Blu-ray fuels DVD sales in the U.K.

Total sales rise 1.9% over 2007 figures

LONDON -- Demand for the high-definition Blu-ray format drove U.K. DVD volumes up in 2008, according to new figures from trade body the British Video Assn.

Total DVD sales rose 1.9% year-over-year to 252.9 million units. That included 3.7 million Blu-ray titles, representing a 378% rise over 2007. The figures, based on over-the counter sales data from the Official Charts Co., show that "the home entertainment market is alive and kicking, despite difficult trading conditions across the entire retail sector," the BVA said.

The BVA/OCC figures were published after a difficult six weeks for the British entertainment retail sector, hit by the closure of the 815 Woolworths stores in December and problems at 125-store chain Zavvi, which entered administration (roughly equivalent to Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S.) on Christmas Eve after the collapse of Woolworths Group's wholesale distributor EUK.

Nevertheless, 1.5 million Blu-ray discs were sold in December, up nearly 400% against the same period in 2007. The latest installment in the Batman franchise, "The Dark Knight" (Warner Home Video) was the year's best -selling Blu-ray title (281,000 copies sold). Value figures were not published.

According to BVA director general Lavinia Carey, "The demise of EUK and Woolworths had a significant impact on pre-Christmas trading and the news since Christmas of Zavvi going into administration is a consequence of EUK going down. But we are not surprised that home entertainment is generally bearing up well; as people tighten their belts, many have rejected more extravagant outings in favor of a cozy evening at home with their favourite titles."

Take That's "Beautiful World Live" (Universal Music) was the top-selling music DVD of the year, with sales of 160,000 copies. The best-seller among children's DVD titles was Disney's "Ratatouille," with sales of more than 1.5 million copies, according to the BVA/OCC.

Comedian Lee Evans' "Big -- Live at the 02" (Universal Pictures), was the year's top-selling special interest title, with more than 1 million copies bought. As previously reported, the ABBA musical "Mamma Mia" was the biggest-seller of the year, with 5.005 million units sold.