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AMC digging in over Disney's plans for 'Alice in Wonderland'


The protest by movie theater companies against Disney's plans to accelerate the DVD release for its upcoming 3-D film "Alice in Wonderland" is rippling across the Atlantic.

Disney wants to shorten the window between the movie's theatrical debut and its DVD release to 12 weeks from 17 weeks, in hopes of boosting DVD sales. But exhibitors fear that this would cut into their business.

Two British theater companies and a majority of cinema operators in the Netherlands have already vowed to boycott "Alice" when it debuts March 5. Now, a major U.S. theater chain may follow the lead of Vue Entertainment and Odeon Cinemas in not carrying the movie.

AMC Entertainment, the nation's second-largest theater operator, is digging in its heels over the issue. Less than two weeks remain before "Alice's" release, but the Kansas City, Mo.-based company, which has more than 4,500 screens worldwide, has not yet agreed to screen it, according to three people familiar with the matter.

If AMC refuses to show "Alice," that would be a major blow to the film's box-office returns. However, the two sides are expected to reach a compromise that would avert such an outcome -- even if negotiations go down to the wire, sources said.

Representatives of AMC and Disney declined to comment.

Britain's Cineworld Cinemas announced this week that it would carry "Alice."

-- Richard Verrier and Claudia Eller

Photo: Johnny Depp in "Alice in Wonderland." Credit: Disney Enterprises

Comments () | Archives (16)

This is a fascinating debate, because in the end, both sides are wrong and both sides are right:

Disney understands that, increasingly, there is no difference to the consumer -- those who want to see the movie in theaters will; those who want to wait for the DVD will. They're making crappy movies that are costing more money, and occasionally a good one pops out, and they've got to capitalize on that. However, DVD sales won't rise because a movie's available three weeks earlier. Disney's trying to hang on to an outmoded concept that is quickly dying. The days of retail distribution of physical movie product are numbered.

Exhibitors understand that, increasingly, there is no difference the consumer, as well. Same argument. They offer an experience that is getting crappier all the time and that costs more than ever before. Occasionally, there's a movie that causes people go to to the movies, despite the lousy experience, and they've got to capitalize on that. Exhibitors are trying to hang on to an outmoded concept that is quickly dying. The days of mass moviegoing are numbered.

Both sides are going to lose unless there's some serious innovation, fast.

Make better movies for less money and make fewer of them. ("Franchise" doesn't matter -- GOOD MOVIES matter.)

Improve the moviegoing experience, pronto.

And accept that digital distribution directly to 100-inch in-home screens will be the norm in 10-15 years, whether or not anyone's "ready" for it. The music industry wasn't ready for Napstser and look what happened. Traditional music distribution got turned on its ear and the industry wasn't ready ... and the big guys still are struggling.

So, whether or not the studios are ready for it, someone is going to figure this out, and the studios (and networks) aren't gonna know what hit them. The only thing that's sure is that a lot of executives are going to convince a lot of gullible board members and institutional investors that they still deserve ridiculously inflated salaries for running the business into the ground.

Why would the movie houses complain about this? Most movies last two weeks anyways and you can never find them again. An Avatar like move is big for 10 weeks, but it too will disappear.

They are making something out of nothing.

The box office should go away anyways... You know how much money Disney would make if it went Straight to DVD/Blu-Ray? It would be sick! Bypass the box-office! I have a better viewing experience in my living room, most people do (those who can afford the ridiculous costs of the theater).

How come Johnny Depp only plays freaks in movies now?

Sounds like a win for Disney. Other theatres/chains may not pick up all of the slack, but they will certainly be thankful for the opportunity to be in the minority of what looks to be another money-tree Disney flick.

As a business decision, if they actually do increase DVD sales using this tactic, it sounds like it may catch on with the rest of the industry, leading the Odeons and Vues to get used to it or switch their own business model around to increase revenue.

They can always try the old "raise ticket prices" trick. Seems to be their only trick these days.

I don't understand. If the theaters do show Alice and the DVD comes out earlier, yes, they will lose some money. But, if they boycott the movie they will receive no money and their competitors will make a killing. I can tell you that no consumer cares where they see the movie. They just want to see it.

