"This Is It" DVD after Christmas

Reel Blog   

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.