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Disney's Iger hints (again) at speeding movie releases into the home

February 9, 2010 |  4:03 pm

Iger It's no secret that Walt Disney Co. boss Bob Iger wants to change the way entertainment is delivered into the home, reducing the traditional months-long lag between a film's arrival in theaters and its release on DVD.

Change may be coming sooner than conventional opinion holds, judging from Iger's remarks during Tuesday's call with Wall Street investors.

Iger told analysts that he had been in discussions with theater owners about release "windows" -- the sequential distribution of movies through the theatrical, DVD and TV chain -- pointing out to the exhibitors that maintaining a viable home entertainment business -- long the cash cow that has buttressed the studio -- is key to making the kinds of movies that will lure audiences to theaters. 

"A healthy business is good for [theater owners]," Iger said. "They want us investing in innovation, investing in higher-quality content. And so, mindful of what's going on in the home video side, we feel that it's time, on a case-by-case basis, movie-by-movie basis, to really take a look at how we're windowing the home video product into the marketplace."

Note that case-by-case, movie-by-movie basis.

Iger didn't say which films might be the first to break the traditional window patterns, but the chief executive is clearly priming the pump for a shake-up to come.

Analysts questioned Iger about another timing issue -- the decision to put the Miramax Films library up for sale, as the investors in the MGM catalog struggle to fetch its multibillion-dollar asking price. 

"We've determined that continuing to invest in new Miramax wasn't necessarily a core strategy of ours," Iger said, adding that Disney's only remaining commitment is in the production and distribution of films that are already in the production pipeline but haven't been released. "We believe that it is prudent for us to explore all our options."

Iger didn't offer many details about the timing of the sale, other than to say that Disney was looking to extract as much value as possible from the Miramax library.

-- Dawn C. Chmielewski

Photo: Disney CEO Bob Iger. Credit: Jae C. Hong / Associated Press