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WB rules DVD biz with ‘King’

Warner jumps over Disney in homevideo market

Thanks to New Line’s early DVD release of “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” Warner Bros. took a late leap over Disney’s 18.7% share of the $10.7 billion homevideo market in the first half of the year.

Consumer spending on homevideo is up just 4.9% so far this year — compared to a 16% gain at this time last year — but the $10.7 billion represents an entire year of box office grosses in just six months.

Consumers spent $205 million on the first of at least two home versions of “Return of the King,” the closing chapter in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

It’s the only title to surpass Disney’s “Brother Bear” ($158 million) and the Mouse House’s “The Lion King 1½,” a direct-to-video release that led all vid titles most of the year with $156 million.

Warners had two other titles in the top 10, “The Matrix Revolutions” ($139 million) and “The Last Samurai” ($125 million), and again dominated the catalog market with 22.5% of that $3.3 billion segment and a more than seven-point lead over Disney.

Overall, the $2.2 billion in spending on Warner titles gave the studio a $200 million lead over Disney and a 20.6% share of the market.

This may well be the year that DVD finally put a nail in the coffin of VHS: More than 84% of the record $10.7 billion in homevideo spending so far this year has been on DVDs.

More than $9 billion was spent renting and buying prerecorded discs in the first 25 weeks of the year, another giant DVD leap of about 30% over the first six months of 2003.

But those staggering increases in DVD activity only slightly more than offset the near-implosion of the VHS market — the overall $1.7 billion representing just slightly more than half of its position a year ago — and the sudden and severe decline in the rental market. Overall rentals are down more than 15% for the year, now representing less than a third of the overall homevideo market.

Among the highs, lows and surprises in the first half:

  • Buena Vista’s performance in turning four pics with theatrical grosses ranging from $58 million to $85 million each — “Open Range,” “Kill Bill Vol. 1,” “Haunted Mansion” and “Brother Bear” — into four $100 million-plus videos bodes well for the studio’s second-half lineup of underperforming theatricals “The Alamo,” “Hidalgo,” “Home on the Range” and “Around the World in 80 Days.”

  • Paramount pulled off one of the biggest surprises with its release of the Comedy Central TV series “Chappelle’s Show,” which surpassed “The Family Guy,” “Friends” and “Sex and the City” to become the top-selling TV title of the year with $43.5 million.

  • Columbia TriStar rode five of the top 20 moneymakers to a fractional lead over Universal Studios Home Video, which had only three of the top 20.

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