Slipped discs: Vid biz showing its age

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For the first year since DVD's 1997 launch, fewer discs were released last year than in the year before.

According to figures compiled by the DVD Release Report, 12,524 DVD titles came to market in calendar-year 2006, 8.2% fewer than the record 13,640 released in 2005.

Tip sheet editor Ralph Tribbey attributes the decline mostly to a sharp drop in the number of theatrical catalog titles released to DVD -- 1,119 in '06, compared with 1,458 in '05, a 23% difference.

Why the drop? A worsening shelf-space crunch at big retailers, as well as the fact that with DVD approaching its 10th birthday, most marketable movies already are out.

"But it was a bit more complicated than just running out of films to release," Tribbey said. "There were also a lot fewer public domain releases -- after 20 versions of 'Night of the Living Dead,' does the market really need another one?"

Another reason for the drop, Tribbey said, is that a number of studios last year packaged older movies in collections instead of issuing them individually. Factoring in multifilm sets, however, the number of theatrical catalog titles released in '06 still is down 9.3%.

Niche categories also registered steep DVD release declines, including foreign-language feature films (down 20.5%), films from the silent era (down 44.7%), anime (down 20%), cartoon collections (down 51.6%), TV miniseries (down 23.3%) and TV movies (down 13.4%).

On the up side, the number of new feature films released on DVD immediately after their theatrical runs was up 11.1%, from 558 in '05 to 620 last year, a record. The year also saw a record 106 films released to DVD after grossing $25 million or more at the boxoffice, eclipsing the previous high of 101 set in 2002 and repeated in 2004.

The significant increase in new theatrical features coming to DVD is a product of the up boxoffice and also accounts for the bump in overall home entertainment spending in '06.

Tribbey noted that the 105 hit movies arrived on DVD an average of 129.2 days after their boxoffice bows, signaling a shorter window than ever. The average window for films with a theatrical gross of at least $25 million was 141.8 days in '05, and 145.8 days in '04.
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