Disney upsets theater owners with plan to bring ALICE IN WONDERLAND to DVD a month early

The Walt Disney Company announced plans to release Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland to DVD only three months after it opens in theaters on March 5th, shortening the traditional four-month window that has been the industry standard. The move infuriated theater owners, who fear that moviegoers will choose to stay home and wait for the DVD. “I speak for myself and other exhibitors when I say we don’t like it,” Phil Zacheretti, chief executive of Phoenix Big Cinemas Management, told Claudia Eller of the Los Angeles Times. “It encourages people to wait for the DVD to come out. Three months is way too early on any film, much less what’s being touted as a potential blockbuster.”

Since exhibitors split box-office revenue with the studios on a sliding scale which gives the theaters a bigger cut in later weeks of a movie’s run, theater owners like movies with “legs”–those that can run a long time. Losing a month of exclusivity with a valuable property like Alice has exhibitors up in arms. In Britain, two major chains which account for 90% of the market, Odeon and Vue, have pulled the Alice in Wonderland film trailer and refused to sell advance tickets.

Disney’s explanation for shortening the release window is to “maximize DVD sales” to help recover production costs. Says Eller, “Disney wants to release the discs in early June, while the movie is still fresh in consumers’ minds, rather than at the height of the summer season when DVD sales fall off.” If you want to see Alice in Wonderland in theaters, to enjoy those 3D effects, you’d better go early.

The Zone thanks Emma for sharing the news; you can read more about Disney’s decision and the reaction to it on the Zone’s News & Views forum.