Thursday, 25 February 2010
Disney Vs Exhibition: Mad Hatter
Today ODEON gave up on its boycott of ALICE IN WONDERLAND 3D and agreed to play the Tim Burton film, the last of the big chains to relent and agree to Disney's 12 week DVD release date for the film.
VUE and CINEWORLD gave up on the fight earlier on, after the big three had stood shoulder to shoulder against the Disney giant.
What does this mean? Why would cinema chains boycott what is bound to be a huge hit? Their anger stems from Disney's plans to release the DVD sooner than is normal for films, 12, instead of 17 weeks after release date. This, in the exhibitors view, is detrimental to the theatrical 'window' which is their only opportunity to make money.
From the perspective of a small arthouse cinema which won't be playing the film at all, this might seem like much ado about nothing but what it does reflect is the changing nature of the way we consume film. Theatrical releases, DVDs, downloads, cable, all these experiences have become closer to each other in terms of time frame, so if you miss it here you can see it there. With broadband in every home people expect everything all the time. This is big trouble for big cinema chains, who rely on 'product' as they refer to the films, to make their money (and not just popcorn, as observers have commented. In fact only about 25% of multiplexes income comes from concession sales).
For a smaller chain like us or independents, service and experience are as important as what is playing, so that even if you could download the latest Michael Haneke film and watch it at home, you probably wouldn't. Audiences who like to see arthouse product appreciate the social side of a visit to the cinema as much as the cinematic experience itself. So nothing to worry about here.
For multiplexes, who have spent the last year putting all their proverbial eggs into the basket of the teenage audience, this is a nightmare. For it is those very teenagers the ones most likely to stay at home and consume movies in the new ways that so terrify the studio bosses. Until one of these studio honchos figures out a real way to make money from these new channels, their market share will shrink. The euphoria surrounding AVATAR and 3D might muffle this reality in the short term but eventually it will come back to haunt them. And then I will be able to utter the sweetest four words in the English language: I TOLD YOU SO.