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Windows Continue to Shrink

1 Mar, 2006 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Walk the Line

It's been a rush to DVD so far this year. The 16 theatrical features released to DVD in the first six weeks of this year came to DVD an average of 124.4 days after their theatrical openings, according to industry tip sheet The DVD Release Report.

If this trend continues, movies will arrive on DVD faster than ever. Last year, the average theatrical-to-video window for films with at least $25 million at the box office was 141.8 days, down from 145.8 days in 2004, 153 days in 2003 and 171.4 days in 2002.

Ralph Tribbey, editor of The DVD Release Report, attributed the drastic shortening to the post-Christmas rush and the Oscars, “so we may just be seeing a little blip.” But, Tribbey noted, windows continue to get shorter, and he may revise his initial projection that the average would ultimately bottom out at 130 days.

“You still need time to get the DVD done,” he said. “But maybe solicitation windows aren't a factor anymore — with both Walk the Line and King Kong, retailers had maybe a day to make a decision on how many copies to bring in — and if we get to April and May and studios like Sony are still cranking them out at 95 days, maybe another sea change is underway.”

Indeed, the pipeline is brimming with more rush jobs. Last week, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released Rent just 90 days after it opened in theaters. This week, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is rushing Walk the Line to DVD 102 days after its box office debut. And even two of the fall movie season's biggest money-makers, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire ($286.8 million) and King Kong ($214.9 million), are coming to DVD in March 109 and 102 days, respectively, after their theatrical debut.

Craig Kornblau, president of Universal Studios Home Entertainment, said it's more about “picking the right date” than an overall strategy. “We felt a few weeks before Easter was a prime shopping date, and we wanted to come out with Kong at that time,” he said.

Benjamin Feingold, president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, said most of the films he's rushing to DVD are box office “underperformers.”

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