Turns out world really is flat

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Booming movie rentals and a steady flow of TV license fees combined to compensate for sluggish home video revenue and bring about a "flat" all-media sales performance worldwide for the major Hollywood studios last year.

A healthy 9% hike in foreign tallies made up for an 8% domestic decline "to balance each other out," according to a confidential summary sent to member- company executives by the MPA and obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.

The total haul for the 12-month period — rental dollars from movie theaters, TV fees and video/DVD receipts returning to the six major companies — came to $42.9 billion, slightly down from 2006's $43 billion. The U.S. market slipped from 2006's $24.5 billion to $22.7 billion, while international advanced from $18.5 billion to $20.2 billion.

The industry's prevailing fear that home video sales are fast eroding was confirmed in the report, which indicated that the 5% uptick in international sales could not offset the eyebrow-raising 17% plunge in the U.S. domestic market. Moreover, the summary notes, a 4% growth in DVD in 2007 was not enough to offset the 850% decline in VHS.

But worldwide theatrical revenue, as evidenced by last year's greatest summer in industry history, jumped 11% to $8.8 billion in rentals, with the U.S. accounting for $4.3 billion, up 8%, hailed as an all-time high for the domestic market.

The report says growth in theatrical revenue was shown by all of the top 25 markets with the exception of Sweden. European theatrical revenue, up 15%, reached a record high of $2.4 billion, with the U.K. climbing 10%; France, 8%; and Spain, 5%. The Asia-Pacific region and Latin America also showed strong growth in boxoffice rentals for films distributed by the U.S. majors (Warner Bros., Paramount, Fox, Sony, Disney and Universal): Asia increased 17% to $1.1 billion and Latin America 16% to $496 million.

International TV revenue for the majors, both free and pay — a figure never divulged by any of the MPA member companies — shot up 10% to hit $7.2 billion. Domestic TV revenue was slightly down from the previous year at $9 billion.

Given the primetime success of such U.S. shows as "CSI" and "Grey's Anatomy" across European small screens, it was not surprising that overall fees for U.S. content (series and movies) on that continent rose 12% year-over-year. The U.K., Canada, France, Germany and Italy were the top buyers of U.S. series for terrestrial broadcasters; on the pay TV front, which relies more on U.S. movies, the U.K., France, Germany, Spain and Japan were the top buyers of American product for their cable/satellite channels.

The report also calls attention to significant growth in Eastern Europe, with Russia's $77 million cited as the biggest increase and Poland's 33% rise bringing the country's into TV's top 10 markets. Global pay TV revenue went up 7% last year in the face of a 4% skid in the U.S.

The U.K. again ranked No. 1 in all-media sales (up 6% to $3.7 million) among the top 25 markets that make up 43% of worldwide all-media sales. Germany showed the greatest growth (up 15% to $2 billion) and replaced Canada (down 1% to $1.8 million) in the No. 2 slot. France (up 7% to $1.8 billion) held on to No. 4, Japan (up 2% to $1.6 billion) to No. 5, Spain (up 7% to $1.1 billion) to No. 6, Italy (up 9% to $1 billion) to No. 8, and Brazil (up 6% to $542 million). (partialdiff)
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