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.


  1. I've been following this one too here:

  2. They didn't hold out for long did they?!

    I have a Cineworld monthly pass so I can see a film whenever I like; I do still go to your cinema however as it is a more personable experience. I like to watch the more art house films, cult late-night showings & classic afternoon matinees - you can tell that the cinema & the people who go there love films & it's not just about the money.

    If I didn't have the pass, I wouldn't go down to the Marina at all I imagine. I'm lucky in that I'm a freelancer so can go in the afternoon & avoid the crowds, but an evening at Cineworld isn't as enjoyable as an evening at the DoY's. The atmosphere is just as important as the film you're going to see.

  3. Totally agree with Urban Cynic on the Marina Cineworld - I avoid it after Five (ESPECIALLY on Wednesdays!) and at the Weekend. In the future, I can see myself going straight from DVDs to Downloads (skipping Blu-Ray) - but I'll still want to see most films on the Big Screen first...
    When I worked for a (now extinct) Video rental chain, in the late 90s, we discussed a boycot of a Disney title (I think it was The Horse Whisperer) over their pricing policy on rental tapes. Inevitably, we caved in and stocked it...

  4. It seems remarkable that the omniscient marketing boys from the big studios haven't woken up to the fact that people with the most disposable income are now very much older,due to earlier habits of frugality(I must NOT lecture!).However it's a vicious circle-if they keep churning out movies for teenagers,teenagers is what they are going to get-Courage mon amis-the bottom line is now the silver dollar