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Theater Owners Flex Their Muscle for ‘This Is It’ Window

Theater Owners Flex Their Muscle for 'This Is It' Window

There’s been a lot of talk and speculation in 2009, about the idea of a major studio collapsing its distributions windows so hard, that a Hollywood release could be made available day-and-date with theatrical and VOD. Consider that goal delayed even further, now that Sony has been forced by theater owners to discard plans for a holiday DVD release of the Michael Jackson concert film This Is It. As of Thursday afternoon, the film was available for pre-order on both Amazon and iTunes, with no release date included. On iTunes, it’s one of the most popular films available for electronic sale. On Amazon, it sits firmly in the Top 5 DVD orders for the entire site. Presumably, the pre-order pages will stay up and a revised date will be announced. Regardless, it’s a shame that Sony was prevented from trying an unorthodox strategy, one that would likely give the DVD market a much needed fourth-quarter boost. What’s on display here is a very stressful tug-of-war between theater owners and studios, both in need of maintaining signifcant revenue, but sometimes at odds with how that can best occur. From Claudia Eller and Ben Fritz’s article on the situation:

“We didn’t want it to be an issue,” said Blake. “At the end of the day, we wanted a big theatrical run and they certainly stepped up and supported that with 6,000 screens in 3,481 theaters.”

However, the Sony executive acknowledged that he was sorry the studio didn’t get what it it wanted. “It would have made a big financial difference to us,” he noted.

All of Hollywood is feeling the pain of an industry-wide decline in DVD sales, which are down more than 13% this year.

Sony is not the only studio that has recently attempted to push up the traditional DVD window. Paramount Pictures is releasing its summer event film “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” in the home entertainment market on Nov. 3, 88 days after it first hit theaters, which raised the ire of many exhibitors.

In 2005, Walt Disney Co. chief executive Bob Iger suggested that the studio might someday respond to consumers’ growing impatience to see entertainment when and how they want it by releasing films simultaneously in theaters and on DVD. After theater owners responded in outrage, along with Disney’s then-studio chief Dick Cook, Iger went silent on the subject for years.

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