PARIS — Battered by the continuing economic crisis in France, the arrival of new digital television offerings and consumer uncertainty over upcoming new technologies, France’s video industry saw sell-through revenues for the first half of the year drop, for the first time since records have been kept.

According to figures from the Syndicat de l’Edition Video (SEV), which includes the majority of France’s vid distribution companies, sell-through revenue slipped by 4.4% to $216 million and would have declined further had it not been for a particularly strong performance from laserdisc sales, which soared 62% to $14.5 million.

The upside for the industry, however, is that the fledgling rental market showed an 18.5% increase in revenues to $34 million. Rental still only accounts for 13% of all video business in France.

SEV’s general secretary Jean-Paul Commin has been warning that the sell-through market could not expect to continue to show double-digit percentage increases indefinitely. “The French video market during the late 1980s and early 1990s was playing catch-up with the rest of Europe. By 1995 we were basically at the same level of maturity as Germany and the U.K., and now we are seeing that the market is slowing,” noted Commin.

The main French video distributors have tried to keep the market buoyant by throwing more ad coin at the consumer this year, but so far, with little success.

The video industry is still hampered by relatively costly sell-through prices, which average $25 for a new film, as well as a value added tax set at a whopping 20%. Commin and the SEV have been lobbying hard to get the tax reduced to 5.5%.

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