Theaters boycotting a popular movie. Time for me to boycott theaters. Avatar was the first movie I've been to a theater for in years. Movie theaters are a thing of the past and cost far too much. A $5 soda for example.
Soon we'll all download movies to our homes, pay once and let all our friends and family watch it over and over. Heck, at home I can pause and go to the bathroom.
Screw AMC!

@ trent. Are you kidding? Your assumptions are wrong on so many levels.
2 Facts:
1. the revenue paradigm has shifted and studios and exhibitors must adapt (try new things, execute new ideas) or stagnate.
2. Movie going always circles back to being a "social event" - a part of human nature.

Trent, what business school did you graduate from, lol?

wtf!!!?!?! the only theater near me is an AMC

It should go like this: Release the movie in theaters and DVD on the same day. Theater ticket prices should be $50 or higher, depending on the event and venue. The experience needs to be improved to rival a live theater event (Broadway show). The DVD should cost $100. After about 17 weeks, the DVD should drop to $35 and the film should be released to low caliber theaters such as existing AMC and Muvico's (that can charge whatever the market will bear for such a lousy experience).

The way it stands now, the box office will never get my money. I have a family of 5 and a night out to the theater would cost in excess of $100. Couple that with the lousy environment and overall poor experience, it will just never happen (No matter how good the movie is). However, I would have paid $100 to buy the Blu-Ray of Avatar the day it was released. There are 2 or 3 movies a year that I would pay that for. Alice in Wonderland is one of them!

Maybe the answer is something like the road show presentations/limited releases. Those who -like me- prefer the movie theater experience (or would prefer it if it were slightly classier than it generally is today) could reserve seats, and attend one of the limited number of performances. The others, and I agree that they're probably the majority today, could buy the film straight away in a portable format.

i plan on doing both, watch the movie at a theater and buying it....so get over it "box office".. and move on.. people who plan on going are going to go weather you have 17 weeks or 12...so you are only cheating us who have been paying big bucks to you for years.....the popcorn is cheaper at home anyway....

The theater chains are trying to hold on to an outdated 70 year old business model that's sinking fast.
Why should a studio spend 10's of millions to market something that lasts only maybe 2-3 weeks in a theater and then have to wait OVER 17 weeks to spend 10's of millions to market it on DVD/BluRay all over again? The theater chains have been getting a deal all along.

One day, whether they like it or not, films will end up simultaneously releasing in theaters and DVD/BluRay. The DVD's will be $50 dollars for the first 2-3 months and then bottom out at around $20-30 after the release window.
Theaters are going to have to start competing on the "experience" of 3D, extreme comfort and service, better quality food, and other event hooks.

A couple of things:

1) Directors do not make their big budget movies for DVD. If you search the subject and see what directors such as Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, James Cameron, Quentin Tarentino, Martin Scorcese, Robert Rodriguez have said as much.

2) Movie theatres care about the DVD window because the longer a movie stays at a theatre, the more money the theatre receives. Theatres, in essence, rent the movie from the distribution company and the longer the movie remains in the theatre, the smaller the rent becomes. So, for example, the first two weeks of a movies release, the movie company may get 75-80% of the box office gross. The next three weeks, it may only get 50-60%. The next three or four may only be 35-40%. hence the reason you see huge 30-screen megaplexes.

3) Cost of an evening at a theatre is on par with going to other entertainment events. Ballgame tickets are generally higher than movie tickets. As are the concessions. The cleanliness is similar.

Just things to think about.

I Don't care when they plan to release the DVD of "Alice in Wonderland" I Still Plan on Going to see it in the theater this weekend in 3D! With a group of at least 10 people! People are still gonna want to see it in theater on the Big Screen in 3D! Its just not the same to see 3D at Home!

I will go wherever it is playing. we have friends who wait until the video comes out, because they can't afford the theater. It's too expensive, too many kids. So to keep it out of their theater will be a loss for them, not movie goers. I will never see a movie more than twice at the theater. The only movie I saw more than that was Nanny McFee. Such a shame greed gets in the way. Always about money!


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