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Blu-ray brings homevid hope

New format gooses moribund disc sales

Robust sales of Blu-ray discs in the first half of the year are helping to slow declines in the overall DVD market, according to an industry-funded nonprofit group that tracks home entertainment sales.

Sales of packaged media, which includes DVDs, Blu-ray discs, paid downloads and other VOD sales, fell 7.1% during the first two quarters of the year, vs. a 13.5% decline in the same period in 2009.

Blu-ray disc sales in the first half of this year soared 84% to $733 million, according to the Digital Entertainment Group. One big driver undoubtedly was “Avatar,” which bowed April 22 on Blu-ray and DVD. The James Cameron pic moved a whopping 4 million DVDs and 2.7 million Blu-ray discs in its first four days of release alone.

“The growth of Blu-ray, both hardware and software, continued to dominate the home entertainment landscape in the first half,” said Ron Sanders, president of DEG who is also prexy of Warner Home Video.

“Clearly, we are still grappling with a challenging marketplace and a tough economy, but overall trends that we are seeing are encouraging.”

Sales of Blu-ray players increased 103% in the first half of the year. The sale of 2 million set-top players increased the number of Blu-ray players sold to date to 19.4 million.

DVD rentals continue to flag, down 5% to $3 billion, in large part because of the closing of Movie Gallery stories, DEG said. Rentals, however, from discount kiosks like those operated by Redbox, were up 55% in the first half.

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