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Weekly Rentals Revive on Hit Fare, But Still Fall Short of 2003

28 Oct, 2004 By: Melinda Saccone

Consumers beefed up their spending at the rental counter for the second consecutive week as fourth-quarter heavy hitters begin to surface.

However, the uptick wasn't enough to beat comparable weekly spending in 2003, and spending on transactional rentals will most likely end the year far short of spending in 2003.

Consumers spent $130.6 million at the rental counter for the week ended Oct. 24, up 6.8 percent from the previous week, but down 9.5 percent from comparable spending last year.

A strong slate of new releases helped lure consumers to the rental counter for the week. The top five rentals for the week all generated more than $50 million in theaters prior to their video debut, with the top three earning in excess of $100 million.

Arriving just in time for Halloween, Universal Studios Home Entertainment's Van Helsing — a tale of the famous monster hunter — led the newbies for the week. Generating more than $100 million in theaters prior to its video debut, Van Helsing was consumers' No. 2 choice at the rental counter, earning $9.1 million in rental revenue in its first week of release.

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment's The Day After Tomorrow held onto the No. 1 spot in its sophomore week on rental shelves. The actioner narrowly beat Van Helsing, earning an additional $9.12 million — a 15 percent decline from its debut.

Two other new releases found a spot in the top five for the week, both aimed at a younger demographic. Fox's Garfield: The Movie earned $6.34 million in its first five days on rental shelves for a fourth-place finish, and Warner Home Video's A Cinderella Story rounded out the top five, earning $5.04 million in its first five days on rental shelves.

While a heavy lineup for the fourth quarter appears to hold promise for many rentailers, year-to-date spending remains well below 2003.

Historically, the fourth quarter has accounted for more than one-fourth of annual rental revenue. However, that figure has been on the decline in the past few years as consumers increasingly buy the fourth-quarter hits rather than rent them. Even with the most optimistic forecasts for a bountiful Q4, Video Store Magazine Market Research forecasts a double-digit percentage shortfall in transactional rental spending this year.

Year-to-date rental spending is already off 20 percent from 2003 tallies at $6.5 billion.

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