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Movie tickets tops in '09 - More spent on cinema than on home video last year

Consumers' appetite for moviegoing is surpassing their spending on movies on homevideo for the first time in more than a decade, according to media analyst Adams Media Research. The flop in spending patterns was due both to the health of the theatrical film business and to consumers preferring to rent rather than buy DVDs. In 2009, revenue from movie tickets in the U.S. exceeded the retail sales of movies on packaged video for the first time since the mid-1990s, as the recession drove consumers to what they perceived as the best value for their dollar, according to the report.In part the reversal of fortunes of the theatrical and retail businesses can be laid at the feet of the recession," said AMR president Tom Adams. "Going to the movies is the value option compared to other options for going out. For in-home entertainment, though, rental, not purchase, is the value option." By Adams' calculations, Americans spent $28.4 billion on all movie transactions in 2009, virtually even with $28.5 billion spent in 2008, while the number of transactions rose 3.5% to a hair under 5 billion. Adams counts all transactional delivery, including theatrical, DVD and Blu-ray rentals and purchases, cable/satellite/telco video-on-demand rentals, online rentals and online purchases.

The total reflects growth in theatrical ticket sales of $9.87 billion, up 9.8%, and movie purchases on DVD and Blu-ray of $8.73 billion, down 13.3% as almost 100% growth in Blu-ray Disc sales failed to offset a decline in DVD purchases. But the DVD market as a whole still totals more than box office -- Adams notes that total disc purchases, including TV series, special-interest programming and other non-feature fare, were still substantially larger than box office at $13 billion in 2009.

Every segment except disc purchases grew in 2009, according to Adams, including DVD and Blu-ray rentals of $8.15 billion, up 0.5%; cable/satellite/telco rentals of $1.27 billion, up 16.3%; online movie purchases of $250 million, up 72.8%; and online rentals of $111 million, up 60.1%. In numbers of transactions, video rental trumps all other forms of video delivery by a large margin, capturing almost 2.7 billion transactions, or more than half of all movie transactions.

Our preliminary spending estimates for 2009 clearly show that U.S. consumers are still in love with movies," Adams said. "In this environment, however, they're seeking the biggest bang for their bucks -- resulting in a record year for the 3D-fueled theatrical box office and an explosion on all-you-can-watch subscription and dollar-a-night video rental," he said, referring to Netflix and Redbox.

Whether or not movie disc sales can again overtake box office as the recession eases depends on a number of factors, Adams said, including windows, Blu-ray pricing and the introduction of advanced 3D to home markets.

(Marcy Magiera is editor of Daily Variety sister publication Video Business.)