News Muse – Disney battles it out with European cinema chains

Did you catch Gina’s post about movies to look forward to in 2010? Alice in Wonderland was on her list.

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And I must say I cannot wait to dive head first into the rabbit hole myself and land in Tim Burton’s crazy fantasy world for a couple of hours.

But reading the news earlier this week, it almost looked like I was going to be denied the Wonderland experience because Disney has been in a headlock with European cinemas over the 3D fantasy. The House of Mouse wants to set the DVD release to 13 weeks after the cinema release, breaking the existing agreement of allowing at least four months between theatrical and DVD releases. So what’s the big deal? you ask. Well, money of course, what else?! The cinema chains claim that an early DVD release would significantly affect their ticket sales.

I’m wondering, would it?

The shortening of the time gap between big screen and small has of course a little something to do with the film industry’s losing battle against piracy. But there is also a growing trend towards simultaneous release – Steven Soderbergh’s Bubble, Michael Winterbottom’s docu-drama The Road to Guantanamo and A Closed Book by Chilean filmmaker Raul Ruiz to give a few examples – because filmmakers want to give the audience the choice of where, when and how to see a film. And it’s all about choice these days, isn’t it? Just look at what’s happening to television! And apart from that, it’s an opportunity for fringe movies and fresh film talent to get maximum exposure. The music industry is doing the same thing with simultaneous CD and online or even just online releases.

As for Alice in Wonderland, yesterday Cineworld announced that they will carry the movie in the UK, while Odeon and Vue still want to boycott, along with leading chains in Holland and Italy.

In my opinion, if cinemas lowered their ticket prices, more people would make it a habit of going to the cinema regularly. And if I was the Queen of Hearts, I’d say ‘Off with the heads of large chains!’ Then I’d give subsidies to independent movie theatres so that everyone would have a local cinema within walking distance that could offer a pleasant and personal experience as opposed to the conveyor belt treatment you get in the big places.