Sales of DVD players soared to Y660m ($6.2m) in February 2000, a 55% increase on the same month last year, according to the Japan Electronic Retailers Association.

March is also turning out to be a banner month, with retail industry giant Kojima reporting that DVD player sales have doubled in March compared to the same month last year. The Electronics Industries Association of Japan is estimating that sales of DVD players will grow to 800,000 units in 2000, compared with 390,000 units in 1999.

One reason for the DVD boom is the successful launch, starting in the second half of 1999, of DVD players selling for Y30,000 ($280) to Y40,000 ($374) - about half the price of older models. Another factor is the growing popularity of PCs with DVD playback capability.

DVD software sales are also rocketing and more than tripled in 1999 according to the Japan Video Software Association (Screendaily March 24). Culture Convenience Club, which operates the largest chain of video, CD and DVD rental stores in Japan, forecasts that DVD sales in March will be 2.5 times higher than those of the previous month, while the number of DVD rentals will double.

Software growth is partly due to the successful March launch of the Playstation 2 game console, which plays DVD software, and the growing numbers of film companies supporting the format. Japan's leading distributor-exhibitor Toho recently announced plans to start releasing Japanese films in the DVD format starting with psycho thriller Saimin (Hypnosis), which is set for release in June.