The L.A. Times is reporting that Sony has agreed with theater owners to hold off on releasing the DVD for the Michael Jackson concert documentary, This Is It, until after Christmas.
Sony Pictures desperately wanted to release the DVD of the Michael Jackson concert movie "This Is It" for the holiday shopping season, but backed down after movie theater owners balked that it was too soon following the film's theatrical premiere.
"This Is It" opened in 99 countries yesterday and is scheduled for a limited two-week run, though the studio may extend that depending on ticket sales.
Sony had hoped to capitalize on audiences' heightened interest in what turned out to be Jackson's final performance by releasing the DVD in mid-December, about a month after the movie ends its short time in theaters. The disc is now expected to come out in late January or early February.
As noted in recent posts here, the theatrical release window is a question of considerable concern for theater owners. Negotiations between studios and theater owners can become quite intense.
"We felt we made a pretty good case as to why this movie was different," said Jeff Blake, vice chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, who oversees worldwide marketing and distribution.
However, the movie theater owners refused to budge.
"We had several conversations with Sony and so did our members," said John Fithian, president of the National Assn. of Theatre Owners, an industry trade group. "Anytime we see the window go under three months, we alert our members and raise concerns with the studios."
After hearing complaints from executives at several of his member companies, Fithian said, "I raised a general concern with Sony about the extraordinarily short window."
After talking with theater owners, Sony, whose DVD releases on average come out four months and four days after a movie's theatrical run, reluctantly decided to back off from its request in order to preserve good relations with them.
"We didn't want it to be an issue," said Blake. "At the end of the day, we wanted a big theatrical run and they certainly stepped up and supported that with 6,000 screens in 3,481 theaters."
However, the Sony executive acknowledged that he was sorry the studio didn't get what it it wanted. "It would have made a big financial difference to us," he noted.
This Is It grossed $2.2 million in late Tuesday night debuts. Wednesday grosses have been estimated anywhere from $8-10 million. Offical numbers are expected from Sony later today.
Following up this post, Variety reports that Paramount is widening the release window on The Goods: Live Hard Sell Hard.
In an effort to assuage exhib concerns, Paramount did agree to push back the DVD launch of Jeremy Piven laffer "The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard" from Nov. 11 to late November. Had the release date stayed the same, "Live Hard" would have come out only 12½ weeks after its Aug. 24 release.
Although, Paramount did not move the disputed G.I. Joe DVD release - a skinny 88 days - it did assert that the narrow window was an exception, not a policy.
Par, besieged with calls from angry theater owners, held a number of discussions with exhibs. Studio told exhibs that "G.I. Joe's" DVD launch was timed to the release of Hasbro's corresponding toy line for the holiday season, and that it was the best thing for the franchise.
Given that DVD revenues have been down the last two years and continue down an estimated 13.9% this year, while theatrical box office has set records the last two years and is on pace to set another record this year, it isn't surprising that distributors are sending movie theater owners some love.
"I think ultimately, Paramount remains committed to separate DVD and theatrical windows, and completely committed to protecting the moviegoing theatrical experience," Paramount vice chair Rob Moore said.
Paramount's recent move to schedule two DVDs for release less than three months after their theatrical openings has renewed hostilities between Hollywood studios and movie theater operators.
Last week, Par scheduled its summer action hit "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" for a Nov. 3 debut on shiny disc, or 88 days after its release in theaters. It also set the Jeremy Piven comedy "The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard" for DVD release Nov. 10, also 88 days from its theatrical bow.
The article goes on to note NATO's release window tracking reports, which are available here. Our last report covered films with announced home release dates through September 25. The article gives our updated numbers through October 12.
Needless to say, exhibitors are not shy about expressing their opinions.
"I view the studios as our partners, but it seems like the rules of the game are changing," Cineplex chief Ellis Jacob said. "That's a concern. We at Cineplex have invested a lot of money in our theaters and in new technology such as 3D. So when something like this happens, it creates an issue with people from the standpoint of entertainment choices. If a guest of ours knows a movie is going to be on DVD in less than 90 days, then they know that if they miss it they can catch it on DVD not too much later."
Regal's president, Greg Dunn, made his company's views clear.
"Maintaining the appropriate timeline or windows between the theatrical release and ancillary markets is critical and essential for the overall good of the film industry," Dunn said. "If the existing windows policies were significantly adjusted, we would aggressively respond -- as we would toward any policy that would negatively impact the industry."
The Reporter's Carl Diorio got no on-the-record responses from Fox or paramount.