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Rentals Up in February on Cold Snap, Strong Release Slate

21 Mar, 2003 By: Melinda Saccone

Consumer spending at the rental counter in February hit a record high, thanks to a heavy slate of new releases and winter storms that plagued most of the country and kept many consumers inside.

Consumers spent a record $799.3 million on disc and cassette rentals in February, up a whopping 20.4 percent from the $663.9 million spent during the comparable four-week period in 2002.

Disc rentals posted a 168.2 percent increase from last year's tallies, with consumers spending $410.6 million renting DVDs in February.

Disc rentals have passed the halfway mark, accounting for more than half of all rental transactions for the month (51.4 percent), more than doubling from 23.1 percent during the comparable four-week period in 2002.

While DVD continues to forge ahead, cassette rentals continue to wane. Consumer spending on VHS rentals posted a 23.9 percent decline from the comparable period last year. For the four-week period ended Feb. 25, VHS rentals registered $388.7 million, compared with $510.8 million spent during the comparable period in 2002.

Hot February and late January new releases helped boost rental spending to a record high for the month of February. The top 10 rentals for the month also packed a lot of box office punch. Collectively, this year's top 10 February rentals earned $893.6 million in theaters, 42.6 percent more than the $626.7 million earned by their 2002 counterparts. This translated into retailers stocking more copies of these top hits on rental shelves, which helped meet increased demand at the rental counter.

Video Store Magazine market research estimates that these top 10 releases shipped nearly 11 million units into the rental pipeline. DVD comprised nearly 60 percent of this year's shipments, compared with just 33 percent in 2002.

Only three releases in the top 10 were priced for sellthrough on VHS, leaving plenty of opportunity at the rental counter.

Universal Studios Home Video, which also distributes DreamWorks product, snagged a first-place finish in rental market share for the month. The studio had five releases among the top 25 rentals for the month, which helped Universal earn 22.3 percent of all February rental transactions. The Bourne Identity scored first with renters for the month.

Warner Home Video, which also distributes New Line and HBO product, placed second in market share for the month, with 18.1 percent of monthly rental transactions. Warner had four releases among the top 25 rentals for the month. Leading for the studio was HBO, with the February release My Big Fat Greek Wedding (No. 5).

Coming in a close third in market share was Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment, with 17.7 percent of February transactions.

Rounding out the top five suppliers for the month were Buena Vista Home Entertainment (No. 4, 15.6 percent of transactions) and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (No.5, 12.8 percent).

Meanwhile, comedies were back on top after a three-month hiatus, as consumers tried to find relief from the heavy weight of economic and political pressures. The genre dominated at the rental counter, with 41.6 percent of all February rental transactions. Fox's The Banger Sisters was the top-renting comedy for the month.

Dramas retreated into second place, with the genre accounting for 19.6 percent of February rentals. Universal's About a Boy was the top-renting drama for the month.

Rounding out the top five genres were thrillers (No. 3, 16.1 percent), action (No. 4, 6.6 percent) and sci-fi (No. 5, 6.5 percent).

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