Studios held off on big releases till Q2

With Easter falling later this year, studios held off on releasing their bigger homevideo titles until the second quarter, causing DVD sales to take a hit during the first three months of 2011.

Overall, physical and digital sales came in at $2.2 billion during the first quarter, down from the $2.7 billion earned during the same period last year, according to the Digital Entertainment Group.

While Blu-ray was up 10%, DVD sales were off 9.8%, earning $4.2 billion.

New titles, in particular, were hit the hardest, down 19%. But that’s largely due to the fact that studios like Warner Bros. opted not to release tentpoles including “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I” on disc until around Easter in late April.

Easter has grown into the second biggest sales period of the year for DVDs and Blu-ray discs, following Christmas, studio execs say.

At the same time, the pics that bowed on disc during the first quarter also didn’t play as well at the B.O. as films released during the first quarter of 2010.

Box office for those homevid titles was 25% less than last year.

“Our business is very much driven by content,” one studio exec said. “Last year, we had bigger movies.”

The rental biz still continues to show signs of growth, earning $2 billion during the first quarter, up 2.5%. Category covers traditional homevid stores, Redbox kiosks and DVD-by-mail and streaming service Netflix.

Meanwhile, digital sales and rentals of movies via online stores like Apple’s iTunes or on VOD through cablers and satcasters amounted to $614 million, a gain of 8%.

Hollywood remains upbeat on disc sales, and the biz was encouraged by an NPD Group report in April saying that despite a 2% downturn in homevideo spending, 78% of consumers surveyed are still devoting their homevideo budgets to purchasing and renting movies on DVD and Blu-ray discs. Around 15% of that is spent on subscription services like Net- flix. Digital video downloads, paid streaming, VOD and pay-per-views made up the remaining 8%.

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