“After years of trying to convince consumers to buy movies online, Hollywood found a solution in 2013: Make it the only option,” Ben Fritz reports for The Wall Street Journal. “Digital movie purchases surged 47% last year to $1.19 billion, according to data released by Digital Entertainment Group, an industry trade group. It was the fastest-growing category as total home-entertainment revenue inched up 0.7% to $18.22 billion.”

“Digital growth just barely made up for ongoing declines in sales and rentals of physical discs. The total U.S. home-entertainment market remains well below its peak of more than $22 billion 2004, a drop that has squeezed the profits of every studio and led to widespread cost cutting,” Fritz reports. “Still, strides in digital-movie sales are encouraging to studios. And a primary reason for the accelerating growth in online sales is the widespread adoption of a new release window marketed as ‘Digital HD.’ For one to four weeks before a movie becomes available on DVD or to rent online, studios make new movies available to purchase from digital stores like Apple Inc.’s iTunes Store and Amazon.com Inc. in high definition.”

“Although some people are now buying movies online who might otherwise have bought a DVD or Blu-ray disc, studio executives said the biggest change is people who would have rented a movie but now, unwilling to wait, are buying it instead,” Fritz reports. “Sony was the first company to offer a movie for sale online before the DVD, with the comedy ‘Bad Teacher’ in 2011. But the experimental practice became widely accepted only last year, as studios also all adopted the “Digital HD” branding first pushed by Fox.”

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