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At $10.2 billion, first six months ain't half bad

<b>VB RESEARCH:</b> Studios credit catalog sales, female factor for 16% growth.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets propelled Warner to a leading 21% market share in the first six months.

JULY 14 | The popularity of DVD continued to fuel the home video market, with consumers spending a record $10.2 billion to rent and buy videos during the first half of the year, a 16% gain compared to the first half of 2002.

Consumers spent $4.8 billion of that buying DVDs, according to VB estimates based on studio data. In comparison, they spent just $1.05 billion to buy VHS copies of movies during that same period, though many new release titles were available on videocassette only for rent.

Meanwhile, the rental market, which has seen slight declines during the past few years as VHS slips from consumer’s favor, gained 3.5% for total revenue of $4.35 billion, with DVD edging VHS for the first time.

Warner Home Video once again dominated the overall market, with total sales and rentals of $2.14 billion for a 21% share. The studio distributed the Top 2 video sellers: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, which posted $237.1 million in video sales and rentals, and HBO Video’s My Big Fat Greek Wedding, with $231.7 million.

Ron Sanders, U.S. executive VP and general manager of WHV, said Warner has been able to maintain that market share through focusing on catalog and non-new release sales. In addition to HBO, the studio distributes product for sister company New Line as well as BBC Video and PBS.

“It has allowed us to maintain our minimum market share despite the peaks and valleys of new release business,” Sanders said.

He also acknowledged, however, that the broadening DVD consumer demographic helped the studio during the first half of the year.

“What we’ve really seen is that recent purchasers of DVD players are skewing much more female and much more family than before,” said Sanders. “That’s why Harry Potter and My Big Fat Greek Wedding sold so well.”

Further evidence of the female influence was the Top 10 DVD sales/rental rankings for two other romantic comedies, Buena Vista Home Entertainment’s Sweet Home Alabama and Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment’s Maid in Manhattan.

“This is the year where the romantic comedy broke out on DVD,” said Ben Feingold, president of CTHE. “Women are now embracing DVD, purchasing items for themselves as opposed to purchasing for their children or husbands.”

Buena Vista also got a boost from the growing DVD family market, which the studio estimates grew by 69% during the first half. Consumers spent $1.78 billion on titles from Buena Vista, which also distributes product from Miramax Home Entertainment.

“Right now, we’re all kind of on the optimistic side in terms of where the market is going,” said BVHE president Bob Chapek. “We’re obviously pleased with family.”

Universal Studios Home Video president Craig Kornblau echoed Chapek’s enthusiasm.

“The story of the first half of the year is that we have had this incredibly healthy business,” he said. Noting that the tremendous increase in sales revenue is all incremental because it has not come at the expense of the rental market, which continues to grow, Kornblau said, “Consumers have a real hunger for home entertainment.”

Universal’s The Bourne Identity, which earned $121 million in theaters, was the top renter for the first six months, with rental revenue of $74.8 million.

Likewise, DreamWorks Home Entertainment, whose videos are distributed by Universal, had four of the Top 20 titles overall and four of the 15 best renters, led by The Ring, which earned $59.7 million at rental counters, leading to overall spending of $145 million on the title.

“We had fantastic performance,” said Kelley Avery,

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