Movie studios are really starting to tick people off. Lately there's been an outcry over the ridiculous push for 3D on every movie (read more about it: "Plans To Phase Out 2D Movies Go Forward, Boycott Alice In Wonderland To Stop It"), even where it doesn't make any sense. It's clearly a move by studios and theater owners alike to have an excuse to hike ticket prices. But now it's the theater owners, or exhibitors, that are taking umbrage with the studios. And, of course, money is at the core of the fight.
In a bid to improve their DVD and Blu-ray sales, Disney is pushing to pull Alice In Wonderland from theaters less than 90 days after its March 5th release date. The typical window between theatrical release and home video debut is usually four months in Europe and three in the US. This shortening is bad news for theater owners, as theaters run the risk of losing important discount business to people who decide to wait for home video.
How angry and desperate are exhibitors? Variety reports that 80-85% of exhibitors in the Netherlands are threatening to blackball the Disney movie entirely and top chains in the UK and Italy are making the same threat.
One theater rep for the Dutch National Board of Cinema Owners said "We will lose money due to our decision; we expected ('Alice') to become one of the most popular movies of 2010. But we decided we need to send a message to the whole industry: If you don't accept our terms, we will never show your movies again." Disney has sent executives to Europe to run damage control in the UK, but it may not be enough.
How does this affect U.S. markets? Don't expect a boycott of Alice in Wonderland, but a bigger storm could be rising. If the European exhibitors actually standing up for themselves win out, it could put a lot of pressure on exhibitors here in the states to do something besides roll over at every studio whim. With money in the movie theater business running tight, US exhibitors will at some point have to draw the line in favor of their profits instead of the studio's.
Is this good news for audiences? Not necessarily. With 3D preparing to pinch more of your money at the box office, the possibility of studios being forced to hold back home video releases longer just means a longer wait to not have to wear those stupid glasses.