Germany's homevid biz saw sales rise to $1.96 bil

BERLIN — One of the more prominent trends at this year’s European Film Market in Berlin was the growing importance of the back catalog.

Looking at the recently published figures from Germany’s DVD and video industry, it’s no wonder.

In 2003, Germany’s home entertainment industry saw an 11% increase in sales to E1.55 billion ($1.96 billion), reaching record revenue levels for the third year in a row, according to market research group GfK.

Sell-through titles alone saw an increase of more than 20% to $1.58 billion, with DVD sales accounting for $1.3 billion. VHS sales, on the other hand, dropped 40% to $254 million. From the 85 million sell-through titles last year, 75% were DVDs.

For international sales companies like Paris-based Celluloid Dreams, back titles were practically front-and-center at market stands as DVD rights become increasingly important.

“We have seen a huge amount of interest in the older titles of popular directors like Francois Ozon and Takeshi Kitano,” says Celluloid Dreams sales exec Tanja Meissner.

While the company was quick to prominently list its back catalog for the onslaught of buyers shopping for DVD rights, Meissner says Celluloid Dreams remains an arthouse sales company dedicated to making sure its films end up on the bigscreen

“We are not a DVD sales agent, but it’s a side effect of having a strong catalog while the DVD market is flourishing,” he says.

Indeed, while the recent works of most big-name directors have already been picked up in major territories, a collection of Ozon’s short films sold to Accent Film Entertainment for Australia and Salzgeber in Germany.

Accent, which already distributes Gaspar Noe’s controversial “Irreversible” Down Under, snatched up the helmer’s first pic, “I Stand Alone,” as did Germany’s Legend Films, which similarly distributes “Irreversible.”

Bavaria Film Intl. largely concentrated its efforts on new theatrical titles at the Berlin mart, but company reports increased interest from DVD rights shoppers, especially for its Aki Kaurismaki library.

Rainer Koelmel, head of international licensing at Leipzig-based Kinowelt, says DVD was the main thing he was looking for at the European Film Market.

Kinowelt has seen its revenues rise thanks to bustling business from its home entertainment division, and Koelmel says it’s essential to keep the company’s back catalog well stocked.

In Berlin, company acquired from Arri Media World sales rights to pubcaster ARD’s now classic 29-episode series opus about 20th-century Germany, “Heimat — Eine deutsche Chronik” (Homeland: A German Chronicle) from 1984; “The Second Homeland: Chronicle of a Youth,” from 1992; and the upcoming “Homeland 3 — A Chronicle of Changing Times,” which Kinowelt is hoping to premiere at the Venice Film Fest this year.

While deluxe editions and collectible auteur titles are flying off the shelves, Germany’s rental market suffered a severe beating thanks to an increase in illegal downloads, according to Germany’s federal association of audiovisual media, BVV.

Annual rental revenue last year sank 16% to $383 million, while the number of actual units rented, 113.6 million, was at an all-time low, at least since the introduction of GfK market research in 1985. The local rental market now only accounts for one-fifth of the industry’s total annual revenue.

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