Miércoles 7 de Septiembre de 2005, Ip nº 125

Movie theater owners fire back at studios
Por Nicole Sperling

Tired of being blamed for the box office slump, the nation's movie theater owners returned fire Thursday, accusing the studios of delivering sub-standard product.

"Here's what we know about 2005: The movies are not as good," said John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theater Owners.


"They're not terrible; they're just not as good. And so the industry has experienced a temporary drop-off compared to 2004, the biggest box office year in movie history."

His remarks were part of a direct rebuke to Robert Iger, who is about to take over as CEO of the Walt Disney Co. Iger said last week during the firm's third-quarter conference call that the industry should move toward the simultaneous release of theatrical films and videos. In 2004, the average gap between a film's release in theaters and on video was four months, 16 days.

Fithian said that compressing windows "to placate this instant-everywhere appetite" would result in a world with "no viable movie theater industry ... at least not a theater industry devoted to the entertainment products of Hollywood.

"(Iger) should know that Hollywood studios would be merely one shriveled vendor among many in that new world of movies-as-commodities-only," he added.

Neither Iger nor Disney chose to respond to Fithian's comments.

Year-to-date box office sales stand at $5.57 billion compared with $6.05 billion at the same time in 2004. Pundits have cited exhibitors' pumped-up onscreen advertising, rising ticket prices and rude patrons as primary reasons moviegoers are staying home.

During the earnings call, Iger said, "I don't think it's out of the question that a DVD can be released in effect in the same window as a theatrical release. Although I'm sure we will get a fair amount of push-back on this from the industry, it's not out of the question. I think that all the old rules should be called into question because the rules in terms of consumption have changed so dramatically."

While no major exhibitor has suggested taking aggressive action against Disney based on Iger's comments, theater owners in the past have shown tremendous resistance to anyone who advocates a compressed windows strategy. Many in the industry believe it's just a matter of time until a major studio attempts such an experiment in the hope of reducing marketing costs and maximizing profits across the various platforms.


  19/08/2005. The Washington Post.