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Cassette Supply Not Meeting Demand

February 05, 1988|DENNIS HUNT

Wonder why those hit movies you want to rent at your local video store are always out? Paramount Home video executive Eric Doctorow revealed some startling figures that pinpoint the problem: not enough cassettes for the expanding market.

Last year, the ratio of rental copies of the average major-studio release to VCR households was one copy per 222 households. That figure has been increasing every year since 1984, when the ratio was 1 to 129. In 1985 it rose to 1 to 155 and jumped the following year to 1 to 160.

The bad news is that the ratio may get even higher. According to Doctorow, a 1-to-100 ratio is ideal.

The VCR population, which hit 50 million last year, is rising so fast that the stores can't keep up with the demand for cassettes. The problem is particularly acute with major releases. Finding a rental copy of last month's major releases--"Dirty Dancing," "Platoon," "Predator" and "La Bamba"--isn't easy. The longest waiting lists are for "RoboCop."

What's needed to tackle this problem, known in the industry as the "depth of copy" issue, is for stores to buy more copies of each hit.

Video companies such as Paramount and Touchstone are launching huge ad campaigns well before the release dates of their top movies. The purpose is to make consumers aware of these dates so they can alert retailers early that they're eager for the titles. That may spur retailers to order more copies to meet the anticipated demand.

But if retailers don't respond, what you'll have is an even larger army of frustrated renters.

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