Friday 26 February 2010

Boycott in Wonderland: now you see it, now you don't

Via The Globe & Mail (eagerly spotted by friend and blogger Nikos Prentoulis) comes this news of a settlement of the publicity-rich spat (or is it a marketing ploy?) between leading European theatre chain Odeon and Disney over its threatened boycott. Says the report:
"A top European theatre chain said Thursday it will show Walt Disney Co's “Alice In Wonderland,” after threatening to boycott it in some countries to protest Disney's plans to release the DVD early.

Odeon's reversal on Thursday in signing a deal with Disney came the same day the chain hosted a London premiere for the movie at its Leicester Square theatre.

Odeon's concession follows similar deals by the UK's Cineworld Cinemas and Vue Entertainment chains, which were also initially reluctant to show “Alice,” but have relented and reached deals with Disney in recent days.

Odeon said in a statement it reached an “enduring agreement” with Disney “encompassing all the different aspects of both companies' commercial relationship.”

The statement did not offer details on the agreement. A Disney spokesman also declined to give specifics. [IP Finance offers a small prize to whoever (i) comes up with details of the agreement before they hit the public, and (ii) whoever comes up with the best explanation of the effect of the agreement on the short- and long-term financial implications for Disney's rights management policy]

... Disney has upset theatre owners with its plan to shorten by about a month the standard 17-week [that's four months, a hell of a long time for parents to put up with kids' nagging] window between the film's theatre debut and its DVD release, in part to spark disc sales.

The chains grumbled that audiences would skip going to theaters, and wait to see the movie on DVD. [None, of course, would dream of filling in the gap -- whether 12/13 weeks or 17 -- by practising a little P2P. Even with really slow connection times, it won't take that long!]

Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group, owned by London-based private equity firm Terra Firma, said earlier this week that it would not show “Alice” at its UK, Irish and Italian theaters.

Odeon's 110 theaters in the UK make it the largest chain in that country".
Someone has to lose. If Disney pushes out the DVD on or around the launch date, theatres suffer and so do some of the traditional pirates, those who trade in hard copies. If the DVDs come out later, the theatres get some advantage (unless the movie flops) but the window for pre-legitimate-DVD piracy and file-sharing at a time when there simply is no legitimate product can seem gapingly long. There are other items to factor into the equation: how much merchandise is being tied in, how close to Christmas, and so on. This time round, the excitement about Alice being a 3D movie might just have given the theatres the edge. But next time ...?

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