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Britain's largest theater chain reaches deal with Disney on 'Alice'

February 23, 2010 | 11:08 am

More British moviegoers will make it to "Wonderland" after all.

Vue Entertainment, one of Britain's largest theater circuits, said Tuesday morning that it will, in fact, screen Walt Disney's upcoming 3-D film, "Alice in Wonderland," at all of its 69 cinemas in Britain and Ireland.

Vue, along with Britain's Odeon Cinemas chain, had threatened to boycott the film starring Johnny Depp to protest Disney's decision to advance the DVD release of the movie by a month. Disney wants the flexibility to experiment with shorter "windows" to offset declining DVD sales, but exhibitors fear that could cut into their ticket sales by discouraging people from going to theaters.

In a statement Tuesday, Vue said it had reached "an important and far reaching agreement" with Disney that "will deliver more choice for cinema goers while also providing more flexibility for the studio."

As part of the agreement, Disney did not alter its plan to release "Alice" on DVD about three months after it debuts in theaters on March 5 (compared with usual period of 17 weeks) but gave assurances that such instances would be more the exception than the rule, a person familiar with the agreement said.

"We are delighted we have reached an agreement with our partners at Disney,'' said Tim Richards, chief executive of Vue. "This is a win-win for everyone in the entertainment business and in particular for our customers by offering greater film choice.'"

The dispute over windows has mostly flared up in Europe, but Disney also has been in negotiations with AMC Entertainment, the second-largest theater circuit in the U.S., which also has balked at the early DVD release for "Alice." Those talks are progressing, and AMC is expected to screen "Alice" in its theaters, according to people close to the situation.

-- Richard Verrier

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