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Will Box Office Blues Affect Video?

24 May, 2005 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Will a down year at the box office turn into a slow summer for home video marketers?

Studios are beginning to announce their big home video titles for the summer months (HMR, May 8 - 14), and since many of them are first-quarter theatricals, the collective box office clout could be down significantly from the summer 2004 slate.

Figures compiled by The DVD Release Report indicate just 16 films that grossed $25 million or more at the box office are scheduled to arrive on DVD and VHS between Memorial Day and Labor Day, with collective box office earnings of $1.05 billion.

Last summer, in contrast, 21 such films with a combined theatrical gross of $1.54 billion came to video.

“[If] you have a sluggish first quarter theatrically, you're going to see a lot of marginal films come to DVD in the summer,” noted editor Ralph Tribbey. Even factoring in several theatrical hits that may yet be slotted for summer video release, the box office scorecard will likely be off at least 15 percent, he said.

In fact, the home video year so far has been low on box office punch, according to Home Media Research. With the exception of January, which included the slate of carryover holiday-targeted “fifth quarter” releases, every month has fallen behind the same month last year in terms of theatrical strength.

“Our business continues to be driven by new releases, so it's a concern,” said Sony Pictures Home Entertainment president Benjamin Feingold. “But we've been through these types of situations before over the years, and it always comes back.”

Feingold predicts the box office will recover with the opening of Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith. A strong summer at the box office will lead to more high-powered theatricals arriving on video later in the year, “and by the time we hit the fourth quarter, we're very optimistic,” he said.

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