A few weeks back, we reported on the financial reasons why small German movie theaters were boycotting Joss Whedon’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron, which will end up being one of the most profitable movies of the calendar year. Disney, it seemed, was playing hardball with some important financial figures, and that practice might be stretching across the Atlantic and into the States.
The Wall Street Journal reports that movie-theater operators are quarreling with The Walt Disney Co. about studio-imposed conditions placed on theaters that wanted to screen The Avengers: Age of Ultron… which, in practice, likely is EVERY movie theater in the U.S. At issue are two sticking points: When theaters can offer matinee discounts to patrons; and when theaters can program alternate showings of Whedon’s blockbuster with a different movie on the same screen. Both issues boil down to the studio’s bottom line, and how it might be affected if the theaters make decisions that could short-change Disney and cost them dollars.
According to the WSJ, the studio has altered its approach on some of the issues, especially the matinee cutoff times. The studio has a standard licensing agreement, but has been willing to make modifications on a theater-by-theater basis. A Disney spokesperson stated:
Historically, we’ve had strong and mutually beneficial relationships with our exhibitor partners, and as issues have arisen from time to time we have worked together to resolve them, and we plan on continuing that same approach going forward.”
The only problem seems to be that Disney holds all – OK, most – of the power in this scenario. While it is true that Walt Disney Co. needs these theaters as a location to show their movies, the studio has such a ridiculously popular slate of films, theater owners can’t help but play ball with the Mouse House. Disney is coming off of Cinderella, which banked $194 million domestically (and is still going). Then you have the latest Marvel movie, which made pretty much that amount in one weekend. Looking ahead, Disney has the rest of the Marvel slate, Pixar’s movies, it’s own animated output, and a little something known as Star Wars. As the WSJ points out, when studios enjoy a hot streak like the one Disney’s currently on, they are able to “boost rates and terms” that can make it difficult for theaters.
The meat of this story gets into dry data analysis regarding the average national ticket price, and whether Disney is able to use that bar as it’s minimum ticket price on which it would split revenues. As Ted Mundorff, the CEO of Landmark Theatres, stated:
Big markets [like] New York will not be affected, but smaller markets like Minneapolis where the tickets prices are lower will be.”
This shouldn’t affect moviegoers, at this stage. Disney will still make deals with theaters to carry their films, and your local multiplex should still have Age of Ultron when you want to see it. But if discussions get contentious in the future, it could theoretically get harder for you to find Disney’s latest offering. But that would likely be years from now.