Warner Brothers' early commitment to the DVD format paid dividends as the studio captured 28% of the burgeoning market for videodisks in the year 2000.  With an estimated 14 million DVD players already in use in the U.S., Hollywood shipped a whopping 182 million DVDs to retailers during the past 12 months.   According to the Hollywood Reporter, Warner maintained a double-digit lead over its closest studio competitors--Universal (which distributes Dreamworks, 16%) and Buena Vista (Disney, 14%).


The Green Mile and The Perfect Storm helped Warner take the crown, but even more important was the performance of The Matrix, which was released on DVD in 1999 but still came in as the second most popular DVD of 2000 and remains the best-selling movie disk of all time.  Warner also won the backlist battle, moving 42% of the catalog titles sold last year.  Again Warner has gotten more of its classic films released on DVD, giving it a solid advantage over the other studios.


The top-selling DVD of 2000 was Gladiator from Dreamworks/Universal, which, amazingly, won the crown in spite of the fact that it wasn't released until November 21st.  Disney's video division--Buena Vista--did better in the overall video category than Warner, but the Mouse House's late embrace of the DVD format hindered their performance in 2000.  Look for Buena Vista to fight for the top spot in DVD sales in 2001.


Pop culture retailers should pay attention to the explosive growth of the DVD medium reflected in the statistics noted above.  Superior picture, sound, and longevity make the DVD a natural collector's medium, as do all the special features--the trailers, commentaries, Easter eggs, etc.  While it is difficult for specialty retailers to compete with discount houses and mass merchandisers on new mass market DVD releases, the increasing number of backlist cult titles will provide some real opportunities as the other studios follow Warner's lead and put out more of their catalogs. But the key feature for DVDs in the specialty market is the inclusion of both English and Japanese soundtracks on most anime DVDs.  The anime market is switching to DVD at a very fast pace thanks to its Solomon-like solving of the 'dub' versus 'sub' controversy.  Retailers that ignore this transition do so at their own risk.