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Viewing DiViDends

April 29, 2002|BY JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

Dave Paylor liked the DVD player he bought for his son this past Christmas so much he bought himself one two months later.

"The picture and the quality is so much better with DVDs," said Paylor, 47, of Greencastle, Pa.

The DVD player Paylor bought for his son was one of hundreds bought at Spicher Appliances this past holiday season.

DVDs - digital video discs - have been growing in popularity nationwide as player prices have become affordable and the availability of DVDs has increased.

"Last Christmas it started in our market, which is always behind the curve," said Curt Spicher, owner of Spicher Appliances on Pennsylvania Avenue.

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Spicher anticipated a run on DVD players so he stocked up last fall.

Spicher compares the difference between DVDs and videotapes to that between compact discs and vinyl records.

The "hiss, crackle and pop" isn't there with DVDs, he said.

Paylor said he could see the improved technology of the DVD format was the way to go.

"You can either get on that train or let it go by, I guess," he said.

Paylor likes the sound of the concert DVDs he plays.

"It's just like being there," said Paylor, stopping at Blockbuster Video on Dual Highway recently to rent "Training Day."

Art Bair, owner of the two Blockbuster stores in Hagerstown and two in Westminster, Md., said the picture and sound with DVD is fantastic, especially with a home theater and surround sound.

"I duck sometimes because I hear a bullet coming over my head," he said.

Besides the picture and sound quality, DVDs usually come with extras such as behind-the-scenes footage, alternate endings, outtakes, previews and interviews with the stars.

Movie studios have been pushing DVDs, which are cheaper to produce than videotapes, said Mel Greenwald, owner of Books'N Things in the Long Meadow Shopping Center.

That push has translated into low prices for DVDs, local rental store owners said.

A newly released DVD can cost $20 to $25, whereas a newly released video often costs more than $100, Bair said. The VHS price comes down once it's reissued and available for mass sale.

A DVD player can cost $149 to $219, Spicher said.

The affordability and availability of the DVD players and DVDs are increasing the demand for both, Bair said.

One sign that DVDs are growing in popularity locally is it's harder to find copies of popular movies on DVDs because they're rented out, said Chad McGlaughlin, 25, of Hagerstown.

When McGlaughlin got his DVD player more than a year ago there weren't as many titles available at Blockbuster, but at least the movies were usually in, he said.

Bair said the DVD share of the rental business at each of his four Blockbuster stores is approaching 30 percent.

"I can't keep up with the demand for my stores so that tells me a lot of people are buying DVD players," he said.

A year ago Chuck Roberts was ordering 100 VHS copies and 10 DVD copies of a popular movie for his three Wonder Book & Video stores, one on Wesel Boulevard and two in Frederick, Md. Now he orders 60 copies in VHS and 30 on DVD, Roberts said.

At Books'N Things, 20 of every 100 units rented are DVDs, Greenwald said.

"That figure is inching up," he said.

Video Warehouse on Foxcroft Avenue in Martinsburg has almost as many titles in DVD format as it does in VHS format, Manager Wulf Johnson said.

Libraries

The demand for DVDs hasn't carried over to the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Library yet. The library doesn't have a DVD collection and hasn't had any requests for them, Acting Director Betty Gunnoe said.

The library doesn't buy videotapes frequently, but has some popular films, Gunnoe said. The collection has more family-oriented and public television videos.

Other large libraries in the area have or will soon be starting DVD collections.

The Washington County Free Library went from buying one DVD for every five videotapes it bought last fiscal year to one DVD for every videotape this fiscal year, said Barbara Gibney, head of collection development.

"We'll certainly be going in that direction where we'll be all DVD eventually," Gibney said.

Damaged videos are no longer automatically replaced, Gibney said. It depends on the video's popularity.

The library started collecting DVDs last year and already has 600 - compared to 4,600 videotapes, a collection built over more than a decade.

The Coyle Free Library in Chambersburg, Pa., doesn't have any DVDs yet, but Director Pat Reuse hopes to start ordering them in the next month or so. Space needs to be found for them after the library rearranged its collections to accommodate a new computer lab, Reuse said.

Reuse said she hasn't had many requests for DVDs, but knows they're on the way.

"I think more people are probably purchasing DVD players and we need to keep up with the new media," Reuse said.

The Charles Town Library bought five or six popular DVD titles two months ago to test the demand, said Gordon Gay, catalog librarian.

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