“Alice” sparks debate over quick DVD releases

Hollywood studios and theaters in disagreement about how to optimize movie sales

Topics: Alice in Wonderland,

Disney’s plan to quickly release the blockbuster “Alice in Wonderland” on DVD is sparking new heat in a debate between Hollywood studios and movie theaters over how quickly films move from the big screen to people’s living rooms.

Moviegoers will have the option of watching “Alice” at home in about three months, worrying some theater owners who fear that narrowing the gap between theatrical runs and DVD debuts will undermine ticket sales as some fans skip the cinema and wait for the DVD.

“A robust, exclusive theatrical window remains vital for the health of cinemas and the movie industry as a whole,” John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theatre Owners, told members in a speech Tuesday at their annual ShoWest convention.

Studios like short windows between theatrical and DVD releases because it speeds up their cash flow and allows them to pull in DVD business while films are fresh in audiences’ minds. Longer lags for DVDs also leave more time for movie pirates to sell counterfeit copies.

The issue is a key topic this week at ShoWest, where studios trot out stars, films and footage to promote upcoming releases.

The time window between theatrical and home-video releases gradually shrank as studios cashed in on booming DVD sales starting in the late 1990s. The average gap between big-screen and DVD releases has held steady at about four months in recent years.

You Might Also Like

Now, cinema operators worry other studios might follow Disney’s lead, though the head of Sony Pictures assured theater owners that Hollywood is not aiming to squeeze them out in favor of DVD revenues.

“Showing films in theaters is what makes a movie a movie. It’s what makes stars stars. It’s what makes films famous. It’s what makes the public perk up and pay attention,” said Michael Lynton, Sony chairman and chief executive officer, in the ShoWest keynote address Monday.

Theater owners and studio executives say they are open to flexibility on DVD release patterns for some movies if it benefits both sides. Cinemas always beg Hollywood to release big movies in typically slow months at theaters rather than bunching up top hits during the busy seasons.

“You always have the issue of lots of movies coming in the summer, lots of movies coming in the holiday period, and so our members have been talking to distributors about getting movies into late winter, like ‘Alice,’ trying to get movies into September. Places where we typically don’t have great movies,” Fithian told reporters Tuesday.

But putting a potential blockbuster in theaters in September might mean shortening the time until the DVD release to three months or less so the film can be in stores for Christmas, which Fithian said theater owners are open to discussing.

The huge business Tim Burton and Johnny Depp’s “Alice in Wonderland” did over normally slow March weekends might ease theater owners’ worries. “Alice in Wonderland” shot past $200 million domestically and $400 million worldwide after just two weekends.

With audiences now watching movies and other entertainment on portable devices such as laptop computers and cell phones, studios need to experiment with release patterns for new technology without undermining big-screen business, Sony chief Lynton said.

“We do not want to open a new window in a way that closes yours,” Lynton told theater owners.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 10
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Michael Ohl/Museum fur Naturkunde

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    Soul-Sucking Dementor Wasp

    Latin name: Ampulex dementor

    Truong Ngyuen

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    10,000th reptile species

    Latin name: Cyrtodactylus vilaphongi

    Jodi Rowley/Australian Museum

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    Colour-changing thorny frogs

    Latin name: Gracixalus lumarius

    Judith L. Eger

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    Long-fanged bat

    Latin name: Hypsugo dolichodon

    Neang Thy Moe/FFI

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    Stealthy wolf snake

    Latin name: Lycodon zoosvictoriae

    Michael Janes

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    Feathered coral

    Latin name: Ovabunda andamanensis

    Jerome Constant

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    World's second-longest insect

    Phryganistria heusii yentuensis

    Nantasak Pinkaew

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    Slide 8

    Latin name: Sirindhornia spp

    Tim Johnson

    Soul-sucking 'dementor' wasps and 8 other crazy new species

    Slide 9

    Tylototriton shanorum

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>