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Digital movie sales climb 47 percent in 2013

While overall digital home entertainment spending remains fairly steady at $18.2 billion, digital movies sales shoot through the roof raking in $1.19 billion.

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" was a best-selling title in digital sales in 2013. MGM

It appears that digital sales could breath new life into the movie industry.

According to data from Digital Entertainment Group, consumers spent $18.2 billion on digital home entertainment in 2013, an increase of 1 percent from 2012. While that doesn't sound like a big increase, if you look specifically at digital movie sales, you can see a 47 percent rise over last year to $1.19 billion.

"Stability in home entertainment continued for the second straight year in 2013 as total consumer spending rose nearly one percent to $18.2 billion," Digital Entertainment Group director Lyndsey Schaefer said in a statement (PDF). "Results were boosted by the growing awareness and acceptance of digital services and products offered by both online and brick and mortar retailers."

Apparently, one of the reasons for the growth in sales was movie studios' use of what's called "Digital HD." This is a practice of releasing movies for sale online a few weeks before DVD rentals or online streaming becomes available. This means people eager to watch a movie as soon as possible will be more inclined to buy it from online stores -- like Apple's iTunes, Target Ticket, and Amazon -- than stream it some weeks later. This category surpassed $1 billion for the first time.

Some of those movies that did especially well in digital sales this year were "Despicable Me 2," "Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn," and "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." Box office sales did well too in 2013 -- raking in a record-high $11 billion in revenue, according to Box Office Mojo.

While digital growth is on the rise, sales and rentals of physical DVDs are on the decline. According to The Wall Street Journal, DVD and Blu-ray disc sales dropped 8 percent to $7.78 billion. The same goes for DVD rental subscriptions, like what Netflix offers -- this category fell 19 percent to $1.02 billion. And, in-store rentals dropped 14 percent to $1.04 billion.

However, streaming subscriptions -- like what's offered by Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and Hulu -- grew 32 percent to $3.16 billion.

Movie pirating also appears to still be going strong. While numbers are hard to come by, TorrentFreak came out with a recent list of the 10 most pirated movies in 2013, which was topped with "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," "Django Unchained," and "Fast and Furious 6." Each of these movies reportedly experienced around 8 million illegal downloads.