LONDON – The strong U.S. video market has proved the brightest feature of an otherwise unexceptional 1996 for the Rank Group, according to a trading update issued by the British leisure company Dec. 19.

Rank’s film and entertainment services division benefited from a 16% rise in video duplication volumes during the first 11 months of the year, led by the U.S. release of such titles as ”Independence Day,” ”Mission: Impossible” and ”The Nutty Professor.”

The volume of film processed by Rank has increased by 8% so far this year, while Pinewood Studios remains busy and Rank Film Distributors has reversed its first-half loss. RFD’s profit for 1996 will exceed last year’s, according to the update.

Analysts disappointed

But the statement by new chief executive Andrew Teare that Rank’s operating profits for the past five months had ”broadly maintained” the levels of the first six months was greeted with disappointment by analysts, and Rank’s stock dipped in response.

Teare has embarked on a widespread restructuring and refocusing of the group, and has disposed of peripheral businesses worth more than $330 million in the past five months, though none in the film and entertainment division.

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