08 August 2002 | Robin Parker
UK video rental stores are boycotting releases from Hollywood studios controlled by AOL Time Warner in a row over prices.
More than 80 per cent of chains are refusing to stock the Oscar-winning film Training Day, after Warner raised the price of rental copies by 215 per cent. The chains say it could destroy the rental market.
The distributor has also ditched the six-month gap before copies are available to buy, saying this will improve choice. Stores are stocking extra copies of other titles, many distributed by Warner's rivals.
In a statement, Blockbuster said renting is the most affordable option for customers and Warner's move limits customer choice by "forcing" them to buy the products instead. "Blockbuster will not be stocking selected movies released by AOL Time Warner in any of its stores. We do not believe it is in our customers' interests to support the AOL Time Warner strategy."
Colin Savidge, a director of the Moviezone chain, said: "Were other distributors to adopt such a policy, it would undermine the entire rental industry. Rental chains would have bought up to 100,000 copies of Training Day. Now AOL Time Warner will lose about £1.8 million in revenues."
The stores will, however, stock The Lord Of The Rings, released this week by AOL Time Warner subsidiary New Line Cinema, because they believe it will be extremely popular to rent.
In a statement, Warner said: "Our new pricing structure should allow the rental dealer to continue to offer a competitive price to the end consumer. We hope all rental outlets will stock our titles as soon as possible."