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Windows Are Shrinking in Anticipation of Slow Summer

2 Jun, 2005 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Theatrical releases like Guess Who are coming to home video much sooner than they used to.

Driven in part by concerns about a potentially slow DVD summer, suppliers are ratcheting up release schedules for August and September, in some cases pushing out titles significantly earlier than under normal patterns.

Guess Who, for example, has just been slotted for an Aug. 2 release by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. That's just 130 days after the film, which earned $67.1 million at the box office, opened in theaters. It's also two weeks shorter than Sony's average 144-day theatrical-to-video window since DVD's March 1997 launch made every home video release a sellthrough title.

Similarly, Paramount Home Entertainment has tapped Sahara, which earned $61.7 million in theaters, for an Aug. 30 release, 144 days after its big-screen bow. Paramount's average window over the past eight years for films with theatrical earnings of at least $25 million was 167.2 days.

“The fact of the matter is the closer a video releases to a film's theatrical opening, the higher the awareness and, generally, the better the sales,” said Thomas J. Lesinski, worldwide president of home entertainment for Paramount Pictures.

Indeed over the past few years, theatrical-to-video windows have steadily shortened. So far this year, the average window for titles with box office earnings of at least $25 million is 138.9 days, according to The DVD Release Report. That's down from 145.8 days in 2004, 153 days in 2003 and 171.4 days in 2002.

Several titles this year are coming to DVD at breakneck speed. Both Warner Home Video's Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous and Sony's XXX: State of the Union are coming to DVD this summer less than 88 days after their respective theatrical debuts. Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment's Flight of the Phoenix hit DVD in March, a scant 74 days after its December opening in theaters.

Judith McCourt, Home Media Retailing's market research director, said the trend in Hollywood to prepare supplementary material during a film's production “means studios have a lot of flexibility to slot the DVD release at what they deem the opportune moment.”

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