Small window seen as film threat

first_imgLAS VEGAS – Saying their livelihood is being threatened, movie exhibitors are railing against any efforts to reduce a film’s “theatrical window,” the time between a movie’s big-screen debut and its DVD launch. At the ShoWest Convention this week, animated discussion about shortened theatrical windows is making its way into everything from formal panel discussions to cocktail party conversations. “I’m sick of people saying that they don’t go to movies anymore and will just wait a couple of months when it’s out on video,” said Bill Hanney, owner of New England-based Entertainment Cinemas, which has 10 theaters in three states and 80 screens overall. “We’re investing millions of dollars and I don’t want to become a typewriter. That’s my biggest concern,” Hanney added. “It used to be that you would go to the movies and they’d take about six months to come out with the video and you had sort of forgotten the movie and thought, Oh, I’ll see it again.” The average release window has gradually shortened in recent years to the present four months and 16 days as studios seek to take advantage of the buzz a movie might have from its theatrical run. Also, if a title is still fresh in people’s minds, distributors can save money by not having to replicate expensive marketing efforts. But Harold Blank, owner of HB Entertainment in Boston, Mass., is confident the windows won’t shrink much further because he believe the studios would be cutting their own throats. “They are very smart people at the studios and if they compress that where it’s day and date, the whole system is going to collapse,” said Blank, who owns two theater complexes with a total of 20 screens. “It’s not going to happen because it’s a dangerous tact for everybody from the theater exhibition to the studios on down to the creative people who make films.” The National Association of Theater Owners is not taking the situation lightly. At ShoWest, they distributed several pages of quotes from industry leaders in favor of preserving windows including comments made in recent months by Sony Corp. Chairman Howard Stringer, Viacom and CBS Corp. Executive Chairman Sumner Redstone and directors Ron Howard, Tim Burton, Jonathan Demme and M. Night Shyamalan. NATO President and CEO John Fithian said the theatrical window enables the viability of the movie industry and is confident that the major studios will preserve the windows rather than move to a shorter span between theatrical and DVD release or even simultaneous release. “Our patrons know that some movies are made for the cinema first while other pictures are made for television or the straight-to-DVD market. Consumers have different expectations for each category,” Fithian said. “In a world of simultaneous release, entertainment would be homogenized and consumer choice reduced.” Fithian is particularly chagrined with the massive media attention that was given earlier this year to Steven Soderbergh’s film “Bubble,” which was released in theaters on a Friday then on DVD just four days later. The experiment led to widespread speculation and debate over whether this was the future direction for movie distribution. “You know what? The movie bombed,” Fithian said, citing its paltry domestic gross of $145,000. “The reality is, windows are not changing.” Box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian said at ShoWest that it is the theatrical window that makes a movie a bigger commodity after it goes from the theater to DVD to television and other ancillary markets. “If you shrink the window or you close the window, you effectively remove a time frame that gives value to a movie,” said Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations Co. “It is imperative that the windows remain where they are or even be increased. The shrinking video window is potentially the most devastating development to hit the theatrical movie business.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE‘Mame,’ ‘Hello, Dolly!’ composer Jerry Herman dies at 88160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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