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3D movies are going to save the theatrical exhibition industry, right? That's the story we've been hearing practically nonstop as Avatar marched across the nation, with higher ticket prices and the claims "you've gotta see it on the big screen" making exhibitors happier than they've been since probably Titanic.
But in a kind of reverse-logic that can only be explained by complicated studio mathematics, two big new 3D movies are actively trying to limit their stints in theaters. Disney already fought and won for a limited theatrical window for Alice in Wonderland, claiming they need to get it out of theaters so they can put it on DVD and Blu-Ray in time for summer. Now Warner Bros. is following suit, and has negotiated with exhibitors to limit the theatrical window for Guardians of Ga'hoole to a short 86 days, about month shorter than window.
With Guardians coming out in September, the excuse here is Christmas-- gotta get those Blu-Rays on the shelves in time to stuff in stockings. In exchange for letting Warner Bros. and Disney get away with this, reports THR, exhibitors have secured a pledge from studios that they'll only ask for two limited-window releases per year. If we're using 2009 as an example, it would be as if Warner Bros. released Watchmen in March briefly, and then pushed it to DVD by July, but left The Hangover rolling through theaters all summer and didn't bring out the DVD until June.
What I find baffling about this is that the two films the studios are fighting for are being marketed heavily based on their 3D, a format that hasn't yet proven all that successful for home viewing. Sure, 3D TVs are on their way, and 3D movies like Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs have done just fine on TV, but I'm not convinced that all the people who saw Avatar in theaters will run out to buy the Blu-Ray.
It's all a series of gambles that will either pay off or not, particularly with the DVD market shrinking and 3D movies raking in cash pretty much as long as they're in theaters. Then again, limited windows for 3D means that there's more room on 3D screens for more movies-- and giving that everything you can possibly imagine will be in 3D in the coming year, that might be the best compromise of all.