates are expected to remain steady in 2004, which should prompt even stronger disc sales.

January top sellers included Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment's S.W.A.T. and Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Universal Studios Home Video's Underworld and American Wedding, New Line Home Entertainment's Freddy vs. Jason, MGM Home Entertainment's Out of Time and Buena Vista Home Entertainment's Open Range.

Meanwhile, cassette sales continued their slide. A review of Nielsen VideoScan's top 50 VHS sellers in the first three weeks of the year points to declining sales and market share for the cassette. As more and more consumers abandon their VCRs, cassette sales of the top 50 sellers in the first three weeks of the year fell 56 percent from the level of their 2003 counterparts.

In addition, the product strength of January video releases thus far have not been enough to keep consumer rental spending above 2003 tallies.

While DVD rentals are up over last year, VHS rentals are dragging overall spending down.

In the first three weeks of the month, overall spending at the rental counter dropped 10.1 percent from the comparable period last year. While disc rentals are up 23.1 percent, it's not enough to offset the 42.4 percent decline in cassette rentals.

For the week ended Jan. 25, consumers spent $180.6 million at the rental counter, down 2.4 percent from the previous week.

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