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September Rental Forecast Dim

8 Sep, 2005 By: Judith McCourt

A dollar at the box office likely will translate into a dollar of rental revenue for September video releases.

Every year since 2001, consumers have spent about as much on renting videos in September as they did on seeing the same films in theaters.

And given the down box office that dogged the industry for much of the year, September is looking soft — particularly when you factor in the escalating price of gasoline and the economic backlash of Hurricane Katrina.

September video releases pack a collective box office punch of $489.9 million. Accordingly, Home Media Research forecasts September rental revenue is likely to register less than $500 million, making it the lowest rental take for September in the past six years.

The monthly slate includes just nine releases that earned more than $1 million in theaters, compared to 15 in the same period in 2004.

Two releases grossed more than $100 million theatrically — Paramount Home Entertainment's The Longest Yard ($157.6 million) and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment's Robots ($128.2 million). With late-in-the-month release dates — Sept. 20 and 27, respectively — their economic impact on September won't be as great as it would be if they streeted earlier.

The first few weeks of September are lean. Lions Gate Home Entertainment's Crash ($53.1 million), which streeted Sept. 6, is the only release that week with a theatrical take of more than $1 million.

But retailers need not despair. There's a good opportunity to bolster September revenue with nontheatrical product.

Savvy studio marketers have timed the release of several high-profile TV DVD releases to coincide with the broadcast debut of the subsequent seasons, fueling anticipation — and, most likely, sales.

Among them: Buena Vista Home Entertainment's first-season sets of “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives,” Universal Studios Home Entertainment's Battlestar Galactica: Season One, and Warner Home Video's Smallville: The Complete Fourth Season and Gilmore Girls: The Complete Fourth Season.

Other nontheatrical titles expected to do well this month include Fox's direct-to-video Family Guy Presents Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story, a four-disc collector's edition of Ben-Hur from Warner; and a 10th anniversary edition of Toy Story from Buena Vista.

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