- The Washington Times - Friday, June 20, 2003

Rewinding movies is becoming a thing of the past.

DVD rentals outpaced videocassette rentals last week for the first time, the Video Software Dealers Association reported.

For the week ended Sunday, 28.2 million DVDs were rented vs. 27.3 million VHS cassettes, according to the trade association’s VidTrac, a point-of-sale tracking technology.

“The American public has fallen in love with DVDs,” said Sean Devlin Bersell, a video association spokesman. “The acceptance of DVD has exceeded every expectation.”

Weekly revenue from DVD rentals began exceeding VHS rental revenue in the week ended March 16, according to VidTrac.

Since then, weekly DVD rental revenue generally has been beating VHS rental revenue. But the number of VHS rentals was greater than the number of DVDs rented — until last week.

Americans have accepted DVDs faster than they did black-and-white TV, color TV, VCRs and CD players, said Mr. Bersell. About 50 million Americans have bought DVD players since they were introduced in 1997. It took the VCR 10 years to reach the same threshold.

The most attractive feature, he says, are the bonus materials that videos don’t have. Mr. Bersell said he spent three evenings watching just the bonus material of his favorite movie, “The Wizard of Oz.”

“I love that DVD. By the fourth night, I turned to my wife an asked: Can we watch the movie now?” he said, laughing.

A DVD, or digital video disc, offers clearer images in a CD format and it has more room for extras like behind-the-scenes interviews, extra footage and director commentary.

DVD rentals have grown as more Americans buy the players, Mr. Bersell said. And the price has dropped as supply has met the demand — originally costing at least $300, they now run about $100.

“This is a milestone in the history of home video,” said the video association’s president, Bo Andersen. “Since the advent of video rental 25 years ago, videocassettes have been the dominant format for video rental. Now, just over six years since its launch, DVD has supplanted that pioneering technology in the rental market, as it previously did in the sales market.”

The growth in DVD rentals is a surprise to some industry officials, like Mr. Bersell.

Blockbuster, the largest movie-rental store in the country with 5,500 stores nationwide, said DVDs took 53 percent of rentals in the first quarter, an increase of more than 20 percent from last year.

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