A DVD family affair

Demo is the format's main attraction

Less than two years ago only 7% of all the copies of Disney’s “Tarzan” purchased for home video were DVDs.

About 12% of all “Toy Story 2” videos purchased were DVDs.

Those were the top two overall best-selling titles of 2000.

Next week, about 50% of all the copies sold of Disney’s “Monsters, Inc.” will be DVDs, according to industry analysts. The same is expected for the studio’s “Lilo & Stitch” in December.

That sudden acceleration of the family market for DVDs has been the story within the story of DVD’s overall continued growth this year.

And it could not be making studios happier since DVDs offer a greater profit margin and lower costs than videocassettes.

Although the record 9 million DVDs sold of DreamWorks’ “Shrek” represented about 38% of the overall 24 million copies purchased late last year and early this year, that title had a much broader reach than the typical family title and therefore also appealed more to what had been the primary DVD consumer, the adult male.

As with most new high-tech consumer electronics products, the initial customer is the guy who likes action movies, which accounts for five of the top six DVD titles two years ago: “Gladiator,” “X-Men,” “The Matrix,” “The Patriot,” and “Mission Impossible 2.”

That guy is still the primary customer for those types of movies on DVD as evidenced by New Line’s unprecedented ratio so far of about 70% of all sales for “The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring” coming from DVD, according to Variety sister publication Video Business. That percentage could go even higher when the special extended edition is released in November with hours of exclusive extras only on the DVD.

The “Lord of the Rings” number is even more notable when you consider that DVD players are in just 40% of VCR homes.

But while it was the family and specialty market that sparked a boom in the VHS sales market in the late 1980s and 1990s as parents and mothers discovered an electronic babysitter for their kids and a way to exercise along with Jane Fonda at home, those markets have been the slowest to upgrade to DVD.

While testosterone was fueling DVD sales two years ago, estrogen and baby diapers were responsible for a very different-looking list of five of the top six best-selling titles on VHS as compared with the previously mentioned DVDs in 2000: “Tarzan,” “Toy Story 2,” “Stuart Little,” “Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea,” “Pokemon: The First Movie,” and “The Tigger Movie.”

Those worlds appear to be fusing.

The top three sellers on VHS in the first half of this year, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” “Cinderella II: Dreams Come True,” and “Atlantis: The Lost Empire,” were also among the top eight best sellers on DVD. The number of crossover titles is expected to increase dramatically in the coming months with big recent family and children’s movies like “Monsters, Inc.,” “Ice Age,” “Scooby-Doo,” “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron,” and “Stuart Little 2” coming to VHS and DVD.

Although movies that target more than just parents and kids are enjoying the biggest percentage increase in DVD sales – “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” picked up about 50% of its market-leading sales so far this year from DVD — movies targeted more specifically at kids are also making great gains in DVD sales.

Last year, Artisan’s Video Premiere Award-winning “Barbie in the Nutcracker” only sold about 10% of its 3.4 million copies on DVD. The DVD percentage for the Oct. 1 sequel “Barbie as Rapunzel” is expected to be more like 30% – 40%.

That just leaves the customers for fitness and educational videos lagging behind in the sprint to DVD, with videocassettes still accounting for about 90% of sales of many titles.

Maybe now that Sony has finally stopped manufacturing the Betamax, those physically fit and well-informed videocassette die-hards will realize that their beloved VHS format is next on the chopping block and finally take the plunge.

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