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Warner: Boycott Not Hurting, Retailers Skeptical

27 Oct, 2002 By: Jessica Wolf

Members of the rental community in the United Kingdom aren't buying into Warner Home Video U.K. statements that the unofficial boycott of its product among many of the region's leading rental dealers isn't hurting the studio's home video business that much.

Last month, WHV U.K. officials cited that better-than-expected sales of We Were Soldiers -- which Warner distributes for Mel Gibson's Icon Productions -- on VHS and DVD, to the tune of £1 million (approximately $1.5 million), made up for the fact that many independent rental dealers and nearly all the region's major chains, including market-leading Blockbuster, did not stock the title or other Warner product.

But retailers in the region beg to differ. Just two weeks ago, Blockbuster U.K. executives released an official statement to the British press regarding Warner's claims, maintaining that rental is still the model of choice for home video consumers in the U.K., home entertainment trade magazine View reported.

“It is wrong to assume after a handful of Warner releases that the Warner strategy is working and, therefore, that the public is being persuaded to change from renting their entertainment into purchasing it,” Blockbuster's VP of marketing Steve Foulser said.

An official statement from British chain Apollo Home Entertainment read in part: “The Apollo view is that the scheme is not working. We are the fourth-biggest chain in the country, and Warner has lost many hundreds of thousands of pounds on us alone. Goodness knows what it has lost on Blockbuster, Global and everyone else. It must be millions. There is surely no way it could have made all that up on We Were Soldiers. … Films like 3000 Miles to Graceland, Hearts in Atlantis, The Majestic and many others would have made Apollo and Warner good money on rental. Those titles were thrown away on rental and were a disaster on sellthrough.”

Retailer Steve Sheasby spoke out officially on behalf of the independent buying group Movie Zone.

“Movie Zone would like to know how much more revenue Warner could have made if all the rental trade could have bought the film at sellthrough prices,” Sheasby's statement read. “We conclude that the rental revenue would have been incremental to Warner's overall business plan.”

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