Cineworld and Disney do deal over DVD release of Alice in Wonderland

The Times are reporting that Cineworld and Disney have struck a deal after the threatened boycott by Britain’s cinema chains of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland because of a dispute with Disney over the movies DVD release.  Cineworld will start screening the movie from the 5 March 2010.
Disney has persuaded one of Britain’s biggest cinema chains to drop its boycott of Tim Burton’s film Alice in Wonderland after negotiations about the timing of its release on DVD.
Cineworld, which owns a fifth of British cinema screens, has agreed to show the film despite the studio’s wish to bring it out on DVD after 12 weeks rather than the usual 17. However Odeon and Vue, which own about 40 per cent of screens, have refused to compromise.
Neither Disney nor Cineworld would confirm how long Alice in Wonderland would be available exclusively to cinemas, but The Times understands that the cinema chain agreed to a shorter window after personal reassurances from Bob Chapek, Disney’s president of distrubution, that this would not be the usual practice for Disney films.
The negotiations are pivotal for how people watch films in future because other distributors are expected to follow Disney’s lead. Distributors wish to bring films out on DVD more quickly because they believe it will revive flagging sales in home video, which was until recently the biggest moneyspinner for filmmakers. Sales of DVDs dropped by about 20 per cent last year. Distributors also hope that a faster home video release will curb the sales of pirate DVDs.
Odeon and Vue’s threat to boycott the film would be financially risky to both themselves and Disney, especially because Alice is available in 3-D format. The two chains own more than 60 per cent of 3-D screens in Britain.
Britain is the third biggest market for films outside the US and Japan, and is regarded as vital to the success of Alice in Wonderland. The involvement of Tim Burton, who is American but based in Britain, and British actors including Helena Bonham Carter, Stephen Fry and Alan Rickman mean that producers are hoping to recoup a substantial portion of the film’s $150 million (£100m) budget in British cinemas.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, another Tim Burton film starring Johnny Depp, made £37 million at the box office in Britain in 2005.
Joe Roth, a producer of the film, told the Los Angeles Times: “Anything that would prevent maximising Alice for the UK would be horrible. This would be one of the biggest pictures of the year in the UK. But I honestly think this will be worked out.”
A cinema source said that Disney had offered reassurances that shorter windows would only apply to a couple of its films every year: “Disney will have made some concession in order to persuade Cineworld that this is a film they want to show. The window is not the full 17 weeks, but is somewhere below. Whatever Disney does will be seen as setting the standard for other distributors.”
Odeon issued a statement last night that suggested that negotiations with Disney had broken down. “As a result of Disney’s insistence on reducing at short notice the theatrical window from 17 weeks to 12 weeks on a major 3-D title, regrettably with limited availability of 3-D screens, we have been left with no viable means of scheduling and promoting Alice In Wonderland.”
It added that other titles, such as How to Train Your Dragon and Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang, will “be taking priority” on its 3-D screens.
Disney, which has also provoked a boycott threat from Dutch cinemas, has previously backed down in arguments with British cinemas. It attempted to release Up, the Pixar animation, on DVD two months after its cinema release in October but withdrew its plans when British chains threatened to boycott A Christmas Carol, another Disney film.

Source: The Times

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