With this issue, Daily Variety, Variety and VideoScan debut their newsell-through video report today, designed to take the pulse of the U.S. biz with far more accuracy than any method previously used. Based solely on data collected by point-of-purchase computers that automatically record sales transactions, the info offers an unprecedented look at trends in video sales.

The homevideo biz has long been dogged by a dearth of reliable information, particularly in the sell-through category. Sales figures for even the biggest blockbusters usually come from suppliers or at best are based on a phone survey of retailers. In both cases the numbers are impossible to verify and often reflect number of units shipped as opposed to those that actually leave the store.

According to this first report, close to 2.4 million videos were sold the week ending Jan. 31, with the vast majority priced under $ 20 and more than 600, 000 priced under $ 10.

“Beauty and the Beast” continued to dominate the vid market with more than 30 ,000 sold in one week, but indications are the Disney pic–like just about every other theatrical release on the chart–is cooling post-Christmas; sales were clawed by nearly one-fifth from the previous week. The No. 2 vid, “Beethoven,” rolled over by nearly 6,000 units for a drop of 25%, and the No. 6 best seller, “Sister Act,” descended by almost 20%.

With the exception of two new “Muppet” movie entries, the only vids in the top 25 that posted a higher figure this week than last were non-theatrical titles.

Suppliers have tightened their ad dollars in the normal post-holiday sales pattern, and consumers sorting through their holiday shopping bills are far less inclined to spring for non-essentials like vid tapes. As a result, overall sales have dipped each week during 1993.

There have been exceptions: Disney bowed its line of Jim Henson-made vids with an aggressive (for this time of year) ad push and a watch packaged with the $ 24.95 vids. As a result, “The Muppet Movie” cracked the chart at No. 8 and “The Great Muppet Caper” nabbed the No. 22 spot.

Easily the hottest sell-through vids belong to that plucky behemoth “Barney the Dinosaur,” whose nine vids collectively account for nearly 38% of the top 25 unit volume. The PBS pet-turned-video star sold close to 160,000 videos in a single week.

The research conducted for the top-sellers chart also confirms several persistent trends pertaining to various genres. As is almost always the case, made-for vid entries lagged far behind those that enjoyed a ride on the coattails of theatrical hype or success.

Theatrical titles total 1.3 million unit sales followed by kidvid and exercise, which accounted for 440,000 and 290,000 units, respectively.

But even while feature films account for the lion’s share of across-the-board sell-through activity, those sales are so fragmented that the majority of the top 25 are non-theatricals.

Also of note, the biggest-selling tapes are almost all family fare. Excluding the four sweatcassettes that landed top 25, every entry was either specifically aimed at youngsters or suitable for same.

Family-oriented vids also command the high price points and account for almost all the top-selling theatrical vids. Of the top 25 theatrical vids, only “JFK” was rated R. Conversely, theatrical vids priced under $ 10 are dominated by sex, gore and violence. Notable exceptions are the No. 1 and 2 videos in the under-$ 10 category–the 1978 version of “The Little Mermaid” and the 1977 version of “Last of the Mohicans.” Both are no doubt riding piggyback on the current, more popular pics with the same titles.

The VideoScan system to track sell-through videos was developed by SoundScan, the company that tracks record industry sales (for Billboard magazine, among others) using the same type of computer generated point-of-sale data.

More than 9,000 retail outlets are on-line to report every video sales transaction to VideoScan. The stores included are believed to account for nearly half of all vid sell-through activity in the U.S. on most titles. The top-25 chart is based on projections made by VideoScan and includes the market share of each title as a percentage of the units sold by all 25 titles.

The scope of the data also goes far beyond ranking the top-selling tapes each week. Each week VideoScan will also supply Daily Variety and Variety with a breakdown of sales based on price, genre, store type (mass merchant, speciality store, etc.) and geographic region.

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