Sell-through soaring

Homevideo revenues reached a new high in the third quarter of 1992. Titles that hit the street in the period were worth close to $ 1.16 billion to suppliers, edging out the record fourth quarter of ’91 when revenues were around $ 1.1 billion, according to Daily Variety research. (Total vid revenues for the third quarter of ’91, for comparison, were around $ 900 million.)

The sell-through market fueled the increase. The rental market has been essentially flat for the past year and a half, averaging about $ 515 million per quarter, while the sell-through market continues to expand. Sell-through revenues to suppliers for the third quarter of 92 were around $ 655 million, compared to rental product revenues of around $ 503 million.

The sheer volume of sell-through releases helped to drive up the revenue total. There were six major sell-through releases in the third quarter of ’92: FoxVideo’s “Ferngully … The Last Rainforest,” Buena Vista’s “The Rescuers” and “The Great Mouse Detective,” HBO’s “Rock-A-Doodle,” CTHV’s “Hook” and Paramount’s “Wayne’s World.”

That compares to four major sell-through releases in the same period of ’91 (led by FoxVideo’s “Home Alone”) and represents a 10% increase in total units shipped in the ’92 quarter.

On the rental side, six titles shipped at least 340,000 units in the third quarter of 1992. Top title for the period was Buena Vista’s “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” at 425,000 units. During the same period of ’91, only three rental titles sold at least 340,000 units, though Orion’s “Dances With Wolves” shipped a (then) record 655,000 units.

Top supplier for the period was Columbia TriStar Home Video,surging ahead of the competition to stake out more than 20% of all wholesale homevideo revenues, and more than 25% of revenues from rental product.

The Sony division’s revenues for the period from North American videocassette sales (not including sales to mail order companies, pay-per-transaction systems or laserdisc sales) were about $ 240 million, compared to around $ 210 million for its nearest competitor, Buena Vista.

There were two major factors behind the CTHV surge. For one, the company released “Hook” to the sell-through market in the period, which was worth about $ 82 million in gross wholesale revenues, shipping about 5.9 million units at $ 24.95. (New Line also contributed about $ 5.2 million in sell-through revenues from the rerelease of “City Slickers.”)

In rentals, CTHV had more releases by far than any other studio –31 (including New Line titles) –compared to 22 films released by Warner (including MGM/UA, HBO Video and Cannon). Among CTHV’s rental releases were two of the four biggest titles of the period.

Buena Vista Home Video’s gross revenues of around $ 208.8 million represented more than $ 140 million in sell-through revenues and more than $ 68 million from rental releases.

Top sell-through performers were “The Rescuers,” selling 4.5 million units at $ 24.99, and “The Great Mouse Detective” with 4.25 million units at $ 24.99. (Not counted in the period is the fourth-quarter release of “Beauty and the Beast” which reportedly shipped around 17 million units, worth an estimated $ 240 million to the studio.)

Warner Home Video and its affiliated labels MGM/UA, HBO and Cannon controlled $ 170 million in revenues during the quarter. Warner-branded product accounted for $ 72.69 million, while MGM/UA accounted for $ 48.8 million, HBO an estimated $ 45 million and Cannon $ 3.2 million.

MGM/UA continued to show strength in sell-through with $ 24.6 million in revenues; approximately $ 5.8 million of that came from the anniversary repromotion of “Casablanca,” which shipped about 417,000 units at $ 24.98 s.r.p.

HBO had its first straight-to-sell-through feature with “Rock-A-Doodle,” which shipped an estimated 2 million units, worth about $ 28 million gross.

Paramount returned to the sell-through market in a big way in the quarter with “Wayne’s World,” whose gross billings accounted for around $ 72.8 million, out of PHV’s total revenues of $ 140 million. Other sell-through promotions contributed close to $ 13 million, and rental releases accounted for about $ 55 million.

On the sell-through side, FoxVideo’s “Ferngully … The Last Rainforest” at $ 24.98 shipped around 2.5 million units, with a gross value of around $ 35 million. Other sell-through promotions and catalog sales amounted to around $ 45 million, for a quarterly sell-through market total of around $ 80 million.

MCA/Universal revenues for the period were around $ 61.3 million, including $ 46.3 million from the release of rental product, and about $ 15 million from sell-through. (Sell-through release of “Beethoven” Oct. 1 will be counted in fourth quarter.)

For the first time since its inception, Orion Home Video had no rental releases in the period. Catalog sell-through sales were nominal and could not be determined.

Sell-through specialist GoodTimes Home Video tallied an estimated $ 75 million in sales during the quarter, with a significant portion coming from the “Cindy Crawford Shape Your Body” sweatcassette.

Sell-through helped buoy Live Home Video’s results for the quarter. The company reissued “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” for sell-through and offered “T2” in a gift pack with “The Terminator.” Revenues from those two offerings totaled around $ 18 million. A wide range of other sell-through promotions accounted for another $ 11 million in revenues, while rental releases brought in around $ 8.2 million.

Other independents that had sell-through product include:

Republic Pictures Home Video continued an upward growth curve on total revenues of around $ 11.2 million. The Republic library contributed about $ 3 million in sell-through billings.

Polygram Video revenues are estimated at $ 10 million, from therelease of sell-through product.

Sources estimate another sell-through supplier, Video Treasures (a division of rackjobber Handleman) had sales in the same range.

Turner Home Entertainment had sales of around $ 5.3 million in the quarter. Three TNT rental titles–“Montana,””Onassis” and “Duel of Hearts”–accounted for $ 1.7 million in revenue (along with a rental-priced wrestling tape), while sell-through product accounted for $ 3.6 million. Sell-through star was “King Kong,” which was repromoted for its 60th birthday at $ 16.98 and shipped about 250,000 units.

Cabin Fever revenues are believed to be in the $ 5 million range from a mix of $ 79.95 and $ 49.95 rental titles and $ 9.95 sell-throughs.

Also in the $ 5 million range was Starmaker Video. It released a “Grimm’s Video Storybook” series, and continued to promote its “Saturday Night Live” compilations and low-priced films from the New World library. About $ 500,000 in revenues came from the rental market, with the balance from the sell-through market.

MPI Home Video, based in Chicago, had gross revenues of around $ 4.5 million in the quarter, with roughly $ 800,000 from the rental market and about $ 3.7 million from sell-through. High-priced product was primarily episodes of the TV series “Dark Shadows” while sell-through releases included a Ross Perot tape, a Rodney King docu, “The Frugal Gourmet” and “A Complete History of Golf.”

Worldvision, a unit of Spelling Entertainment, had sales of around $ 3 million in the quarter, with about $ 1.8 million coming from sell-through product and $ 1.2 million from the rental market. Sell-through titles included episodes of “The Addams Family” as well as “Beverly Hills, 90210” and “Twin Peaks.”

Erstwhile sell-through supplier, Playboy Home Video, has been expanding in the rental market, and rental-priced releases accounted for approximately $ 850, 000 of total revenues of $ 2.5 million.

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